King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act III Scene 4b

Gloucester enters with a torch, providing some light. He does not recognize his son, Edgar, who continues to behave as a maniac, or Kent. Gloucester attempts to get Lear inside, but Lear insists instead on talking with Edgar, a kind of conversation of confusion. Gloucester seems bewildered by Lear’s company, but then confesses the caprice of the daughters. Ironically he laments the banishment of Kent, to whom he is talking. Finally, Lear agrees to go inside, but then balks at the idea, favoring more talk with his “philosopher.” The scene ends with a quotation from a nursery rhyme, Jack the Giant Killer.

Act III Scene 4a . . . Act III Scene 5

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ACT III. SCENE IV. SEGMENT B. On the heath.

Enter Gloucester, with a torch

EDGAR
This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet. He begins
at curfew and walks till the first cock. He gives    [105]
the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the
hare-lip, mildews the white wheat, and hurts the
poor creature of earth.   [sings]

Swithold footed thrice the old.
He met the night-mare and her nine-fold,    [110]
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,

And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee.

KENT   How fares your grace?

KING LEAR    What’s he?    [115]

KENT   Who’s there? What is’t you seek?

GLOUCESTER   What are you there? Your names?

EDGAR
Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the toad,
the tadpole, the wall newt and the water; that in
the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages,    [120]
eats cow dung for salletss, swallows the old rat and
the ditch  dog, drinks the green mantle of the
standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to
tithing, and stock, punished, and imprisoned; who
hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his body,    [125]

Horse to ride, and weapon to wear,
But mice and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.

Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin; peace, thou fiend.

GLOUCESTER   What, hath your grace no better company?    [130]

EDGAR
The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. Modo he’s called, and Mahu.

GLOUCESTER
Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile
That it doth hate what gets it.

EDGAR   Poor Tom’s a-cold.

GLOUCESTER
Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer    [135]
T’obey in all your daughters’ hard commands.
Though their injunction be to bar my doors
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventured to come seek you out,

And bring you where both fire and food is ready    [140]

KING LEAR
First let me talk with this philosopher.
What is the cause of thunder?

KENT                                     Good my lord,
Take his offer; go into th’house.

KING LEAR
I’ll talk a word with this same learned Theban.    [145]
What is your study?

EDGAR    How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.

KING LEAR   Let me ask you one word in private.

KENT
Importune him once more to go, my lord.
His wits begin t’unsettle.    [150]

GLOUCESTER                   Canst thou blame him?      Storm still
His daughters seek his death. Ah, that good Kent.
He said it would be thus, poor banished man.
Thou sayest the King grows mad.
I’ll tell thee, friend,
I am almost mad myself. I had a son,    [155]
Now outlawed from my blood. He sought my life,
But lately, very late. I loved him, friend.
No father his son dearer. Truth to tell thee,
The grief hath crazed my wits. What a night’s this!
I do beseech your grace.    [160]

KING LEAR                     O, cry your mercy, sir.
Noble philosopher, your company.

EDGAR   Tom’s a-cold.

GLOUCESTER   In, fellow, there, into th’ hovel; keep thee warm.

KING LEAR    Come, let’s in all.    [165]

KENT                                   This way, my lord.

KING LEAR                                                     With him;
I will keep still with my philosopher.

KENT   Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the fellow.

GLOUCESTER   Take him you on.    [170]

KENT    Sirrah, come on. Go along with us.

KING LEAR   Come, good Athenian.

GLOUCESTER                                   No words, no words. Hush.

EDGAR
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still “Fie, foh, and fum,    [175]
I smell the blood of a British man.”

Exeunt

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