King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act III Scene 4a

Kent tries to herd Lear into the hovel. Lear seems not to care: “this tempest in my mind doth from my senses take all feeling.” But he also seems to know that dwelling on his daughters is bad: “that way madness lies.” The Fool goes in. Still outside, and perhaps in contrition, Lear kneels as if to pray, and speaks as if to justify his suffering. At this very moment we hear Edgar as Poor Tom ranting from inside the hovel, chasing the Fool out, who declares a mad spirit present. Edgar comes out and acts completely mad. Lear thinks he must have had two ungrateful daughters to produce such a state. Kent argues otherwise, but for Lear, “nothing could have subdued nature to such a lowness but his unkind daughters.” Edgar continues, parodying a few of the Ten Commandments, and then lists his prior occupations as a catalog of villainies. Lear wonders, “Is man no more than this?” and proceeds to undress himself completely.

Act III Scene 3 . . . Act III Scene 4b

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ACT III. SCENE IV. SEGMENT A. On the heath.

Enter Lear, Kent, and Fool

KENT
Here is the place, my lord; good my lord, enter:
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature to endure.      Storm still

KING LEAR   Let me alone.

KENT   Good my lord, enter here.   [5]

KING LEAR    Wilt break my heart?

KENT    I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.

KING LEAR
Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin; so ’tis to thee.
But where the greater malady is fixed,    [10]
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’dst shun a bear,
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou’dst meet the bear i’th’ mouth. When the mind’s free,
The body’s delicate. The tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else    [15]
Save what beats there
—filial ingratitude.
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home.
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out? Pour on. I will endure.    [20]
In such a night as this? O Regan, Goneril.
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all—
O, that way madness lies. Let me shun that.
No more of that.

KENT                   Good my lord, enter here.     [25]

KING LEAR
Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease.
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.
In, boy, go first. You houseless poverty—
Nay, get thee in.
I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.   Exit [Fool] [30]
Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en    [35]
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp,
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.

Enter Edgar and Fool

EDGAR [within] Fathom and half, fathom and half. Poor Tom. [40]

Fool   [within]
Come not in here, nuncle, here’s a spirit.
Help me, help me!

KENT    Give me thy hand. Who’s there?

Fool   A spirit, a spirit. He says his name’s Poor Tom.

KENT
What art thou that dost grumble there i’ th’ straw?    [45]
Come forth.

EDGAR    Away! The foul fiend follows me. Through the sharp
hawthorn blows the cold wind. Hum! Go to thy cold bed and warm thee.

KING LEAR
Didst thou give all to thy two daughters? And art thou come to this?

EDGAR
Who gives anything to Poor Tom?  Whom the foul fiend hath led   [50]
through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlipool,
e’er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow and
halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud of
heart to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inched bridges, to
course his own shadow for a traitor.
Bless thy five wits. Tom’s a-cold.   [55]
O, do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, star-blasting,
and taking. Do Poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes.
There could I have him now, and there, and there again, and there.    Storm still

KING LEAR
Has his daughters brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Wouldst thou give ‘em all?    [60]

Fool    Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed.

KING LEAR
Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!

KENT   He hath no daughters, sir.

KING LEAR
Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature   [65]
To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
Judicious punishment—’Twas this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.   [70]

EDGAR
Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill.
Alow, alow, loo, loo!

Fool   This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.

EDGAR
Take heed o’the foul fiend: obey thy parents, keep thy word
justly, swear not, commit not with man’s sworn spouse, set   [75]
not thy sweet heart on proud array. Tom’s a-cold.

KING LEAR    What hast thou been?

EDGAR
A servingman, proud in heart and mind, that curled my hair,
wore gloves in my cap, served the lust of my mistress’ heart,
and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as   [80]
I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of
heaven; one that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to
do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly, and in woman out-
paramoured the Turk. False of heart, light of ear, bloody of
hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in   [85]
madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the
rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman.
Keep thy foot
out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders’
books, and defy the foul fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows
the cold wind, says suum, mun, ha, no, nonny. Dolphin my boy,   [90]
my boy, sessa! Let him trot by.
Storm still

KING LEAR
Thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy
uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more
than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk,
the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha!   [95]
Here’s three on’s are sophisticated. Thou art the thing itself.
Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come,
unbutton here.

Fool
Prithee, nuncle, be contented. ‘Tis a naughty night to swim in.   [100]
Now a little fire in a wild field were like an old lecher’s heart; a
small spark, all the rest on’s body cold.
Look, here comes a
walking fire.

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