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King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters based on their flattery of him, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.The first attribution to Shakespeare of this play, originally drafted in 1605 or 1606 at the latest with its first known performance on St. Stephen's Day in 1606, was a 1608 publication in a quarto of uncertain provenance; it may be an early draft or simply reflect the first performance text. The Tragedy of King Lear, a more theatrical revision, was included in the 1623 First Folio. Modern editors usually conflate the two, though some insist that each version has its own individual integrity that should be preserved.After the English Restoration, the play was often revised with a happy, non-tragic ending for audiences who disliked its dark and depressing tone, but since the 19th century Shakespeare's original version has been regarded as one of his supreme achievements. The tragedy is particularly noted for its probing observations on the nature of human suffering and kinship. George Bernard Shaw wrote, "No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear."
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Copyright © 2017 by William Shakespeare.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing
First Edition: January 2017
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lear, King of Britain.
King of France.
Duke of Burgundy.
Duke of Cornwall.
Duke of Albany.
Earl of Kent.
Earl of Gloster.
Edgar, Son to Gloster.
Edmund, Bastard Son to Gloster.
Curan, a Courtier.
Old Man, Tenant to Gloster.
Oswald, steward to Goneril.
An Officer employed by Edmund.
Gentleman, attendant on Cordelia.
Servants to Cornwall.
Goneril, daughter to Lear.
Regan, daughter to Lear.
Cordelia, daughter to Lear.
Knights attending on the King, Officers, Messengers, Soldiers, and Attendants.
A ROOM OF STATE IN KING LEAR'S PALACE.
[Enter Kent, Gloster, and Edmund.]
Kent.I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
Glou.It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for equalities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety.
Kent.Is not this your son, my lord?
Glou.His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so oftenblush'd to acknowledge him that now I am braz'd to't.
Kent.I cannot conceive you.
Glou.Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon she grewround-wombed, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
Kent.I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
Glou.But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged.--Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
Edm.No, my lord.
Glou.My Lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.
Edm.My services to your lordship.
Kent.I must love you, and sue to know you better.
Edm.Sir, I shall study deserving.
Glou.He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.--The king is coming.
[Enter Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and Attendants.]
Lear.Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,Gloster.
Glou.I shall, my liege.
[Exeunt Gloster and Edmund.]
Lear.Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.--Give me the map there.--Know that we have dividedIn three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intentTo shake all cares and business from our age;Conferring them on younger strengths, while weUnburden'd crawl toward death.--Our son of Cornwall,And you, our no less loving son of Albany,We have this hour a constant will to publishOur daughters' several dowers, that future strifeMay be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,And here are to be answer'd.--Tell me, my daughters,--Since now we will divest us both of rule,Interest of territory, cares of state,--Which of you shall we say doth love us most?That we our largest bounty may extendWhere nature doth with merit challenge.--Goneril,Our eldest-born, speak first.
Gon.Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;Beyond what can be valu'd, rich or rare;No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;As much as child e'er lov'd, or father found;A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
Cor.[Aside.] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
Lear.Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd,With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,We make thee lady: to thine and Albany's issueBe this perpetual.--What says our second daughter,Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
Reg.Sir, I am made of the selfsame metal that my sister is,And prize me at her worth. In my true heartI find she names my very deed of love;Only she comes too short,--that I professMyself an enemy to all other joysWhich the most precious square of sense possesses,And find I am alone felicitateIn your dear highness' love.
Cor.[Aside.] Then poor Cordelia!And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love'sMore richer than my tongue.
Lear.To thee and thine hereditary everRemain this ample third of our fair kingdom;No less in space, validity, and pleasureThan that conferr'd on Goneril.--Now, our joy,Although the last, not least; to whose young loveThe vines of France and milk of BurgundyStrive to be interess'd; what can you say to drawA third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
Cor.Nothing, my lord.
Lear.Nothing can come of nothing: speak again.
Cor.Unhappy that I am, I cannot heaveMy heart into my mouth: I love your majestyAccording to my bond; no more nor less.
Lear.How, how, Cordelia? mend your speech a little,Lest you may mar your fortunes.
Cor.Good my lord,You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me: IReturn those duties back as are right fit,Obey you, love you, and most honour you.Why have my sisters husbands if they sayThey love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carryHalf my love with him, half my care and duty:Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,To love my father all.
Lear.But goes thy heart with this?
Cor.Ay, good my lord.
Lear.So young, and so untender?
Cor.So young, my lord, and true.
Lear.Let it be so,--thy truth then be thy dower:For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;By all the operation of the orbs,From whom we do exist and cease to be;Here I disclaim all my paternal care,Propinquity, and property of blood,And as a stranger to my heart and meHold thee, from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,Or he that makes his generation messesTo gorge his appetite, shall to my bosomBe as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd,As thou my sometime daughter.
Kent.Good my liege,--
Lear.Peace, Kent!Come not between the dragon and his wrath.I lov'd her most, and thought to set my restOn her kind nursery.--Hence, and avoid my sight!--[To Cordelia.] So be my grave my peace, as here I giveHer father's heart from her!--Call France;--who stirs?Call Burgundy!--Cornwall and Albany,With my two daughters' dowers digest this third:Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.I do invest you jointly in my power,Pre-eminence, and all the large effectsThat troop with majesty.--Ourself, by monthly course,With reservation of an hundred knights,By you to be sustain'd, shall our abodeMake with you by due turns. Only we still retainThe name, and all the additions to a king;The sway,Revenue, execution of the rest,Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,This coronet part betwixt you.[Giving the crown.]
Kent.Royal Lear,Whom I have ever honour'd as my king,Lov'd as my father, as my master follow'd,As my great patron thought on in my prayers.--
Lear.The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
Kent.Let it fall rather, though the fork invadeThe region of my heart: be Kent unmannerlyWhen Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speakWhen power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's boundWhen majesty falls to folly. Reverse thy state;And in thy best consideration checkThis hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;Nor are those empty-hearted whose low soundReverbs no hollowness.
Lear.Kent, on thy life, no more.
Kent.My life I never held but as a pawnTo wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,Thy safety being the motive.
Lear.Out of my sight!
Kent.See better, Lear; and let me still remainThe true blank of thine eye.
Lear.Now, by Apollo,--
Kent.Now by Apollo, king,Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.
Lear.O vassal! miscreant!
[Laying his hand on his sword.]
Alb. and Corn.Dear sir, forbear!
Kent.Do;Kill thy physician, and the fee bestowUpon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
Lear.Hear me, recreant!On thine allegiance, hear me!--Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,--Which we durst never yet,--and with strain'd prideTo come between our sentence and our power,--Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,--Our potency made good, take thy reward.Five days we do allot thee for provisionTo shield thee from diseases of the world;And on the sixth to turn thy hated backUpon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions,The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,This shall not be revok'd.
Kent.Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear,Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.--[To Cordelia.] The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid, That justly think'st and hast most rightly said![To Regan and Goneril.]And your large speeches may your deeds approve,That good effects may spring from words of love.--Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;He'll shape his old course in a country new.
[Flourish. Re-enter Gloster, with France, Burgundy, andAttendants.]
Glou.Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
Lear.My Lord of Burgundy,We first address toward you, who with this kingHath rivall'd for our daughter: what in the leastWill you require in present dower with her,Or cease your quest of love?
Bur.Most royal majesty,I crave no more than hath your highness offer'd,Nor will you tender less.
Lear.Right noble Burgundy,When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands:If aught within that little seeming substance,Or all of it, with our displeasure piec'd,And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,She's there, and she is yours.
Bur.I know no answer.
Lear.Will you, with those infirmities she owes,Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,Dower'd with our curse, and stranger'd with our oath,Take her, or leave her?
Bur.Pardon me, royal sir;Election makes not up on such conditions.
Lear.Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,I tell you all her wealth.--[To France] For you, great king, I would not from your love make such a strayTo match you where I hate; therefore beseech youTo avert your liking a more worthier wayThan on a wretch whom nature is asham'dAlmost to acknowledge hers.
France.This is most strange,That she, who even but now was your best object,The argument of your praise, balm of your age,Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of timeCommit a thing so monstrous, to dismantleSo many folds of favour. Sure her offenceMust be of such unnatural degreeThat monsters it, or your fore-vouch'd affectionFall'n into taint; which to believe of herMust be a faith that reason without miracleShould never plant in me.
Cor.I yet beseech your majesty,--If for I want that glib and oily artTo speak and purpose not; since what I well intend,I'll do't before I speak,--that you make knownIt is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,No unchaste action or dishonour'd step,That hath depriv'd me of your grace and favour;But even for want of that for which I am richer,--A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongueAs I am glad I have not, though not to have itHath lost me in your liking.
Lear.Better thouHadst not been born than not to have pleas'd me better.
France.Is it but this,--a tardiness in natureWhich often leaves the history unspokeThat it intends to do?--My lord of Burgundy,What say you to the lady? Love's not loveWhen it is mingled with regards that standsAloof from the entire point. Will you have her?She is herself a dowry.
Bur.Royal king,Give but that portion which yourself propos'd,And here I take Cordelia by the hand,Duchess of Burgundy.
Lear.Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
Bur.I am sorry, then, you have so lost a fatherThat you must lose a husband.
Cor.Peace be with Burgundy!Since that respects of fortune are his love,I shall not be his wife.
France.Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;Most choice, forsaken; and most lov'd, despis'd!Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:Be it lawful, I take up what's cast away.Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglectMy love should kindle to inflam'd respect.--Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France:Not all the dukes of waterish BurgundyCan buy this unpriz'd precious maid of me.--Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:Thou losest here, a better where to find.
Lear.Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for weHave no such daughter, nor shall ever seeThat face of hers again.--Therefore be goneWithout our grace, our love, our benison.--Come, noble Burgundy.
[Flourish. Exeunt Lear, Burgundy, Cornwall, Albany, Gloster, and Attendants.]
France.Bid farewell to your sisters.
Cor.The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyesCordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;And, like a sister, am most loath to callYour faults as they are nam'd. Love well our father:To your professed bosoms I commit him:But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,I would prefer him to a better place.So, farewell to you both.
Reg.Prescribe not us our duties.
Gon.Let your studyBe to content your lord, who hath receiv'd youAt fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
Cor.Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.Well may you prosper!
France.Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt France and Cordelia.]
Gon.Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearlyappertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
Reg.That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
Gon.You see how full of changes his age is; the observation wehave made of it hath not been little: he always loved oursister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.
Reg.'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
Gon.The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-ingraffed condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Reg.Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment.
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