King Lear
Background on King Lear: King Leir the Play: Scene 24

In one of the play’s longest scenes, the disguised trio from France has walked a significant extent.  Cordella is joyful that they have been able to mix with the common people.  They see at some distance Leir and Perillus, but, owing to the miserable condition they see in the pair, they decide to eavesdrop.  Leir laments their unrequited state of hunger.  Perillus offers his own flesh: “I’ll smile for joy to see you suck my blood.”  Leir refuses, and then laments the lose of Britain.

Cordella begins to recognize Leir’s voice.  Leir then reviews his transgressions, forgives his mistreatment by his daughters, but then turns on himself over his mistreatment of Cordella.  She can hardly believe her ears, but the Gallian King asks her not to disclose her identity until they know more.  Perillus sees a banquet ahead, and people, and appeals to them for some sustenance, in God’s name.  Cordella invites them to sit and eat.  They thank God and eat hungrily.

The Gallian King still urges Cordella not to disclose their identities, this time on grounds that Leir should regain strength before the shock.  Refreshed, Perillus proffers his doublet, but it is not taken.  Cordella and Leir then talk, he still not recognizing her, but thinking her like his daughter, one he has forsaken.  She denies it, begins to weep, but urges him to tell the story of the other two.  He does, through the attempted assassination.  He then confesses that he must seek relief from whom he abused so badly, whose help he surely does not deserve.

She pretends to have the same story, and she forgave her father.  She then reveals herself, on her knees to him.  In a potentially comical sequence, he kneels while asking her to stand; she does.  He then at her request rises, but then kneels again until pardoned.   He is pardoned.  They exchange obligations of the past, he rises, and she kneels for his pardon, he blesses her in God’s name, and she finally stands.

Now the Gallian King kneels, and pledges revenge.  He rises, but then Mumford kneels, pledging to return from Britain with a wench.

Scene 23 . . . Directory . . . Scene 25

Scene 24

Enter the Gallian King and Queen, and Mumford,
with a basket, disguised like Country folk.

KING: This tedious journey all on foot, sweet Love,
Cannot be pleasing to your tender joints,
Which ne’re were used to these toilsome walks.

CORDELLA: I never in my life took more delight
In any journey, than I do in this:
It did me good, when as we happed to light
Amongst the merry crew of country folk,
To see what industry and pains they took,
To win them commendations ‘mongst their friends.
Lord, how they labor to bestir themselves, … [24.10]
And in their quirks to go beyond the Moon,
And so take on them with such antic fits,
That one would think they were beside their wits!
Come away, Roger, with your basket.

MUMFORD: Soft, Dame, here comes a couple of old youths,
I must needs make myself fat with jesting at them.
[Enter Leir & Perillus very faintly.]

CORDELLA: Nay, prithy do not, they do seem to be
Men much o’ergone with grief and misery.
Let’s stand aside, and hearken what they say.

LEIR: Ah, my Perillus, now I see we both … [24.20]
Shall end our days in this unfruitful soil.
Oh, I do faint for want of sustenance:
And thou, I know, in little better case.
No gentle tree affords one taste of fruit,
To comfort us, until we meet with men:
No lucky path conducts our luckless steps
Unto a place where any comfort dwells.
Sweet rest betide unto our happy souls;
For here I see our bodies must have end.

PERILLUS: Ah, my dear Lord, how doth my heart lament, … [24.30]
To see you brought to this extremity!
O, if you love me, as you do profess,
Or ever thought well of me in my life,    He strips up his arms.
Feed on this flesh, whose veins are not so dry,
But there is virtue left to comfort you.
O, feed on this, if this will do you good,
I’ll smile for joy, to see you suck my blood.

LEIR: I am no Cannibal, that I should delight
To slake my hungry jaws with human flesh:
I am no devil, or ten times worse than so, … [24.40]
To suck the blood of such a peerless friend.
O, do not think that I respect my life
So dearly, as I do thy loyal love.
Ah, Britain, I shall never see thee more,
That hast unkindly banished thy King:
And yet thou dost not make me to complain,
But they which were more near to me than thou.

CORDELLA: What do I hear? this lamentable voice,
Me thinks, ere now I often times have heard.

LEIR: Ah, Gonorill, was half my Kingdom’s gift … [24.50]
The cause that thou didst seek to have my life?
Ah, cruel Ragan, did I give thee all,
And all could not suffice without my blood?
Ah, poor Cordella, did I give thee nought,
Nor never shall be able for to give?
O, let me warn all ages that ensueth,
How they trust flattery, and reject the trueth.
Well, unkind Girls, I here forgive you both,
Yet the just heavens will hardly do the like;
And only crave forgiveness at the end … [24.60]
Of good Cordella, and of thee, my friend;
Of God, whose Majesty I have offended,
By my transgression many thousand ways:
Of her, dear heart, whom I for no occasion
Turned out of all, through flatterers persuasion:
Of thee, kind friend, who but for me, I know,
Hadst never come unto this place of woe.

CORDELLA: Alack, that ever I should live to see
My noble father in this misery.

KING: Sweet Love, reveal not what thou art as yet, … [24.70]
Until we know the ground of all this ill.

CORDELLA: O, but some meat, some meat: do you not see,
How near they are to death for want of food?

PERILLUS: Lord, which didst help thy servants at their need,
Or now or never send us help with speed.
Oh comfort, comfort! yonder is a banquet,
And men and women, my Lord: be of good cheer:
For I see comfort coming very near.
O my Lord, a banquet, and men and women!

LEIR: O, let kind pity mollify their hearts, … [24.80]
That they may help us in our great extremes.

PERILLUS: God save your, friends; & if this blessed banquet
Affordeth any food or sustenance,
Even for his sake that saved us all from death,
Vouchsafe to save us from the gripe of famine.

She bringeth him to the table.

CORDELLA: Here father, sit and eat, here, sit & drink:
And would it were far better for your sakes.
[Perillus takes Leir by the hand to the table.]

PERILLUS: I’ll give you thanks anon: my friend doth faint,
And needeth present comfort.    Leir drinks.

MUMFORD: I warrant, he ne’re stays to say grace: … [24.90]
O, there’s no sauce to a good stomach.

PERILLUS: The blessed God of heaven hath thought upon us.

LEIR: The thanks be his, and these kind courteous folk,
By whose humanity we are preserved.

They eat hungerly, Leir drinks.

CORDELLA: And may that draught be unto him, as was
That which old Aeson drank, which did renew
His withered age, and made him young again.
And may that meat be unto him, as was
That which Elias ate, in strength whereof
He walked forty days, and never fainted. … [24.100]
Shall I conceal me longer from my father?
Or shall I manifest myself to him?

KING: Forbear a while, until his strength return,
Lest being overjoyed with seeing thee,
His poor weak senses should forsake their office,
And so our cause of joy be turned to sorrow.

PERILLUS: What cheer, my Lord? how do you feel yourself?

LEIR: Methinks, I never saw such savory meat:
It is as pleasant as the blessed Manna,
That rained from heaven amongst the Israelites: … [24.110]
It hath recalled my spirits home again,
And made me fresh, as erst I was before.
But how shall we congratulate their kindness?

PERILLUS: In faith, I know not how sufficiently;
But the best mean that I can think on, is this:
I’ll offer them my doublet in requital;
For we have nothing else to spare.

LEIR: Nay, stay, Perillus, for they shall have mine.

PERILLUS: Pardon, my Lord, I swear they shall have mine.

Perillus proffers his doublet: they will not take it.

LEIR: Ah, who would think such kindness should remain … [24.120]
Among such strange and unacquainted men:
And that such hate should harbor in the breast
Of those, which have occasion to be best?

CORDELLA: Ah, good old father, tell to me thy grief,
I’ll sorrow with thee, if not add relief.

LEIR: Ah, good young daughter, I may call thee so,
For thou art like a daughter I did owe.

CORDELLA: Do you not owe her still? what, is she dead?

LEIR: No, God forbid: but all my interest’s gone,
By showing myself too much unnatural: … [24.130]
So have I lost the title of a father,
And may be called a stranger to her rather.

CORDELLA: Your title’s good still: for tis always known,
A man may do as him list with his own.
But have you but one daughter then in all?

LEIR: Yes, I have more by two, than would I had.

CORDELLA: O, say not so, but rather see the end:
They that are bad, may have the grace to mend:
But how have they offended you so much?

LEIR: If from the first, I should relate the cause, … [24.140]
‘Twould make a heart of Adamant to weep;
And thou, poor soul, kind-hearted as thou art,
Dost weep already, ere I do begin.

CORDELLA:
For God’s love tell it, and when you have done,
I’ll tell the reason why I weep so soon.

LEIR: Then know this first, I am a Britain born,
And had three daughters by one loving wife:
And though I say it, of beauty they were sped;
Especially the youngest of the three,
For her perfections hardly matched could be: … [24.150]
On these I doted with a jealous love,
And thought to try which of them loved me best,
By asking them, which would do most for me?
The first and second flattered me with words,
And vowed they loved me better than their lives:
The youngest said, she loved me as a child
Might do: her answer I esteemed most vild,
And presently in an outrageous mood,
I turned her from me to go sink or swim:
And all I had, even to the very clothes, … [24.160]
I gave in dowry with the other two:
And she that best deserved the greatest share,
I gave her nothing, but disgrace and care.
Now mark the sequel: When I had done thus,
I sojourned in my eldest daughter’s house,
Where for a time I was entreated well,
And lived in state sufficing my content:
But every day her kindness did grow cold,
Which I with patience put up well enough,
And seemed not to see the things I saw: … [24.170]
But at the last she grew so far incensed
With moody fury, and with causeless hate,
That in most vild and contumelious terms,
She bade me pack, and harbor somewhere else.
Then was I fain for refuge to repair
Unto my other daughter for relief,
Who gave me pleasing and most courteous words;
But in her actions showed herself so sore,
As never any daughter did before:
She prayed me in a morning out betime, … [24.180]
To go to a thicket two miles from the Court,
Pointing that there she would come talk with me:
There she had set a shag-haired murd’ring wretch,
To massacre my honest friend and me.
Then judge yourself, although my tale be brief,
If ever may had greater cause of grief.

KING: Nor never like impiety was done,
Since the creation of the world begun.

LEIR: And now I am constrained to seek relief
Of her, to whom I have been so unkind; … [24.190]
Whose censure, if it do award me death,
I must confess she pays me but my due:
But if she show a loving daughter’s part,
It comes of God and her, not my desert.

CORDELLA: No doubt she will, I dare be sworn she will.

LEIR: How know you that, not knowing what she is?

CORDELLA:
Myself a father have a great way hence,
Used me as ill as ever you did her;
Yet, that his reverend age I once might see,
I’d creep along, to meet him on my knee. … [24.200]

LEIR: O, no men’s children are unkind but mine.

CORDELLA: Condemn not all, because of other’s crime:
But look, dear father, look behold and see
Thy loving daughter speaketh unto thee.   She kneels.

LEIR: O, stand thou up, it is my part to kneel,
And ask forgiveness for my former faults.    He kneels.

CORDELLA: O, if you wish, I should enjoy my breath,
Dear father rise, or I receive my death.    He riseth.

LEIR: Then I will rise to satisfy your mind,
But kneel again, til pardon be resigned.    He kneels. … [24.210]

CORDELLA: I pardon you: the word beseems not me:
But I do say so, for to ease your knee.
You gave me life, you were the cause that I
Am what I am, who else had never been.

LEIR: But you gave life to me and to my friend,
Whose days had else had an untimely end.

CORDELLA: You brought me up, when as I was but young,
And far unable for to help myself.

LEIR: I cast thee forth, when as thou wast but young,
And far unable for to help thyself. … [24.220]

CORDELLA: God, world and nature say I do you wrong,
That can endure to see you kneel so long.

PERILLUS:
Let me break off this loving controversy,
Which doth rejoice my very soul to see.
Good father, rise, she is your loving daughter,   He riseth.
And honors you with as respective duty,
As if you were the Monarch of the world.

CORDELLA: But I will never rise from off my knee,    She kneels.
Until I have your blessing, and your pardon
Of all my faults committed any way … [24.230]
From my first birth unto this present day.

LEIR: The blessing, which the God of Abraham gave
Unto the tribe of Juda, light on thee,
And multiply thy days, that thou mayst see
Thy children’s children prosper after thee.
Thy faults, which are just none that I do know,
God pardon on high, and I forgive below.    She riseth.

CORDELLA: Now is my heart at quiet, and doth leap
Within my breast, for joy of this good hap:
And now (dear father) welcome to our Court, … [24.240]
And welcome (kind Perillus) unto me,
Mirror of virtue and true honesty.

LEIR:
O, he hath been the kindest friend to me,
That ever man had in adversity.

PERILLUS:
My tongue doth fail, to say what heart doth think,
I am so ravished with exceeding joy.

KING: All you have spoke: now let me speak my mind,
And in few words much matter here conclude:  He kneels.
If ere my heart do harbor any joy,
Or true content repose within my breast, … [24.250]
Till I have rooted out this viperous sect,
And repossessed my father of his crown,
Let me be counted for the perjurdst man,
That ever spake word since the world began.  Rise.

MUMFORD: Let me pray too, that never prayed before;    Mumford kneels.
If ere I resalute the British earth,
(As (ere’t be long) I do presume I shall)
And do return from thence without my wench,
Let me be gelded for my recompense.   Rise.

KING: Come, let’s to arms for to redress this wrong: … [24.260]
Till I am there, me thinks, the time seems long.   Exeunt.

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