King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act I Scene 5

Lear orders Kent to take a letter to Regan (via Gloucester it seems). After Kent leaves, the Fool calls Lear a fool for growing old without growing wise. Lear ends the short scene with, “let me not be mad, not mad . . . I would not be mad.”

Act I Scene 4c . . . Act II Scene 1

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ACT I. SCENE V. Court before Albany’s palace.

Enter Lear, Kent, Gentleman, and Fool

Go you before to Gloucester with these letters.
Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you
know than comes from her demand out of the letter.
If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.

I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.   Exit [5]

If a man’s brains were in’s heels, were’t not in
danger of kibes?

KING LEAR    Ay, boy.

Fool   Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall ne’er go
slipshod.    [10]

KING LEAR   Ha, ha, ha.

Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly,
for though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an
apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.

KING LEAR    Why, what canst thou tell, my boy?    [15]

She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst
tell why one’s nose stands i’ the middle on’s face?


Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose; that
what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.     [20]

KING LEAR   I did her wrong—

Fool   Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?


Fool   Nor I neither. But I can tell why a snail has a house.

KING LEAR   Why?     [25]

Why, to put his head in, not to give it away to his
daughters and leave his horns without a case.

I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my
horses ready?

Thy asses are gone about ‘em. The reason why the    [30]
seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

KING LEAR   Because they are not eight.

Fool   Yes, indeed. Thou wouldst make a good fool.

KING LEAR   To take ‘t again perforce—monster ingratitude!

If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten     [35]
for being old before thy time.

KING LEAR   How’s that?

Fool    Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven
Keep me in temper. I would not be mad.    [40]
How now, are the horses ready?

Gentleman   Ready, my lord.

KING LEAR   Come, boy.

She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.   [45]


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