King Lear By William Shakespeare Act I: Scene 4

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.

May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? — Whoop, Jug! I
love thee!

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?

Lear's shadow.

I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty,
Knowledge, and reason,
I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

Which they will make an obedient father.

Your name, fair gentlewoman?

This admiration, sir, is much o' the favour
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 grac'd palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy: be, then, desir'd
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,
Which 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.

You strike my people; and your disorder'd rabble
Make servants of their betters.

[Enter Albany.]

Woe that too late repents! —
[To Albany.] 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!

Pray, sir, be patient.

[to Goneril] 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!
Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
From the fix'd place; drew from my 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.

My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath mov'd you.

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 disnatur'd 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!


Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

Never afflict yourself to know more of it;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.

[Re-enter Lear.]

What, fifty of my followers at a clap!
Within a fortnight!

What's the matter, sir?

I'll tell thee. — Life and death! — [To Goneril] I am asham'd
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!
Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee! — Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck you out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Ha!
Let it be so: I have another 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.

[Exeunt Lear, Kent, and Attendants.]

Do you mark that?

I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you, —

Pray you, content. — What, Oswald, ho!
[To the Fool] You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.

Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry, — 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! —

Well, you may fear too far.

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 th' unfitness, —

[Re-enter Oswald.]

How now, Oswald!
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

Ay, madam.

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.

[Exit Oswald.]

No, no, my lord!
This milky gentleness and course of yours,
Though I condemn it not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
Than prais'd for harmful mildness.

How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

Nay then, —

Well, well; the event.


Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How did the original audience respond to the ending of King Lear?