King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act III Scene 2

In perhaps the play’s most famous scene, the one with lightening bolts and thunder, Lear rages against nature as if he is the storm itself.  His real target however is “ungrateful man.”  The Fool attempts to take him back inside.  Lear persists, in more personal terms: “Here I stand a slave, a poor infirm weak and despised old man . . . with two pernicious daughters.”  The Fool then offers a sexual analogy for Lear’s state  (Lear’s own raging has sexual overtones).  Kent comes in to note the storm’s severity, “such groans of roaring wind and rain I never remember,” which Lear turns to the question of justice: “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.”  Finally, the trio decide to seek shelter in a nearby hovel.  The Fool ends the scene with a quite confusing prophecy given directly to the audience.

Act III Scene 1 . . . Act III Scene 3

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

ACT III. SCENE II. On the heath in storm.

Storm still. Enter Lear and Fool.

Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   [5]
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’th’world.
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man.

O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than    [10]
this rain-water out o’door. Good nuncle,
in, and ask thy
daughters blessing.  Here’s a night pities neither wise
man nor fools.

Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters.    [15]
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness.
I never gave you kingdom, called you children.
You owe me no subscription.  Then let fall
Your horrible pleasure.  Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man.   [20]
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high-engendered battles ‘gainst a head
So old and white as this. O, ho! ‘Tis foul.

He that has a house to put’s head in has a   [25]
good headpiece.  [singing.]

The codpiece that will house
Before the head has any,
The head and he shall louse,
So beggars marry many.   [30]
The man that makes his toe
What he his heart should make
Shall of a corn cry woe
And turn his sleep to wake.

For there was never yet fair woman but she made   [35]
mouths in a glass.

No, I will be the pattern of all patience.
I will say nothing.

Enter Kent

KENT    Who’s there?

Fool    Marry, here’s grace and a codpiece, that’s a wise   [40]
man and a fool.

Alas, sir, are you here?  Things that love night
Love not such nights as these.  The wrathful skies
Gallow the very wanderers of the dark
And make them keep their caves.  Since I was man   [45]
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain I never
Remember to have heard.  Man’s nature cannot carry
Th’affliction nor the fear.

KING LEAR                       Let the great gods   [50]
That keep this dreadful pudder o’er our heads
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulged crimes
Unwhipped of justice.  Hide thee, thou bloody hand,
Thou perjured and thou simular of virtue   [55]
That art incestuous.  Caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practiced on man’s life.
Close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace.  I am a man   [60]
More sinned against than sinning.

KENT                               Alack, bare headed?
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel.
Some friendship will it lend you ‘gainst the tempest.
Repose you there while I to this hard house—   [65]
More harder than the stones whereof ’tis raised,
Which even but now, demanding after you,
Denied me to come in—return, and force
Their scanted courtesy.

KING LEAR                  My wits begin to turn.   [70]
Come on, my boy.  How dost, my boy?  Art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious.
Come, your hovel.
Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart   [75]
That’s sorry yet for thee.

Fool    [Singing]

He that has and a little tiny wit,
With heigh, ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.   [80]

KING LEAR   True, my good boy.  Come, bring us to this hovel.

Exit [Lear and Kent]

This is a brave night to cool a courtesan.  I’ll speak a
prophecy ere I go:

When priests are more in word than matter,
When brewers mar their malt with water,   [85]
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors,
No heretics burned but wenches’ suitors;
When every case in law is right,
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight,
When slanders do not live in tongues,   [90]
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold i’th’field,
And bawds and whores do churches build,
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.   [95]
Then comes the time, who lives to see’t,
That going shall be used with feet.

This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.


(A portion of this speech is said by the Fool at the end of
Act III Scene 6 in Nunn Production.)

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.