King Lear
Background on King Lear: King Leir the Play: Scene 23

Perillus and Leir have met two mariners at their ship (they seem to be in France).  The traveling pair have apparently been robbed of their money, so cannot pay for their passage. They exchange clothing in return for which Leir and Perillus get free passage, but Leir and Perillus argue about who should have to give up their finer clothing.

The mariners will not rescind the bargain, and hurry off before the pair asks for their clothes back.  Leir realizes they may be safer traveling in disguise.  Leir then gives a poetic catalog of his sins, which Perillus turns to good account, item by item.  Leir rebukes his oration, but Perillus gives the Christian argument that death is preferable to despair (the turning away from God).  Leir yields to his stronger sentiments, and ends with “come, let us go, and see what God will send; when all means fail, he is the surest friend.”

Scene 22 . . . Directory . . . Scene 24

Scene 23

Enter Leir, Perillus, and two Mariners, in sea-gowns and sea-caps.

PERILLUS: My honest friends, we are ashamed to show
The great extremity of our present state,
In that at this time we are brought so low,
That we want money for to pay our passage.
The truth is so, we met with some good fellows,
A little before we came aboard your ship,
Which stripped us quite of all the coin we had,
And left us not a penny in our purses:
Yet wanting money, we will use the mean,
To see you satisfied to the uttermost.   Look on Lear. … [23.10]

1 MAR: Here’s a good gown, ‘twould become me passing well,
I should be fine in it.   Look on Perillus.

2 MAR: Here’s a good cloak, I marvel how I should look in it.
LEIR: Faith, had we others to supply their room,
Though ne’er so mean, you willingly should have them.

1 MAR: Do you hear, sir? you look like an honest man;
I’ll not stand to do you a pleasure: here’s a good strong motley
gabardine, cost me xiiii. good shillings at Billingsgate; give
me your gown for it, & your cap for mine, & I’ll forgive
your passage. … [23.20]

LEIR: With all my heart, and xx. thanks.   Leir & he changeth.

2 MAR: Do you hear, sir? you shall have a better match
than he, because you are my friend: here is a good sheeps
russet sea-gown, will bide more stress, I warrant you,
than two of his, yet for you seem to be an honest gentleman,
I am content to change it for your cloak, and ask you
nothing for your passage more.   Pull off Perillus cloak.

PERILLUS: My own I willingly would change with thee,
And think myself indebted to thy kindness:
But would my friend might keep his garment still. … [23.30]
My friend, I’ll give thee this new doublet, if thou wilt
Restore his gown unto him him back again.

1 MAR: Nay, if I do, would I might ne’re eat powdered
beef and mustard more, nor drink Can of good liquor whilst
I live. My friend, you have small reason to seek to hinder me
of my bargain: but the best is, a bargain’s a bargain.

LEIR: Kind friend, it is much better as it is;   Leir to Perillus.
For by this means we may escape unknown,
Til time and opportunity do fit.

2 MAR: Hark, hark, they are laying their heads together, … [23.40]
They’ll repent them of their bargain anon,
‘Twere best for us to go while we are well.

1 MAR: God be with you, sir, for your passage back again,
I’ll use you as unreasonable as another.

LEIR: I know thou wilt; but we hope to bring ready money
With us, when we come back again.   Exeunt Mariners.
Were ever men in this extremity,
In a strange country, and devoid of friends,
And not a penny for to help ourselves?
Kind friend, what thinkst thou will become of us? … [23.50]

PERILLUS: Be of good cheer, my Lord, I have a doublet,
Will yield us money enough to serve our turns,
Until we come unto your daughter’s Court:
And then, I hope, we shall find friends enough.

LEIR: Ah, kind Perillus, that is it I fear,
And makes me faint, or ever I come there.
Can kindness spring out of ingratitude?
Or love be reaped, where hatred hath been sown?
Can Henbane join in league with Mithridate?
Or Sugar grow in Wormwood’s bitter stalk? … [23.60]
It cannot be, they are too opposite:
And so am I to any kindness here.
I have thrown Wormwood on the sugared youth,
And like to Henbane poisoned the Fount,
Whence flowed the Mithridate of a child’s good will:
I, like an envious thorn, have pricked the heart,
And turned sweet Grapes, to sour unrelished Sloes:
The causeless ire of my respectless breast,
Hath soured the sweet milk of dame Nature’s paps:
My bitter words have galled her honey thoughts, … [23.70]
And weeds of rancor choked the flower of grace.
Then what remainder is of any hope,
But all our fortunes will go quite aslope?

PERILLUS: Fear not, my Lord, the perfect good indeed,
Can never be corrupted by the bad:
A new fresh vessel still retains the taste
Of that which first is poured into the same:
And therefore, though you name yourself the thorn,
The weed, the gall, the henbane & the wormwood;
Yet she’ll continue in her former state, … [23.80]
The honey milk, Grape, Sugar, Mithridate.

LEIR: Thou pleasing Orator unto me in woe,
Cease to beguile me with thy hopeful speeches:
O join with me, and think of nought but crosses,
And then we’ll one lament another’s losses.

PERILLUS: Why, say the worst, the worst can be but death,
And death is better than for to despair:
Then hazard death, which may convert to life;
Banish despair, which brings a thousand deaths.

LEIR: Orecome with thy strong arguments, I yield, … [23.90]
To be directed by thee, as thou wilt:
As thou yieldst comfort to my crazed thoughts,
Would I could yield the like unto thy body,
Which is full weak, I know, and ill-apaid
For want of fresh meat and due sustenance.

PERILLUS: Alack, my Lord, my heart doth bleed, to think
That you should be in such extremity.

LEIR: Come, let us go, and see what God will send;
When all means fail, he is the surest friend.   Exeunt.

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