William Shakespeare: King Lear, Act V, Scene III
Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, Edmund, King Lear and Cordelia, prisoners; Captain, Soldiers, &c
Some officers take them away: good guard, Until their greater pleasures first be known That are to censure them.
We are not the first Who, with best meaning, have incurr'd the worst. For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down; Myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown. Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison: We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage: When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down, And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live, And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too, Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out; And take upon's the mystery of things, As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out, In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones, That ebb and flow by the moon.
Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia, The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee? He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven, And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes; The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell, Ere they shall make us weep: We'll see 'em starve first. Come.
Exeunt King Lear and Cordelia, guarded
Come hither, captain; hark. Take thou this note;
Giving a paper
go follow them to prison: One step I have advanced thee; if thou dost As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way To noble fortunes: know thou this, that men Are as the time is: to be tender-minded Does not become a sword: thy great employment Will not bear question; either say thou'lt do 't, Or thrive by other means.
About it; and write happy when thou hast done. Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it so As I have set it down.
Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, another Captain, and Soldiers
Sir, you have shown to-day your valiant strain, And fortune led you well: you have the captives That were the opposites of this day's strife: We do require them of you, so to use them As we shall find their merits and our safety May equally determine.
Sir, I thought it fit To send the old and miserable king To some retention and appointed guard; Whose age has charms in it, whose title more, To pluck the common bosom on his side, An turn our impress'd lances in our eyes Which do command them. With him I sent the queen; My reason all the same; and they are ready To-morrow, or at further space, to appear Where you shall hold your session. At this time We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend; And the best quarrels, in the heat, are cursed By those that feel their sharpness: The question of Cordelia and her father Requires a fitter place.
That's as we list to grace him. Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded, Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers; Bore the commission of my place and person; The which immediacy may well stand up, And call itself your brother.
Lady, I am not well; else I should answer From a full-flowing stomach. General, Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony; Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine: Witness the world, that I create thee here My lord and master.
Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee On capital treason; and, in thine attaint, This gilded serpent
Pointing to Goneril
For your claim, fair sister, I bar it in the interest of my wife: 'Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord, And I, her husband, contradict your bans. If you will marry, make your loves to me, My lady is bespoke.
Thou art arm'd, Gloucester: let the trumpet sound: If none appear to prove upon thy head Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons, There is my pledge;
Throwing down a glove
I'll prove it on thy heart, Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less Than I have here proclaim'd thee.
There's my exchange:
Throwing down a glove
what in the world he is That names me traitor, villain-like he lies: Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach, On him, on you, who not? I will maintain My truth and honour firmly.
Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers, All levied in my name, have in my name Took their discharge.
She is not well; convey her to my tent. [Exit Regan, led]
Enter a Herald
Come hither, herald,—Let the trumpet sound, And read out this.
A trumpet sounds
If any man of quality or degree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet: he is bold in his defence.
Enter Edgar, at the third sound, armed, with a trumpet before him
Know, my name is lost; By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit: Yet am I noble as the adversary I come to cope.
Draw thy sword, That, if my speech offend a noble heart, Thy arm may do thee justice: here is mine. Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours, My oath, and my profession: I protest, Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence, Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune, Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor; False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father; Conspirant 'gainst this high-illustrious prince; And, from the extremest upward of thy head To the descent and dust below thy foot, A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'No,' This sword, this arm, and my best spirits, are bent To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak, Thou liest.
In wisdom I should ask thy name; But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes, What safe and nicely I might well delay By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn: Back do I toss these treasons to thy head; With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart; Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise, This sword of mine shall give them instant way, Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!
Alarums. They fight. Edmund falls
This is practise, Gloucester: By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish'd, But cozen'd and beguiled.
Shut your mouth, dame, Or with this paper shall I stop it: Hold, sir: Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil: No tearing, lady: I perceive you know it.
Gives the letter to Edmund
What you have charged me with, that have I done; And more, much more; the time will bring it out: 'Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou That hast this fortune on me? If thou'rt noble, I do forgive thee.
Let's exchange charity. I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund; If more, the more thou hast wrong'd me. My name is Edgar, and thy father's son. The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices Make instruments to plague us: The dark and vicious place where thee he got Cost him his eyes.
Methought thy very gait did prophesy A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee: Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I Did hate thee or thy father!
By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale; And when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst! The bloody proclamation to escape, That follow'd me so near,—O, our lives' sweetness! That we the pain of death would hourly die Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift Into a madman's rags; to assume a semblance That very dogs disdain'd: and in this habit Met I my father with his bleeding rings, Their precious stones new lost: became his guide, Led him, begg'd for him, saved him from despair; Never,—O fault!—reveal'd myself unto him, Until some half-hour past, when I was arm'd: Not sure, though hoping, of this good success, I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw'd heart, Alack, too weak the conflict to support! 'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief, Burst smilingly.
This speech of yours hath moved me, And shall perchance do good: but speak you on; You look as you had something more to say.
If there be more, more woeful, hold it in; For I am almost ready to dissolve, Hearing of this.
This would have seem'd a period To such as love not sorrow; but another, To amplify too much, would make much more, And top extremity. Whilst I was big in clamour came there in a man, Who, having seen me in my worst estate, Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms He fastened on my neck, and bellow'd out As he'ld burst heaven; threw him on my father; Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him That ever ear received: which in recounting His grief grew puissant and the strings of life Began to crack: twice then the trumpets sounded, And there I left him tranced.
Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in disguise Follow'd his enemy king, and did him service Improper for a slave.
Enter a Gentleman, with a bloody knife
Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead: This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble, Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman]
O, is this he? The time will not allow the compliment Which very manners urges.
Great thing of us forgot! Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cordelia? See'st thou this object, Kent?
The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in
I pant for life: some good I mean to do, Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send, Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia: Nay, send in time.
He hath commission from thy wife and me To hang Cordelia in the prison, and To lay the blame upon her own despair, That she fordid herself.
Re-enter King Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms; Edgar, Captain, and others following
Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones: Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever! I know when one is dead, and when one lives; She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass; If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, Why, then she lives.
This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so, It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows That ever I have felt.
A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! I might have saved her; now she's gone for ever! Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha! What is't thou say'st? Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. I kill'd the slave that was a-hanging thee.
Did I not, fellow? I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion I would have made them skip: I am old now, And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you? Mine eyes are not o' the best: I'll tell you straight.
He's a good fellow, I can tell you that; He'll strike, and quickly too: he's dead and rotten.
Nor no man else: all's cheerless, dark, and deadly. Your eldest daughters have fordone them selves, And desperately are dead.
Enter a Captain
That's but a trifle here. You lords and noble friends, know our intent. What comfort to this great decay may come Shall be applied: for us we will resign, During the life of this old majesty, To him our absolute power:
To Edgar and Kent
you, to your rights: With boot, and such addition as your honours Have more than merited. All friends shall taste The wages of their virtue, and all foes The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never! Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir. Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, Look there, look there!
Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him much That would upon the rack of this tough world Stretch him out longer.
Bear them from hence. Our present business Is general woe.
To Kent and Edgar
Friends of my soul, you twain Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.
The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
Exeunt, with a dead march