King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act I Scene 4c

Goneril finally appears. She upbraids Lear for his riotous men, and for defending them. He begins to get upset: “Are you our daughter?” She then states her real intention, to reduce the size of his train, insisting as well that the remainder behave themselves. Lear becomes enraged—“darkness and devils”—and orders removal to Regan’s household. Albany (Goneril’s husband) now enters and pleads for patience. Lear produces a sequence of outbursts, including one with perhaps the play’s most famous line. Albany attempts to control the situation, but Goneril dismisses him (in effect). Lear finally blasts Goneril for the last time, with forebodings of things to come, like Gloucester’s blinding. But he still holds faith in Regan, meaning he is still not fully awake to his own folly. After Lear leaves, Albany warns Goneril, “You may fear too far,” to which she replies, “Safer than trust too far,” a nice psychological summary. Finally, Goneril sends a letter to Regan with the curious instructions to Oswald to “add such reasons of your own as may compact more.”

Act I Scene 4b . . . Act I Scene 5

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ACT I. SCENE IV. SEGMENT C. At Albany’s palace.

Enter Goneril

How now, daughter! What makes that frontlet on?
Methinks you are too much of late i’the frown.

Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to
care for her frowning. Now thou art an O without a    [175]
figure. I am better than thou art now. I am a fool,
thou art nothing.
[to Goneril] Yes, forsooth, I will
hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say
nothing. Mum, mum. He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.
That’s a shelled peascod.

Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be endured riots. Sir,     [185]
I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done.
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance, which if you should, the fault     [190]
Would not ’scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which in the tender of a wholesome weal
Might in their working do you that offence
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.    [195]

For, you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it’s had it head bit off by it young.
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.

KING LEAR   Are you our daughter? [200]

GONERIL                                           Come, sir,
I would you would make use of that good wisdom,
Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
These dispositions, that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.    [205]

May not an ass know when the cart
draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.

Does any here know me? Why, this is not Lear.
Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, or his discernings    [210]
Are lethargied—
Ha! Sleeping or waking? Sure ‘tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

Fool    Lear’s shadow.

I would learn that, for, by the
marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason,    [215]
I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

Fool   Which they will make an obedient father.

KING LEAR   Your name, fair gentlewoman?

This admiration, sir, is much o’the savor   [220]
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright.
As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
Men so disordered, so debauched and bold,   [225]
That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy. Be then desired    [230]
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train,
And the remainders that shall still depend
To be such men as may besort your age,
And know themselves, and you.     [235]

KING LEAR                               Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses. Call my train together.
Degenerate bastard. I’ll not trouble thee—
Yet have I left a daughter.

You strike my people, and your disordered rabble    [240]
Make servants of their betters.

Enter Albany

Woe, that too late repents—O, sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous when thou show’st thee in a child     [245]
Than the sea-monster!

ALBANY   Pray, sir, be patient.

Detested kite! thou liest.
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,    [250]
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,
That, like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature
From the fixed place, drew from heart all love,    [255]
And added to the gall.
O Lear, Lear, Lear!
[striking his head] Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
And thy dear judgment out. Go, go, my people.

My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath moved you.    [260]

KING LEAR                        It may be so, my lord.
Hear, nature, hear, dear goddess, hear.
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful.
Into her womb convey sterility,    [265]
Dry up in her the organs of increase,
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honor her. If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.    [270]
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks.
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is    [275]
To have a thankless child. Away, away! Exit

ALBANY   Now gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

Never afflict yourself to know more of it,
But let his disposition have that scope
As dotage gives it.    [280]

Enter Lear

What, fifty of my followers at a clap?
Within a fortnight!

ALBANY   What’s the matter, sir?

I’ll tell thee. Life and death. I am ashamed
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,    [285]
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
The untented woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee. Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,     [290]
And cast you with the waters that you loose,
To temper clay. Yea, is’t come to this?

Let is be so. Yet have I left a daughter,
Who I am sure is kind and comfortable.
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails    [295]
She’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever. Thou shalt, I warrant thee. Exit.

GONERIL   Do you mark that, my lord?

I cannot be so partial, Goneril,    [300]
To the great love I bear you—

GONERIL     Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.

Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool
with thee.    [305]
A fox when one has caught her,
And such a daughter,
Should sure to the slaughter,
If my cap would buy a halter,
So the fool follows after.
Exit. [310]

This man hath had good counsel—a hundred knights!
‘Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights. Yes, that, on every dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,    [315]
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!

ALBANY   Well, you may fear too far.

Safer than trust too far.
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.    [320]
What he hath uttered
I have writ my sister.
If she sustain him and his hundred knights
When I have showed th’unfitness—Enter Steward. How now, Oswald!
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

OSWALD   Ay, madam.    [325]

Take you some company, and away to horse.
Inform her full of my particular fear,
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact it more.
Get you gone,
And hasten your return. [exit Oswald.] No, no, my lord,    [330]
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attasked for want of wisdom
Than praised for harmful mildness.

How far your eyes may pierce I can not tell;    [335]
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.

GONERIL  Nay then—

ALBANY  Well, well, th’event.


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