King Lear By William Shakespeare Act II: Scene 4

Scene IV. Before Gloucester's Castle; Kent in the stocks.

[Enter Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.]

LEAR.
'Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
And not send back my messenger.

GENTLEMAN.
As I learn'd,
The night before there was no purpose in them
Of this remove.

KENT.
Hail to thee, noble master!

LEAR.
Ha!
Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime?

KENT.
No, my lord.

FOOL.
Ha, ha! he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by the
head; dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys by the loins, and
men by the legs: when a man is over-lusty at legs, then he
wears wooden nether-stocks.

LEAR.
What's he that hath so much thy place mistook
To set thee here?

KENT.
It is both he and she,
Your son and daughter.

LEAR.
No.

KENT.
Yes.

LEAR.
No, I say.

KENT.
I say, yea.

LEAR.
No, no; they would not.

KENT.
Yes, they have.

LEAR.
By Jupiter, I swear no.

KENT.
By Juno, I swear ay.

LEAR.
They durst not do't.
They would not, could not do't; 'tis worse than murder,
To do upon respect such violent outrage:
Resolve me, with all modest haste, which way
Thou mightst deserve or they impose this usage,
Coming from us.

KENT.
My lord, when at their home
I did commend your highness' letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that show'd
My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
Stew'd in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
From Goneril his mistress salutations;
Deliver'd letters, spite of intermission,
Which presently they read: on whose contents,
They summon'd up their meiny, straight took horse;
Commanded me to follow and attend
The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks:
And meeting here the other messenger,
Whose welcome I perceiv'd had poison'd mine, —
Being the very fellow which of late
Display'd so saucily against your highness, —
Having more man than wit about me, drew:
He rais'd the house with loud and coward cries.
Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
The shame which here it suffers.

FOOL.
Winter's not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind;
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne'er turns the key to th' poor.
But for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours for thy
daughters as thou canst tell in a year.

LEAR.
O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
Hysterica passio, — down, thou climbing sorrow,
Thy element's below! — Where is this daughter?

KENT.
With the earl, sir, here within.

LEAR.
Follow me not;
Stay here.

[Exit.]

GENTLEMAN.
Made you no more offence but what you speak of?

KENT.
None.
How chance the king comes with so small a number?

FOOL.
An thou hadst been set i' the stocks for that question,
thou hadst well deserved it.

KENT.
Why, fool?

FOOL.
We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there's no
labouring in the winter. All that follow their noses are led by
their eyes but blind men; and there's not a nose among twenty
but can smell him that's stinking. Let go thy hold when a great
wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following
it; but the great one that goes up the hill, let him draw thee
after.
When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again: I
would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool no knave, perdy.

KENT.
Where learn'd you this, fool?

FOOL.
Not i' the stocks, fool.

[Re-enter Lear, with Gloucester.]

LEAR.
Deny to speak with me? They are sick? they are weary?
They have travell'd all the night? Mere fetches;
The images of revolt and flying off.
Fetch me a better answer.

GLOUCESTER.
My dear lord,
You know the fiery quality of the duke;
How unremovable and fix'd he is
In his own course.

LEAR.
Vengeance! plague! death! confusion! —
Fiery? What quality? why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.

GLOUCESTER.
Well, my good lord, I have inform'd them so.

LEAR.
Inform'd them! Dost thou understand me, man?

GLOUCESTER.
Ay, my good lord.

LEAR.
The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands her service:
Are they inform'd of this? — My breath and blood! —
Fiery? the fiery duke? — Tell the hot duke that —
No, but not yet: may be he is not well:
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound: we are not ourselves
When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind
To suffer with the body: I'll forbear;
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indispos'd and sickly fit
For the sound man. — Death on my state! Wherefore
[Looking on Kent.]
Should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion of the duke and her
Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
Go tell the duke and's wife I'd speak with them,
Now, presently: bid them come forth and hear me,
Or at their chamber door I'll beat the drum
Till it cry 'Sleep to death.'

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