Contents

Previous Next  

 

King Lear

by William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 2 Easiest-to-Read Edition

 

 

 



King Lear Act 1, Scene 2



Gloucester's Castle

King Lear Act 1, Scene 2

Enter EDMUND the bastard, with a letter

Enter EDMUND the bastard, with a letter

EDMUND

Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law

My services are bound. Wherefore should I

Stand in the plague of custom and permit

The curiosity of nations to deprive me

curiosity=fastidiousness

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines

moonshines=months

Lag of a brother? Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?

lag=lagging behind

When my dimensions are as well compact,

dimensions=bodily parts

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us

issue=offspring

With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,” “base”—

Who in the lusty stealth of nature take

lusty stealth of nature=moment of passion

take=are conceived with

More composition and fierce quality

Than doth within a dull, stale, tirèd bed

Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops

Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,

got=begotten

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.

Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate.—Fine word, “legitimate”!—

as=as much as

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper.

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

 

EDMUND

Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law

My services are bound. Wherefore should I

Stand in the plague of custom and permit

The curiosity of nations to deprive me

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines

Lag of a brother? Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us

With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,” “base”—

Who in the lusty stealth of nature take

More composition and fierce quality

Than doth within a dull, stale, tirèd bed

Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops

Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.

Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate.—Fine word, “legitimate”!—

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper.

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

 

Enter GLOUCESTER EDMUND looks over his letter

Enter GLOUCESTER EDMUND looks over his letter

GLOUCESTER

Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?
choler=anger

And the king gone tonight, prescribed his power

prescribed=handed down

Confined to exhibition? All this done

exhibition=name only

Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?

upon the gad=suddenly, as if prodded by a stick

 

GLOUCESTER

Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?

And the king gone tonight, prescribed his power

Confined to exhibition? All this done

Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?

 

EDMUND

(pocketing the letter) So please your lordship, none.

 

EDMUND

(pocketing the letter) So please your lordship, none.

 

GLOUCESTER

Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

 

GLOUCESTER

Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

 

EDMUND

I know no news, my lord.

 

EDMUND

I know no news, my lord.

 

GLOUCESTER

What paper were you reading?

 

GLOUCESTER

What paper were you reading?

 

EDMUND

Nothing, my lord.

 

EDMUND

Nothing, my lord.

 

GLOUCESTER

No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see.—Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

 

GLOUCESTER

No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see.—Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

 

EDMUND

I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o'er-read. And for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o'erlooking.

 

EDMUND

I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o'er-read. And for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o'erlooking.

 

GLOUCESTER

Give me the letter, sir.

 

GLOUCESTER

Give me the letter, sir.

 

EDMUND

I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

 

EDMUND

I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

 

GLOUCESTER

(taking the letter) Let’s see, let’s see.

 

GLOUCESTER

(taking the letter) Let’s see, let’s see.

 

EDMUND

I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

GLOUCESTER

(reads) “This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond (useless and foolish) bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways (holds sway) not as it hath power but as it is suffered (endured by its subjects). Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him (i.e., I would not wake him), you should enjoy half his revenue forever, and live the beloved of your brother,

     Edgar.”

Hum, conspiracy? “'Sleep till I wake him you should enjoy half his revenue”—my son Edgar? Had he a hand to write this, a heart and brain to breed it in? When came this to you? Who brought it?

 

GLOUCESTER

(reads) “This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever, and live the beloved of your brother,

     Edgar.”

Hum, conspiracy? “'Sleep till I wake him, you should enjoy half his revenue”—my son Edgar? Had he a hand to write this, a heart and brain to breed it in? When came this to you? Who brought it?

 

 

EDMUND

It was not brought me, my lord. There’s the cunning of it.

I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet (window of my room).

 

EDMUND

It was not brought me, my lord. There’s the cunning of it.

I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.

 

GLOUCESTER

You know the character (handwriting) to be your brother’s?

 

GLOUCESTER

You know the character to be your brother’s?

 

EDMUND

If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his.

But in respect of that, I would fain (be inclined to) think it were not.

 

EDMUND

If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his.

But in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.

 

GLOUCESTER

It is his.

 

GLOUCESTER

It is his.

 

EDMUND

It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the contents.

 

EDMUND

It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the contents.

 

GLOUCESTER

Has he never before sounded you in this business?

 

GLOUCESTER

Has he never before sounded you in this business?

 

EDMUND

Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

 

EDMUND

Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

 

GLOUCESTER

O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain—worse than brutish! Go, sirrah (word used to express impatience), seek him. I’ll apprehend (arrest) him. Abominable villain! Where is he?

 

GLOUCESTER

O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain—worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him. I’ll apprehend him. Abominable villain! Where is he?

 

EDMUND

I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course—where if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath wrote this to feel my affection to your honor and to no other pretense of danger.

 

EDMUND

I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course—where if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath wrote this to feel my affection to your honor and to no other pretense of danger.

 

GLOUCESTER

Think you so?

 

GLOUCESTER

Think you so?

 

EDMUND

If your honor judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction—and that without any further delay than this very evening.

 

EDMUND

If your honor judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction—and that without any further delay than this very evening.

 

GLOUCESTER

He cannot be such a monster—

 

GLOUCESTER

He cannot be such a monster—

 

EDMUND

Nor is not, sure.

 

EDMUND

Nor is not, sure.

 

GLOUCESTER

To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out, wind me into him (gain his confidence), I pray you. Frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate myself (give up my rank) to be in a due resolution (to put my doubts to rest).

GLOUCESTER

To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out, wind me into him, I pray you. Frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.

 

EDMUND

I will seek him, sir, presently (right away), convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.

 

EDMUND

I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.

 

GLOUCESTER

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged (punished) by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide, in cities mutinies, in countries discord, in palaces treason, and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction—there’s son against father. The king falls from bias (tendency) of nature—there’s father against child. We have seen (already seen) the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished, his offense honesty! 'Tis strange, strange.

 

GLOUCESTER

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide, in cities mutinies, in countries discord, in palaces treason, and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction—there’s son against father. The king falls from bias of nature—there’s father against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished, his offense honesty! 'Tis strange, strange.

 

Exit GLOUCESTER

Exit GLOUCESTER

EDMUND

This is the excellent foppery of the world that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical (astrological) predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail (the constellation Draco) and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar— and pat on ’s cue he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. Oh, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.

 

EDMUND

This is the excellent foppery of the world that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar— and pat on ’s cue he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. Oh, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.

 

Enter EDGAR

Enter EDGAR

EDGAR

How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you in?

 

EDGAR

How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you in?

 

EDMUND

I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

 

EDMUND

I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

 

EDGAR

Do you busy yourself about that?

 

EDGAR

Do you busy yourself about that?

 

EDMUND

I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily — as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent, death, dearth (famine), dissolutions of ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation (dispersal) of cohorts (a military division), nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

 

EDMUND

I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily — as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent, death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

 

EDGAR

How long have you been a sectary astronomical (believer in astrology)?

 

EDGAR

How long have you been a sectary astronomical?

 

EDMUND

Come, come. When saw you my father last?

 

EDMUND

Come, come. When saw you my father last?

 

EDGAR

Why, the night gone by.

 

EDGAR

Why, the night gone by.

 

EDMUND

Spake you with him?

 

EDMUND

Spake you with him?

 

EDGAR

Ay, two hours together.

 

EDGAR

Ay, two hours together.

 

EDMUND

Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word or countenance?

 

EDMUND

Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word or countenance?

 

EDGAR

None at all.

 

EDGAR

None at all.

 

EDMUND

Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him. And at my entreaty forbear his presence till some little time hath qualified (modified) the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in him that with the mischief of your person (even with some harm to your body) it (the heat) would scarcely allay (abate).

 

EDMUND

Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him. And at my entreaty forbear his presence till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay.

 

EDGAR

Some villain hath done me wrong.

 

EDGAR

Some villain hath done me wrong.

 

EDMUND

That’s my fear. I pray you, have a continent forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower. And as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly (at the right time) bring you to hear my lord speak (to talk with him). Pray ye, go. There’s my key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.

 

EDMUND

That’s my fear. I pray you, have a continent forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower. And as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak. Pray ye, go. There’s my key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.

 

EDGAR

Armed, brother?

 

EDGAR

Armed, brother?

 

EDMUND

Brother, I advise you to the best. Go armed. I am no honest man if there be any good meaning towards you. I have told you what I have seen and heard—but faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray you, away.

 

EDMUND

Brother, I advise you to the best. Go armed. I am no honest man if there be any good meaning towards you. I have told you what I have seen and heard—but faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray you, away.

 

EDGAR

Shall I hear from you anon (soon)?

 

EDGAR

Shall I hear from you anon?

 

EDMUND

I do serve you in this business.

 

EDMUND

I do serve you in this business.

 

Exit EDGAR

Exit EDGAR

A credulous father, and a brother noble—

Whose nature is so far from doing harms

That he suspects none, on whose foolish honesty

My practices ride easy. I see the business.

see=foresee

Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.

All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.

meet=suitable

fashion fit=make to work

 

A credulous father, and a brother noble—

Whose nature is so far from doing harms

That he suspects none, on whose foolish honesty

My practices ride easy. I see the business.

Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.

All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.

 

 

Next