King Lear By William Shakespeare Act II: Scene 4

GLOUCESTER.
I would have all well betwixt you.

[Exit.]

LEAR.
O me, my heart, my rising heart! — but down!

FOOL.
Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she
put 'em i' the paste alive; she knapped 'em o' the coxcombs with
a stick and cried 'Down, wantons, down!' 'Twas her brother that,
in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.

[Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, and Servants.]

LEAR.
Good-morrow to you both.

CORNWALL.
Hail to your grace!

[Kent is set at liberty.]

REGAN.
I am glad to see your highness.

LEAR.
Regan, I think you are; I know what reason
I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb,
Sepulchring an adultress. — [To Kent] O, are you free?
Some other time for that. — Beloved Regan,
Thy sister's naught: O Regan, she hath tied
Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here, —
[Points to his heart.]
I can scarce speak to thee; thou'lt not believe
With how deprav'd a quality — O Regan!

REGAN.
I pray you, sir, take patience: I have hope
You less know how to value her desert
Than she to scant her duty.

LEAR.
Say, how is that?

REGAN.
I cannot think my sister in the least
Would fail her obligation: if, sir, perchance
She have restrain'd the riots of your followers,
'Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end,
As clears her from all blame.

LEAR.
My curses on her!

REGAN.
O, sir, you are old;
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine: you should be rul'd and led
By some discretion, that discerns your state
Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,
That to our sister you do make return;
Say you have wrong'd her, sir.

LEAR.
Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
'Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
[Kneeling.]
Age is unnecessary: on my knees I beg
That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.'

REGAN.
Good sir, no more! These are unsightly tricks:
Return you to my sister.

LEAR.
[Rising.] Never, Regan:
She hath abated me of half my train;
Look'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart: —
All the stor'd vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking airs, with lameness!

CORNWALL.
Fie, sir, fie!

LEAR.
You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall and blast her pride!

REGAN.
O the blest gods!
So will you wish on me when the rash mood is on.

LEAR.
No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse:
Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
Thee o'er to harshness: her eyes are fierce; but thine
Do comfort, and not burn. 'Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
Against my coming in: thou better know'st
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude;
Thy half o' the kingdom hast thou not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow'd.

REGAN.
Good sir, to the purpose.

LEAR.
Who put my man i' the stocks?

[Tucket within.]

CORNWALL.
What trumpet's that?

REGAN.
I know't — my sister's: this approves her letter,
That she would soon be here.

[Enter Oswald.]

Is your lady come?

LEAR.
This is a slave, whose easy-borrowed pride
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows. —
Out, varlet, from my sight!

CORNWALL.
What means your grace?

LEAR.
Who stock'd my servant? Regan, I have good hope
Thou didst not know on't. — Who comes here? O heavens!

[Enter Goneril.]

If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
Make it your cause; send down, and take my part! —
[To Goneril.] Art not asham'd to look upon this beard? —
O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?

GONERIL.
Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended?
All's not offence that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.

LEAR.
O sides, you are too tough!
Will you yet hold? — How came my man i' the stocks?

CORNWALL.
I set him there, sir: but his own disorders
Deserv'd much less advancement.

LEAR.
You? did you?

REGAN.
I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me:
I am now from home, and out of that provision
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.

LEAR.
Return to her, and fifty men dismiss'd?
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity o' the air;
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl, —
Necessity's sharp pinch! — Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and, squire-like, pension beg
To keep base life afoot. — Return with her?
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
To this detested groom.
[Pointing to Oswald.]

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