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

Edgar enters, refuses to disclose his identity, but lays the charges at Edmund, “false to thy gods, thy brother and thy father . . . a most toad-spotted traitor.”

Edmund hurls them back, “this sword of mine shall give them instant way.” They then fight, and Edmund falls. Albany calls to save him, so he may have his own charge. The letter comes out. Goneril claims immunity as queen: “the laws are mine, not thine.”

She leaves, followed by an officer on Albany’s orders. Edmund now admits all he has done, but asks for Edgar’s identity. Edgar forthwith provides it. “My name is Edgar and thy father’s son. The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us.” Albany elicits a history from Edgar, a speech which moves Edmund to do some good. They are interrupted by the officer rushing on stage to announce the deaths of Regan and Goneril — Goneril having poisoned Regan and then taken her own life.

Albany orders the bodies brought forth, but as they are being carried in he remembers Lear and Cordelia: “great thing of us forgot.” Edmund now confesses his order to hang Cordelia, blaming the decision on despair. He is carried off, leaving the stage free for the final scene with Lear and his three daughters.

Act V Scene 3b . . . Act V Scene 3d

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ACT V. SCENE III. SEGMENT C.

Enter Edgar armed.

ALBANY
Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o’the trumpet.

Herald                               What are you?
Your name, your quality, and why you answer
This present summons?    [135]

EDGAR                            Know my name is lost,
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit.
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.

ALBANY              Which is that adversary?    [140]

EDGAR   What’s he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of Gloucester?

EDMUND   Himself. What sayst thou to him?

EDGAR                                       Draw thy sword,
That if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.     [145]
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honors,
My oath, and my profession. I protest,
Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valor and thy heart,
thou art a traitor—    [150]
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
Conspirant ‘gainst this high-illustrious prince;
And from th’extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor.
Say thou no,    [155]
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,

Thou liest.

EDMUND        In wisdom I should ask thy name.
But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,    [160]
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.

Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,    [165]
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,

This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak.

Alarums. Fights. [Edmund falls.]

ALBANY   Save him, save him!

GONERIL                                 This is practice, Gloucester.    [170]
By th’ law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
But cozened and beguiled.

ALBANY                        Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it. Hold, sir.    [175]

Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
No tearing, lady; I perceive you know it.

GONERIL
Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
Who can arraign me for’t.

ALBANY                  Most monstrous! oh!     [180]
Know’st thou this paper?

GONERIL                Ask me not what I know.

Exit

ALBANY [To officer] Go after her. She’s desperate. Govern her.

EDMUND
What you have charged me with, that have I done,
And more, much more. The time will bring it out.    [185]
‘Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.

EDGAR                 Let’s exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;    [190]
If more, the more thou hast wronged me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us.
The dark and vicious place where thee he got    [195]
Cost him his eyes.

EDMUND               Thou hast spoken right; ’tis true.
The wheel is come full circle; I am here.

ALBANY
Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.    [200]
Let sorrow split my heart if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father.

EDGAR                         Worthy prince, I know’t.

ALBANY
Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?     [205]

EDGAR
By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
And when ’tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape
That followed me so near—O, our lives’ sweetness,
That we the pain of death would hourly die     [210]
Rather than die at once!—
taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags, t’assume a semblance
That very dogs disdained;
and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,     [215]
Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair,
Never—O fault!—revealed myself unto him,
Until some half-hour past, when I was armed.
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I asked his blessing, and from first to last     [220]
Told him my pilgrimage.
But his flawed heart,
Alack, too weak the conflict to support
‘Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.

EDMUND
This speech of yours hath moved me,    [225]
And shall perchance do good. But speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.

ALBANY
If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.    [230]

[EDGAR               This would have seemed a period
To such as love not sorrow, but another
To amplify too much would make much more,
And top extremity.

Whilst I was big in clamor came there in a man,     [235]
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunned my abhorred society, but then finding
Who ’twas that so endured, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
As he’d burst heaven, threw him on my father,    [240]
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear received, which in recounting
His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
And there I left him tranced.    [245]

ALBANY                                But who was this?

EDGAR
Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise
Followed his enemy King and did him service
Improper for a slave.]

Enter a Gentleman, with a bloody knife

Gentleman                Help, help, O, help!    [250]

EDGAR   What kind of help?

<ALBANY                            Speak, man.

EDGAR   What means that bloody knife?

Gentleman                                     ‘Tis hot, it smokes.
It came even from the heart of—O, she’s dead!     [255]

ALBANY   Who dead? Speak, man.

Gentleman
Your lady, sir, your lady, and her sister
By her is poisoned. She confesses it.

EDMUND
I was contracted to them both. All three
Now marry in an instant.     [260]

EDGAR                           Here comes Kent.

ALBANY
Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead.
This judgment of the heavens that makes us tremble
Touches us not with pity.

[Exit Gentleman.] Enter Kent

O, is this he?    [265]
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.

KENT                               I am come
To bid my King and master aye good night.
Is he not here?     [270]

ALBANY           Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s Cordelia?
See’st thou this object, Kent?

[The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in]

KENT                               Alack, why thus?

EDMUND
Yet Edmund was beloved.    [275]
The one the other poisoned for my sake,
And after slew herself.

ALBANY Even so, cover their faces.

EDMUND
I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send—    [280]
Be brief in it—to the castle, for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time.

ALBANY                 Run, run, O, run.

EDGAR
To who, my lord?
Who hath the office?  Send    [285]
Thy token of reprieve.

EDMUND
Well thought on. Take my sword.
The captain, give it the captain.

ALBANY   Haste thee, for thy life.

EDMUND
He hath commission from thy wife and me    [290]
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.

ALBANY   The gods defend her. Bear him hence awhile.

[Edmund borne off]

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