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King Lear
by William Shakespeare

Act 4, Scene 2 Easiest-to-Read Edition

In front of Albany's palace

 

 

 

 



King Lear Act 4, Scene 2


 

King Lear Act 4 Scene 2

Enter GONERIL and EDMUND the bastard

Enter GONERIL and EDMUND the bastard

GONERIL

Welcome, my lord. I marvel our mild husband

Not met us on the way.

 

GONERIL

Welcome, my lord. I marvel our mild husband

Not met us on the way.

 

Enter OSWALD

Enter OSWALD

Now, where’s your master?

Now, where’s your master?

OSWALD

Madam, within—but never man so changed.

I told him of the army that was landed.

He smiled at it. I told him you were coming.

His answer was “The worse.” Of Gloucester’s treachery

And of the loyal service of his son,

his son=Edmund

When I informed him, then he called me “sot,”

sot=fool

And told me I had turned the wrong side out.

What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him;

What like, offensive.

 

OSWALD

Madam, within—but never man so changed.

I told him of the army that was landed.

He smiled at it. I told him you were coming.

His answer was “The worse.” Of Gloucester’s treachery

And of the loyal service of his son,

When I informed him, then he called me “sot,”

And told me I had turned the wrong side out.

What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him;

What like, offensive.

 

GONERIL

(to EDMUND)

   Then shall you go no further.

It is the cowish terror of his spirit

cowish=cowardly

That dares not undertake. He’ll not feel wrongs

Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way

on the way=as we came along

May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother.

brother=Cornwall

Hasten his musters and conduct his powers.

hasten his musters=hasten his assembling of soldiers

conduct his powers=organize his troops

I must change names at home, and give the distaff

distaff=tool used in spinning (by women)

Into my husband’s hands. This trusty servant

trusty servant=Oswald

Shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear—

If you dare venture in your own behalf—

A mistress’s command. Wear this. Spare speech.

mistress=lady love

spare speech=refrain from speech

Decline your head (puts a chain around his neck). This kiss, if it durst speak,

Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.

stretch=lift

(kisses EDMUND) Conceive, and fare thee well.

conceive=think

 

GONERIL

(to EDMUND)

   Then shall you go no further.

It is the cowish terror of his spirit

That dares not undertake. He’ll not feel wrongs

Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way

May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother.

Hasten his musters and conduct his powers.

I must change names at home, and give the distaff

Into my husband’s hands. This trusty servant

Shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear—

If you dare venture in your own behalf—

A mistress’s command. Wear this. Spare speech.

Decline your head. This kiss, if it durst speak,

Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.

(kisses EDMUND) Conceive, and fare thee well.

 

EDMUND

Yours in the ranks of death.

in the ranks of death=’til we die

 

EDMUND

Yours in the ranks of death.

 

GONERIL

My most dear Gloucester!

 

GONERIL

My most dear Gloucester!

 

Exit EDMUND

Exit EDMUND

Oh, the difference of man and man!

To thee a woman’s services are due.

My fool usurps my body.

my fool=Albany

 

Oh, the difference of man and man!

To thee a woman’s services are due.

My fool usurps my body.

 

OSWALD

   Madam, here comes my lord.

 

OSWALD

   Madam, here comes my lord.

 

Exit OSWALD

Exit OSWALD

Enter ALBANY

Enter ALBANY

GONERIL

I have been worth the whistle (like a dog who is whistled for).

 

GONERIL

I have been worth the whistle.

 

ALBANY

     O Goneril,

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face. I fear your disposition.

That nature, which contemns its origin

contemn=treats with contempt

its origin=King Lear

Cannot be bordered certain in itself.

She that herself will sliver and disbranch

From her material sap perforce must wither

material sap=family of origin

And come to deadly use.

deadly use=a bad end

 

ALBANY

     O Goneril,

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face. I fear your disposition.

That nature, which contemns its origin

Cannot be bordered certain in itself.

She that herself will sliver and disbranch

From her material sap perforce must wither

And come to deadly use.

 

GONERIL

   No more. The text is foolish.

 

GONERIL

   No more. The text is foolish.

 

ALBANY

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile.

Filths savor but themselves. What have you done?

Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?

A father, and a gracious agèd man,

gracious aged man=Gloucester

Whose reverence even the head-lugged bear would lick,

head-lugged=pulled along by the ears

Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded.

most barbarous=you, most barbarous

madded=maddened

Could my good brother suffer you to do it—

could=how could

good brother suffer=Cornwall allow

A man, a prince, by him so benefited?

by him=by Gloucester

If that the heavens do not their visible spirits

Send quickly down to tame these vile offenses,

It will come:

Humanity must perforce prey on itself

Like monsters of the deep.

 

ALBANY

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile.

Filths savor but themselves. What have you done?

Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?

A father, and a gracious agèd man,

Whose reverence even the head-lugged bear would lick,

Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded.

Could my good brother suffer you to do it—

A man, a prince, by him so benefited?

If that the heavens do not their visible spirits

Send quickly down to tame these vile offenses,

It will come:

Humanity must perforce prey on itself

Like monsters of the deep.

 

 

GONERIL

   Milk-livered man

milk-livered=cowardly

That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs—

bear’st a cheek for blows=turns the other cheek

Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning

Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know’st

not know’st=do not know that fools pity villains

Fools do those villains pity who are punished

Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy drum?

France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,

noiseless=peaceful

With plumèd helm thy state begins to threat,

helm=helmet

threat=threaten

Whiles thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries,

“Alack, why does he so?”

 

GONERIL

   Milk-livered man

That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs—

Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning

Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know’st

Fools do those villains pity who are punished

Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy drum?

France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,

With plumèd helm thy state begins to threat,

Whiles thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries,

“Alack, why does he so?”

 

ALBANY

   See thyself, devil!

Proper deformity shows not in the fiend

proper deformity=personal crookedness

the fiend=the devil

So horrid as in woman.

 

ALBANY

   See thyself, devil!

Proper deformity shows not in the fiend

So horrid as in woman.

 

GONERIL

   O vain fool!

 

GONERIL

   O vain fool!

 

ALBANY

Thou changèd and self-covered thing, for shame!

self-covered=devil appearing in the guise of a woman

Bemonster not thy feature. Were ’t my fitness

bemonster not thy feature=don’t let your devilishness alter your womanly appearance

To let these hands obey my blood,

blood=passion

They are apt enough to dislocate and tear

Thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend,

howe’er=in whatever way

A woman’s shape doth shield thee.

 

ALBANY

Thou changèd and self-covered thing, for shame!

Bemonster not thy feature. Were ’t my fitness

To let these hands obey my blood,

They are apt enough to dislocate and tear

Thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend,

A woman’s shape doth shield thee.

 

GONERIL

Marry, your manhood, mew!

marry=by Mary

mew=shut up

 

GONERIL

Marry, your manhood, mew!

 

Enter FIRST MESSENGER

Enter FIRST MESSENGER

ALBANY

What news?

 

ALBANY

What news?

 

FIRST MESSENGER

O my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead,

Slain by his servant, going to put out

The other eye of Gloucester.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

O my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead,

Slain by his servant, going to put out

The other eye of Gloucester.

 

ALBANY

     Gloucester’s eyes?

 

ALBANY

     Gloucester’s eyes?

 

FIRST MESSENGER

A servant that he bred, thrilled with remorse,

Opposed against the act, bending his sword

To his great master; who thereat enraged

Flew on him and amongst them felled him dead—

But not without that harmful stroke, which since

Hath plucked him after.

plucked him after=pulled him to death, as well

 

FIRST MESSENGER

A servant that he bred, thrilled with remorse,

Opposed against the act, bending his sword

To his great master; who thereat enraged

Flew on him and amongst them felled him dead—

But not without that harmful stroke, which since

Hath plucked him after.

 

ALBANY

   This shows you are above,

above=in the heavens looking down

You justicers, that these our nether crimes

nether crimes=crimes here below

So speedily can venge! But oh, poor Gloucester—

venge=be revenged

Lost he his other eye?

 

ALBANY

   This shows you are above,

You justicers, that these our nether crimes

So speedily can venge! But oh, poor Gloucester—

Lost he his other eye?

 

FIRST MESSENGER

   Both, both, my lord.—

This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer.

'Tis from your sister.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

   Both, both, my lord.—

This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer.

'Tis from your sister.

 

GONERIL

(aside)

   One way I like this well.

But being widow, and my Gloucester with her,

Gloucester=Edmund

May all the building in my fancy pluck

building in my fancy=castles in the air

Upon my hateful life. Another way

pluck upon=demolish

The news is not so tart.—I’ll read and answer.

tart=awful

 

GONERIL

(aside)

   One way I like this well.

But being widow, and my Gloucester with her,

May all the building in my fancy pluck

Upon my hateful life. Another way

The news is not so tart.—I’ll read and answer.

 

Exit GONERIL

Exit GONERIL

ALBANY

Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

his son=Edmund

 

ALBANY

Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

 

FIRST MESSENGER

Come with my lady hither.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

Come with my lady hither.

 

ALBANY

   He is not here.

 

ALBANY

   He is not here.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

No, my good lord. I met him back again.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

No, my good lord. I met him back again.

 

ALBANY

Knows he the wickedness?

 

ALBANY

Knows he the wickedness?

 

FIRST MESSENGER

Ay, my good lord. 'Twas he informed against him,

he informed against him=Edmund informed against Gloucester

And quit the house on purpose that their punishment

Might have the freer course.

 

FIRST MESSENGER

Ay, my good lord. 'Twas he informed against him,

And quit the house on purpose that their punishment

Might have the freer course.

 

ALBANY

   Gloucester, I live

To thank thee for the love thou showed’st the king,

And to revenge thine eyes.— (to messenger) Come hither, friend. Tell me what more thou know’st.

 

ALBANY

   Gloucester, I live

To thank thee for the love thou showed’st the king,

And to revenge thine eyes.—Come hither, friend.

Tell me what more thou know’st.

 

Exeunt

Exeunt

 

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