King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act IV Scene 3

Kent encounters the knight or gentleman to whom he entrusted messages in Act III, who discloses that the King of France has returned to France to cure some imperfection in the state, leaving his army in the hands of the Marshal of France (about whom we never hear again). He also confirms that Cordelia had gotten Kent’s message, to which she responded with “sunshine and rain at once, her smiles and tears were like a better way.” It becomes clear that she had read the letter on English soil, attending the army. Kent then describes Lear’s present location and condition, in Dover, and in such despair that he dares not see Cordelia. Kent takes the gentleman to Lear to look after him.

Act IV Scene 2 . . . Act IV Scene 4

(McKellen Film does not include this scene. It is left in black for readability.)

ACT IV. SCENE III. The French camp near Dover.

Enter Kent and a Gentleman

KENT
Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back
know you the reason?

Gentleman
Something he left imperfect in the state which since
his coming forth is thought of, which imports to the
kingdom so much fear and danger that his personal     [5]
return was most required and necessary.

KENT   Who hath he left behind him general?

Gentleman   The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Far.

KENT   Did your letters pierce the queen to any demonstration of grief?

Gentleman
Ay, sir. She took them, read them in my presence,    [10]
And now and then an ample tear trilled down
Her delicate cheek. It seemed she was a queen
Over her passion, who, most rebel-like,
Sought to be king o’er her.

KENT   O, then it moved her.     [15]

Gentleman
Not to a rage. Patience and sorrow strove
Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
Sunshine and rain at once; her smiles and tears
Were like a better way. Those happy smilets
That played on her ripe lip seemed not to know    [20]
What guests were in her eyes, which parted thence
As pearls from diamonds dropped. In brief,
Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved
If all could so become it.

KENT   Made she no verbal question?    [25]

Gentleman
Faith, once or twice she heaved the name of “father”
Pantingly forth, as if it pressed her heart,
Cried “Sisters, sisters, shame of ladies, sisters,
Kent, father, sisters! What, i’ th’ storm, i’ th’ night?
Let pity not be believed!” There she shook    [30]
The holy water from her heavenly eyes
And clamor moistened. Then away she started
To deal with grief alone.

KENT                                  It is the stars,
The stars above us govern our conditions,    [35]
Else one self mate and make could not beget
Such different issues. You spoke not with her since?

Gentleman    No.

KENT   Was this before the King returned?

Gentleman                                             No, since.    [40]

KENT
Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear’s i’th’ town,
Who sometime in his better tune remembers
What we are come about, and by no means
Will yield to see his daughter.

Gentleman    Why, good sir?     [45]

KENT
A sovereign shame so elbows him. His own unkindness,
That stripped her from his benediction, turned her
To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights
To his dog-hearted daughters, these things sting
His mind so venomously that burning shame    [50]
Detains him from Cordelia.

Gentleman   Alack, poor gentleman!

KENT    Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers you heard not?

Gentleman    ‘Tis so. They are afoot.

KENT
Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master Lear,    [55]
And leave you to attend him. Some dear cause
Will in concealment wrap me up awhile.
When I am known aright you shall not grieve
Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you,
Go along with me.    [60]

Exeunt

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