King Lear By William Shakespeare Act V: Scene 3

Scene III. The British Camp near Dover.

[Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, Edmund; Lear and
Cordelia prisoners; Officers, 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.

Take them away.

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 goodyears shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep: we'll see 'em starve first.

[Exeunt Lear and Cordelia, guarded.]

Come hither, captain; hark.
Take thou this note [giving a paper]; go follow them to prison:
One step I have advanc'd 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.

I'll do't, my lord.

About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
Mark, — I say, instantly; and carry it so
As I have set it down.

I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
If it be man's work, I'll do't.


[Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Officers, and

Sir, you have show'd to-day your valiant strain,
And fortune led you well: you have the captives
Who 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,
And 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 curs'd
By those that feel their sharpness: —
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.

Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.

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.

Not so hot:
In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
More than in your addition.

In my rights
By me invested, he compeers the best.

That were the most if he should husband you.

Jesters do oft prove prophets.

Holla, holla!
That eye that told you so look'd but asquint.

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.

Mean you to enjoy him?

The let-alone lies not in your good will.

Nor in thine, lord.

Half-blooded fellow, yes.

[To Edmund.] Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.

Stay yet; hear reason. — Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason; and, in thine arrest,
This gilded serpent [pointing to Goneril.], — For your claim, fair
I bar it in the interest of my wife;
'Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your bans.
If you will marry, make your loves to me, —
My lady is bespoke.

An interlude!

Thou art arm'd, Gloucester: — let the trumpet sound:
If none appear to prove upon thy person
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge [throwing down a glove]; I'll prove it on thy
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim'd thee.

Sick, O, sick!

[Aside.] If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine.

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