William Shakespeare: King Lear, Act I, Scene IV
Enter Kent, disguised
If but as well I other accents borrow, That can my speech defuse, my good intent May carry through itself to that full issue For which I razed my likeness. Now, banish'd Kent, If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd, So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest, Shall find thee full of labours.
Horns within. Enter King Lear, Knights, and Attendants
I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly that will put me in trust: to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and says little; to fear judgment; to fight when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.
Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing: I have years on my back forty eight.
Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho, dinner! Where's my knave? my fool? Go you, and call my fool hither. [Exit an Attendant]
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
Exit a Knight
Where's my fool, ho? I think the world's asleep.
How now! where's that mongrel?
My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindness appears as well in the general dependants as in the duke himself also and your daughter.
I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.
Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception: I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness: I will look further into't. But where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you, and tell my daughter I would speak with her. [Exit an Attendant]
Go you, call hither my fool. [Exit an Attendant]
O, you sir, you, come you hither, sir: who am I, sir?
Tripping up his heels
Come, sir, arise, away! I'll teach you differences: away, away! if you will measure your lubber's length again, tarry: but away! go to; have you wisdom? so.
Pushes Oswald out
Offering Kent his cap
Why, for taking one's part that's out of favour: nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou'lt catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb: why, this fellow has banished two on's daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will; if thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb. How now, nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
If I gave them all my living, I'ld keep my coxcombs myself. There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.
Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.
Mark it, nuncle: Have more than thou showest, Speak less than thou knowest, Lend less than thou owest, Ride more than thou goest, Learn more than thou trowest, Set less than thou throwest; Leave thy drink and thy whore, And keep in-a-door, And thou shalt have more Than two tens to a score.
Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer; you gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
That lord that counsell'd thee To give away thy land, Come place him here by me, Do thou for him stand: The sweet and bitter fool Will presently appear; The one in motley here, The other found out there.
No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would have part on't: and ladies too, they will not let me have all fool to myself; they'll be snatching. Give me an egg, nuncle, and I'll give thee two crowns.
Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle, and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
Fools had ne'er less wit in a year; For wise men are grown foppish, They know not how their wits to wear, Their manners are so apish.
I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mothers: for when thou gavest them the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,
Then they for sudden joy did weep, And I for sorrow sung, That such a king should play bo-peep, And go the fools among.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.
I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are: they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o' thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides, and left nothing i' the middle: here comes one o' the parings.
How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i' the frown.
Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.
Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum, He that keeps nor crust nor crum, Weary of all, shall want some.
Pointing to King Lear
That's a shealed peascod.
Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool, But other of your insolent retinue Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth In rank and not-to-be endured riots. Sir, I had thought, by making this well known unto you, To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful, By what yourself too late have spoke and done. That you protect this course, and put it on By your allowance; which if you should, the fault Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep, Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal, Might in their working do you that offence, Which else were shame, that then necessity Will call discreet proceeding.
For, you trow, nuncle, The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long, That it's had it head bit off by it young. So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Come, sir, I would you would make use of that good wisdom, Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away These dispositions, that of late transform you From what you rightly are.
Doth any here know me? This is not Lear: Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes? Either his notion weakens, his discernings Are lethargied—Ha! waking? 'tis not so. Who is it that can tell me who I am?
I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
This admiration, sir, is much o' the savour Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you To understand my purposes aright: As you are old and reverend, you should be wise. Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires; Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold, That this our court, infected with their manners, Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust Make it more like a tavern or a brothel Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak For instant remedy: be then desired By her, that else will take the thing she begs, A little to disquantity your train; And the remainder, that shall still depend, To be such men as may besort your age, And know themselves and you.
Darkness and devils! Saddle my horses; call my train together: Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee. Yet have I left a daughter.
Woe, that too late repents,—
O, sir, are you come? Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses. Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child Than the sea-monster!
Detested kite! thou liest. My train are men of choice and rarest parts, That all particulars of duty know, And in the most exact regard support The worships of their name. O most small fault, How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show! That, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature From the fix'd place; drew from heart all love, And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear! Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
Striking his head
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
It may be so, my lord. Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend To make this creature fruitful! Into her womb convey sterility! Dry up in her the organs of increase; And from her derogate body never spring A babe to honour her! If she must teem, Create her child of spleen; that it may live, And be a thwart disnatured torment to her! Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth; With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks; Turn all her mother's pains and benefits To laughter and contempt; that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child! Away, away!
Never afflict yourself to know the cause; But let his disposition have that scope That dotage gives it.
Re-enter King Lear
I'll tell thee:
Life and death! I am ashamed That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus; That these hot tears, which break from me perforce, Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee! The untented woundings of a father's curse Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes, Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out, And cast you, with the waters that you lose, To temper clay. Yea, it is come to this? Let is be so: yet have I left a daughter, Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable: When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think I have cast off for ever: thou shalt, I warrant thee.
Exeunt King Lear, Kent, and Attendants
Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
To the Fool
You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool with thee.
A fox, when one has caught her, And such a daughter, Should sure to the slaughter, If my cap would buy a halter: So the fool follows after.
This man hath had good counsel:—a hundred knights! 'Tis politic and safe to let him keep At point a hundred knights: yes, that, on every dream, Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, He may enguard his dotage with their powers, And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!
Safer than trust too far: Let me still take away the harms I fear, Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart. What he hath utter'd I have writ my sister If she sustain him and his hundred knights When I have show'd the unfitness,—
How now, Oswald! What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
Take you some company, and away to horse: Inform her full of my particular fear; And thereto add such reasons of your own As may compact it more. Get you gone; And hasten your return.
No, no, my lord, This milky gentleness and course of yours Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon, You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom Than praised for harmful mildness.