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

Lear enters carrying Cordelia, howling. Lear knows she is dead, but in desperation or madness still looks for signs of life. He melts a little—“her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman”—then declares that he killed her killer, with some sense of bravura. He spots Kent, now in his old habit, who connects his disguised self to his real self. Kent gives Lear the news of his other daughters, but Lear responds nonsensically. A messenger announces Edmund’s death. “That’s but a trifle” says Albany.

Albany attempts to restore some order to the kingdom, with power restored to Lear and suitable honors to Kent and Edgar, but Lear pays no attention. “And my poor fool is hanged. . . O thou’lt come no more. Never, never, never, never, never.” He asks to have his shirt unbuttoned and comes close to Cordelia one last time, “do you see this? look on her: look, her lips, look there, look there.” He expires of grief.

Albany once more attempts repair, suggesting that Edgar and Kent “rule in this realm and the gored state sustain.” Kent declines: “I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls me, I must not say no.” Edgar concludes the play with this choral quatrain:

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Act V Scene 3c . . . Editing

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Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms.

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.    [295]
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever.
I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,    [300]
Why then she lives.

KENT                          Is this the promised end?

EDGAR   Or image of that horror?

ALBANY                                         Fall, and cease!

This feather stirs. She lives. If it be so,    [305]
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.

KENT                          O my good master!

KING LEAR    Prithee, away.

EDGAR                                ‘Tis noble Kent, your friend.    [310]

A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all.
I might have saved her. Now she’s gone for ever.
Cordelia, Cordelia. Stay a little. Ha?
What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.     [315]
I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee

Captain   ‘Tis true, my lords, he did.

KING LEAR                                      Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip. I am old now,    [320]
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o’th’ best, I’ll tell you straight.

If fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
One of them we behold.

KING LEAR   This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?    [325]

KENT                                         The same,
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?

He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that.
He’ll strike, and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.

KENT  No, my good lord, I am the very man—    [330]

KING LEAR   I’ll see that straight.

That from your first of difference and decay
Have followed your sad steps.

KING LEAR    You are welcome hither.

Nor no man else. All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.    [335]
Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
And desperately are dead.

KING LEAR                       Ay, so I think.

He knows not what he says, and vain it is
That we present us to him.    [340]

EDGAR                               Very bootless

Enter a Messenger.

Messenger   Edmund is dead, my lord.

That’s but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.

What comfort to this great decay may come    [345]
Shall be applied. For us we will resign
During the life of this old majesty
To him our absolute power. [to Edgar and Kent] You, to your rights,
With boot and such addition as your honors
Have more than merited.
All friends shall taste    [350]
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!

And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life.
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more.    [355]
Never, never, never, never, never.
Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there.    He dies.

EDGAR   He faints! My lord, my lord!    [360]

KENT   Break, heart, I prithee, break!

EDGAR                                         Look up, my lord.

Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! He hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.    [365]

EDGAR    He is gone, indeed.

The wonder is he hath endured so long.
He but usurped his life.

Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.
Friends of my soul, you twain    [370]
Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.    [375]
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

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