King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act II Scene 1

Curan, a member of Gloucester’s household, discloses to Edmund both that Regan and Cornwall will be at Gloucester’s that evening, and a rumor that Albany and Cornwall may be headed for civil war, turning the division of the kingdom into political division as well. Edmund seizes on the news to goad his brother Edgar, hidden in the house somewhere, into feigning a fight and then fleeing. Edmund then cuts himself, and screams for help. Gloucester rushes in. Edmund makes up a story that Edgar wants Gloucester’s inheritance through his untimely death, and hoped for Edmund’s aid, but Edmund refused on the grounds that paternity was sacred. Gloucester orders an all-out search and death to any who give shelter to Edgar, whom he verbally disowns much as Lear has disowned Cordelia. Cornwall and Regan enter to find Gloucester disconsolate. Regan asks if Edgar was with Lear’s riotous knights, which Edmund falsely affirms. This with Edmund’s wound buys the praise and loyalty of Cornwall—“you shall be ours”—and ironically seals his doom. Regan then discloses that they have come to Gloucester’s to avoid Lear’s riotous knights when they arrive at her castle.

Act I Scene 5 . . . Act II Scene 2a

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ACT II. SCENE I. Gloucester’s house.

Enter Bastard [Edmund] and Curan, serverally.

EDMUND   Save thee, Curan.

CURAN
And you, sir. I have been with your father, and
given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan
his duchess will be here with him this night.

EDMUND   How comes that?    [5]

CURAN
Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad,
I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but
ear-bussing arguments?

EDMUND   Not I. Pray you, what are they?

CURAN
Have you heard of no likely wars toward ‘twixt the    [10]
Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?

EDMUND   Not a word.

CURAN   You may do then in time. Fare you well, sir.  Exit.

EDMUND
The duke be here tonight? The better. Best.
This weaves itself perforce into my business.    [15]
My father hath set guard to take my brother,
And I have one thing of a queasy question,
Which I must act. Briefness and fortune work!
Brother, a word. Descend, brother, I say.

Enter Edgar

My father watches. O sir, fly this place!     [20]
Intelligence is given where you are hid.
You have now the good advantage of the night.
Have you not spoken ‘gainst the Duke of Cornwall?
He’s coming hither, now, i’th’night, i’th’haste,
And Regan with him. Have you nothing said    [25]
Upon his party ‘gainst the Duke of Albany?
Advise yourself.

EDGAR    I am sure on’t, not a word.

EDMUND
I hear my father coming. Pardon me.
In cunning I must draw my sword upon you.    [30]
Draw; seem to defend yourself. Now quit you well. [they fight.]
Yield. Come before my father. Light, ho, here!
Fly, brother. Torches, torches! So, farewell. Exit Edgar.
Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion. [wounds his arm.]
Of my more fierce endeavor. I have seen drunkards    [35]
Do more than this in sport.
Father, father!
Stop, stop. No help?

Enter Gloucester and Servants with torches.

GLOUCESTER   Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?

EDMUND
Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon    [40]
To stand auspicious mistress.

GLOUCESTER   But where is he?

EDMUND   Look, sir, I bleed.

GLOUCESTER   Where is the villain, Edmund?

EDMUND    Fled this way, sir, when by no means he could–   [45]

GLOUCESTER
Pursue him, ho! Go after. [Exeunt some Servants]
By no means what?

EDMUND
Persuade me to the murder of your lordship.
But that I told him the revenging gods
‘Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend,     [50]
Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to the father. Sir, in fine,

Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion,
With his prepared sword,
he charges home    [55]
My unprovided body, latched mine arm.
But when he saw my best alarumed spirits,
Bold in the quarrel’s right, roused to th’encounter,
Or whether ghasted by the noise I made,
Full suddenly he fled.    [60]

GLOUCESTER              Let him fly far.
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught,
And found—dispatch. The noble Duke, my master,
My worthy arch and patron, comes tonight.
By his authority I will proclaim it    [65]
That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,
Bringing the murderous coward to the stake.

He that conceals him, death.

EDMUND
When I dissuaded him from his intent,
And found him pight to do it, with curst speech    [70]
I threatened to discover him. He replied,
“Thou unpossessing bastard. Dost thou think,
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee
Make thy words faithed? No. What I should deny,    [75]
As this I would, though thou didst produce
My very character, I’d turn it all
To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice.
And thou must make a dullard of the world
If they not thought the profits of my death    [80]
Were very pregnant and potential spurs
To make thee seek it.”

GLOUCESTER    O strange and fastened villain.
Would he deny his letter? I never got him.
Tucket within
Hark, the Duke’s trumpets. I know not why he comes.    [85]
All ports I’ll bar. The villain shall not ’scape.
The Duke must grant me that. Besides, his picture
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have the due note of him.
And of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means    [90]
To make thee capable.

Enter Cornwall, Regan, and Attendants.

CORNWALL
How now, my noble friend? Since I came hither,
Which I can call but now,
I have heard strange news.

REGAN
If it be true, all vengeance comes too short
Which can pursue th’offender. How dost, my lord?     [95]

GLOUCESTER   O, madam, my old heart is cracked, it’s cracked.

REGAN
What, did my father’s godson seek your life?
He whom my father named, your Edgar?

GLOUCESTER
O, lady, lady, shame would have it hid.

REGAN
Was he not companion with the riotous knights    [100]
That tend upon my father?

GLOUCESTER
I know not, madam. ‘Tis too bad, too bad.

EDMUND
Yes, madam, he was of that consort.

REGAN
No marvel then though he were ill affected.
‘Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,    [105]
To have th’expense and waste of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well informed of them, and with such cautions,
That if they come to sojourn at my house
I’ll not be there.    [110]

CORNWALL        Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A child-like office.

EDMUND   It was my duty, sir.

GLOUCESTER
He did bewray his practice, and received    [115]
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.

CORNWALL   Is he pursued?

GLOUCESTER   Ay, my good lord.

CORNWALL
If he be taken, he shall never more
Be feared of doing harm. Make your own purpose,    [120]
How in my strength you please.
For you, Edmund,
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
So much commend itself, you shall be ours.
Natures of such deep trust we shall much need.
You we first seize on.    [125]

EDMUND    I shall serve you, sir, truly, however else.

GLOUCESTER   For him I thank your grace.

CORNWALL   You know not why we came to visit you?

REGAN
Thus out of season threading dark-eyed night?
Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some poise,     [130]
Wherein we must have use of your advice.
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home. The several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,    [135]
Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow
Your needful counsel to our business,
Which craves the instant use.

GLOUCESTER                    I serve you, madam.
Your graces are right welcome.    [140]

Exeunt. Flourish.

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