King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act II Scene 2c

Lear, his Fool, and a knight enter and see Kent in the stocks. Lear at first refuses to believe that Cornwall and Regan put him there, but Kent both insists and gives a more detailed explanation that shifts blame to Regan and Oswald but elides the extent to which his outrageous behavior contributed to his punishment. The Fool observes that their troubles have perhaps just begun (“winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that way”), Lear responds with a figurative sense of an hysterical woman. Lear then leaves to fetch Gloucester. Kent and the Fool banter with wit and wisdom. On his return, Lear seems out of sorts, first inveighing against Cornwall, then confessing his own sense of infirmity. He notices Kent again as if he had not seen him before, registers indignation again, and orders Gloucester to fetch Cornwall and Regan. His fit returns (“O me, my heart! My rising heart! Put down!”), but the Fool warns him that it is too late. They release Kent from the stocks as Cornwall and Regan return with Gloucester.

Act II Scene 2b . . . Act II Scene 2d

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ACT II. SCENE II. SEGMENT C. Before Gloucester’s castle. Kent in the stocks.

Enter Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.

‘Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
And not send back my messenger.

Gentleman                                      As I learned,
The night before there was no purpose in them
Of this remove.    [205]

KENT   Hail to thee, noble master.

KING LEAR   Ha! Makest thou this shame thy pastime?

KENT   No, my lord.

Ha, ha! He wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by
th’heads, dogs and bears by th’neck, monkeys by    [210]
th’loins, and men by th’legs.
When a man’s overlusty
at legs, then he wears wooden nether-stocks.

What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
To set thee here?

KENT                  It is both he and she,    [215]
Your son and daughter.

KING LEAR                  No.

KENT                                Yes.

KING LEAR                               No, I say.

KENT   I say, yea.    [220]

[KING LEAR          No, no, they would not.

KENT   Yes, they have.]

KING LEAR                    By Jupiter, I swear, no.

KENT   By Juno, I swear, ay.

KING LEAR                      They durst not do ‘t.     [225]
They could not, would not do ‘t. ‘Tis worse than murder
To do upon respect such violent outrage.
Resolve me with all modest haste which way
Thou mightst deserve, or they impose this usage
Coming from us.    [230]

KENT                  My lord, when at their home
I did commend your highness’ letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that showed
My duty kneeling,
came there a reeking post
Stewed in his haste, half breathless, panting forth     [235]
From Goneril his mistress salutations;
Delivered letters spite of intermission,
Which presently they read, on whose contents
They summoned up their meiny,
straight took horse,
Commanded me to follow and attend    [240]
The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks.
And meeting here the other messenger,
Whose welcome I perceived, had poisoned mine—
Being the very fellow which of late
Displayed so saucily against your highness—     [245]
Having more man than wit about me, drew.
He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
The shame which here it suffers.

Winter’s not gone yet if the wild-geese fly that way.     [250]

Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind,
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,    [255]
Ne’er turns the key to the poor.

But for all this thou shalt have as many dolors
for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.

O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow,    [260]
Thy element’s below.
Where is this daughter?

KENT   With the earl, sir, here within.

KING LEAR    Follow me not. Stay here. Exit

Gentleman    Made you no more offence
but what you speak of?     [265]

KENT    None. How chance the King comes with so small a number?

An thou hadst been set i’th’stocks for that
question, thou hadst well deserved it.

KENT    Why, fool?

We’ll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee     [270]
there’s no laboring i’th’winter.
All that follow
their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and
there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him
that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel
runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with     [275]
following it. But the great one that goes upward,
let him draw thee after. When a wise man
gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. I
would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.

That sir which serves and seeks for gain,    [280]
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm,
But I will tarry, the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly.     [285]
The knave turns fool that runs away,
The fool no knave, perdy.

KENT    Where learned you this, fool?

Fool   Not i’th’stocks, fool.

Enter Lear and Gloucester

Deny to speak with me? They are sick, they are weary,     [290]
They have travelled all the night. Mere fetches,
The images of revolt and flying off.

Fetch me a better answer.

GLOUCESTER                    My dear lord,
You know the fiery quality of the duke,   [295]
How unremoveable and fixed he is
In his own course.

Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!
Fiery? What quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.    [300]

GLOUCESTER   Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.

KING LEAR   Informed them? Dost thou understand me, man?

GLOUCESTER   Ay, my good lord.

The King would speak with Cornwall. The dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands
—tendsservice.    [305]
Are they informed of this? My breath and blood.
Fiery? The fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that Lear—
No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves    [310]
When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man. Death on my state! Wherefore    [315]
Should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion of the Duke and her
Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.

Go tell the Duke and’s wife I’d speak with them,
Now, presently. Bid them come forth and hear me,     [320]
Or at their chamber door I’ll beat the drum
Till it cry sleep to death.

GLOUCESTER   I would have all well betwixt you.   Exit

KING LEAR    O me, my heart, my rising heart! But, down!

Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels     [325]
when she put ‘em i’th’paste alive. She knapped ‘em
o’the coxcombs with a stick, and cried “Down,
wantons, down!” ‘Twas her brother that, in pure
kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.

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