King Lear By William Shakespeare Act I: Scene 2

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us:
though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet
nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in
countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked
'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the
prediction; there's son against father: the king falls from
bias of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the
best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all
ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. — Find out
this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it
carefully. — And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his
offence, honesty! — 'Tis strange.


This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
sick in fortune, — often the surfeit of our own behaviour, — we
make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as
if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion;
knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance;
drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of
planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine
thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his
goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded
with my mother under the dragon's tail, and my nativity was under
ursa major; so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. — Tut! I
should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the
firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.

[Enter Edgar.]

Pat! — he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue
is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. — O,
these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.

How now, brother Edmund! what serious contemplation are you in?

I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day,
what should follow these eclipses.

Do you busy yourself with that?

I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of
unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth,
dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and
maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences,
banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches,
and I know not what.

How long have you been a sectary astronomical?

Come, come! when saw you my father last?

The night gone by.

Spake you with him?

Ay, two hours together.

Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word
or countenance?

None at all.

Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him: and at my
entreaty forbear his presence until some little time hath
qualified the heat of his displeasure; which at this instant so
rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would
scarcely allay.

Some villain hath done me wrong.

That's my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till the
speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to
my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord
speak: pray you, go; there's my key. — If you do stir abroad, go

Armed, brother!

Brother, I advise you to the best; I am no honest man
if there be any good meaning toward you: I have told you what I
have seen and heard but faintly; nothing like the image and
horror of it: pray you, away!

Shall I hear from you anon?

I do serve you in this business.

[Exit Edgar.]

A credulous father! and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
My practices ride easy! — I see the business.
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
All with me's meet that I can fashion fit.


Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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