King Lear By William Shakespeare Act V: Scene 3

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 with the pain of death we'd 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, sav'd 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 mov'd 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 a man
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
Who 'twas that so endur'd, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck, and bellow'd out
As he'd burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear receiv'd: 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 tranc'd.

But who was this?

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 hastily, with a bloody knife.]

Help, help! O, help!

What kind of help?

Speak, man.

What means that bloody knife?

'Tis hot, it smokes;
It came even from the heart of — O! she's dead!

Who dead? speak, man.

Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister
By her is poisoned; she hath confess'd it.

I was contracted to them both: all three
Now marry in an instant.

Here comes Kent.

Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead: —
This judgement of the heavens, that makes us tremble
Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.]

[Enter Kent.]

O, is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
That very manners urges.

I am come
To bid my king and master aye good night:
Is he not here?

Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cordelia?

[The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in.]

Seest thou this object, Kent?

Alack, why thus?

Yet Edmund was belov'd.
The one the other poisoned for my sake,
And after slew herself.

Even so. — Cover their faces.

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.

Run, run, O, run!

To who, my lord? — Who has the office? send
Thy token of reprieve.

Well thought on: take my sword,
Give it the Captain.

Haste thee for thy life.

[Exit Edgar.]

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.

The gods defend her! — Bear him hence awhile.

[Edmund is borne off.]

[Re-enter Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms; Edgar, Officer,
and others following.]

Howl, howl, howl, howl! — O, you are men of stone.
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.

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