Leir is depressed. Cornwall tries to cheer him up, but Leir hears none of it. Cornwall appeals to an entering Gonorill to help, but Leir suggests that she would rather see him dead than alive. (Curious that Cornwall seems to know nothing of what seems to be happening between Leir and Gonorill.) Gonorill is hostile and sarcastic: “I’ll provide him with a piece of bread and cheese.”
Gonorill suggests that Leir is attempting to come between herself and Cornwall, but she has a plan to cease the effect at the cause. Cornwall pleads again for peace, but Leir claims her pregnancy makes her unpleasant. She is not, of course, but she takes the charge as one of licentiousness. Cornwall exits to avoid further discordance. Gonorill exiles Leir and leaves.
Leir then talks to Perillus, wondering first why everything he does gets twisted into reverse, and why death does not find him. Perillus comforts him, which provokes Leir to wonder why, even suggesting he should learn flattery so he may climb the ladder. Perillus pontificates on the vanity of flattery, then disclaims his interest in the things Leir had given his daughters. Leir condemns himself for his treatment of Cordella, but hopes that Ragan may yet love him. Perillus encourages a change of venue, to the point of hinting that “by force of arms for to redress your wrong.”
Enter King of Cornwall, Leir, Perillus & Nobles.
CORNWALL: Father, what aileth you to be so sad?
Me thinks, you frolic not as you were wont.
LEIR: The nearer we do grow unto our graves,
The less we do delight in worldly joys.
CORNWALL: But if a man can frame himself to mirth,
It is a mean for to prolong his life.
LEIR: Then welcome sorrow, Leir’s only friend,
Who doth desire his troubled days had end.
CORNWALL: Comfort yourself, father, here comes your daughter,
Who much will grieve, I know, to see you sad. Enter Gonorill. … [10.10]
LEIR: But more doth grieve, I fear, to see me live.
CORNWALL: My Gonorill, you come in wished time,
To put your father from these pensive dumps.
In faith, I fear that all things go not well.
GONORILL: What do you fear, that I have angered him?
Hath he complained of me to my Lord?
I’ll provide him a piece of bread and cheese;
For in a time he’ll practice nothing else,
Than carry tales from one unto another.
Tis all his practice for to kindle strife, … [10.20]
‘Twixt you, my Lord, and me your loving wife:
But I will take an order, if I can,
To cease th’ effect, where first the cause began.
CORNWALL: Sweet, be not angry in a partial cause,
He ne’re complained of thee in all his life.
Father, you must not weigh a woman’s words.
LEIR: Alas, not I: poor soul, she breeds young bones,
And that is it makes her to touchy, sure.
GONORILL: What, breeds young bones already! you will make
An honest woman of me then, belike. … [10.30]
O vild old wretch! who ever heard the like,
That seeketh thus his own child to defame?
CORNWALL: I cannot stay to hear this discord sound. Exit.
GONORILL: For anyone that loves your company,
You may go pack, and seek some other place,
To sow the seed of discord and disgrace. Exit.
LEIR: Thus, say or do the best that ere I can,
Tis wrested straight into another sense.
This punishment my heavy sins deserve,
And more than this ten thousand thousand times: … [10.40]
Else aged Leir them could never find
Cruel to him, to whom he hath been kind.
Why do I over-live myself, to see
The course of nature quite reversed in me?
Ah, gentle Death, if ever any wight
Did wish thy presence with a perfect zeal:
Then come, I pray thee, even with all my heart,
And end my sorrows with thy fatal dart. He weeps.
PERILLUS: Ah, do not so disconsolate yourself,
Nor dew your aged cheeks with wasting tears. … [10.50]
LEIR: What man art thou that takest any pity
Upon the worthless state of old Leir?
PERILLUS: One, who doth bear as great a share of grief,
As it were my dearest father’s case.
LEIR: Ah, good my friend, how ill art thou advised,
For to consort with miserable men:
Go learn to flatter, where thou mayst in time
Get favor ‘mongst the mighty, and so climb:
For now I am so poor and full of want,
As that I ne’re can recompense thy love. … [10.60]
PERILLUS: What’s got by flattery, doth not long endure;
And men in favor live not most secure.
My conscience tells me, if I should forsake you,
I were the hatefulst excrement on the earth:
Which well do know, in course of former time,
How good my Lord hath been to me and mine.
LEIR: Did I e’er raise thee higher than the rest
Of all thy ancestors which were before?
PERILLUS: I ne’re did seek it; but by your good Grace,
I still enjoyed my own with quietness. … [10.70]
LEIR: Did I e’er give thee living, to increase
The due revenues which thy father left?
PERILLUS: I had enough, my Lord, and having that,
What should you need to give me any more?
LEIR: Oh, did I ever dispossess myself,
And give thee half my Kingdom in good will?
PERILLUS: Alas, my Lord, there were no reason, why
You should have such a thought, to give it me.
LEIR: Nay, if thou talk of reason, then be mute:
For with good reason I can thee confute. … [10.80]
If they, which first by nature’s sacred law,
Do owe to me the tribute of their lives;
If they to whom I always have been kind,
And bountiful beyond comparison;
If they, for whom I have undone myself,
And brought my age unto this extreme want,
Do now reject, condemn, despise, abhor me,
What reason moveth thee to sorrow for me?
PERILLUS: Where reason fails, let tears confirm my love,
And speak how much your passions do me move. … [10.90]
Ah, good my Lord, condemn not all for one:
You have two daughters left to whom I know
You shall be welcome, if you please to go.
LEIR: Oh, how thy words add sorrow to my soul,
To think of my unkindness to Cordella!
Whom causeless I did dispossess of all,
Upon th’ unkind suggestions of her sisters:
And for her sake, I think this heavy doom
Is fall’n on me, and not without desert:
Yet unto Ragan was I always kind, … [10.100]
And gave to her the half of all I had:
It may be, if I should to her repair,
She would be kinder, and entreat me fair.
PERILLUS: No doubt she would, & practice ere’t be long,
By force of Arms for to redress your wrong.
LEIR: Well, since thou dost advise me for to go,
I am resolved to try the worst of woe. Exeunt.