Silence Cost Her a Kingdom

December 26, 2014

King Lear and the Fool in the Storm

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of King Lear.
Vol. 46, pp. 288-300 of The Harvard Classics

Cordelia, daughter of old King Lear, could not convince her father of her love for him. Afterward, when misfortunes made him accept her aid, he learned too late of her real devotion.
("King Lear" presented at Queen Elizabeth's court, Dec. 26, 1606.)

Act IV
Scene IV

[The same. A tent]
Enter, with drum and colours, CORDELIA, Doctor, and Soldiers

  Cor.  Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vex’d sea, singing aloud,
Crown’d with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hardocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn. A sentry send forth;
Search every acre in the high-grown field,
And bring him to our eye. [Exit an Officer.] What can man’s wisdom
In the restoring his bereaved sense?
He that helps him take all my outward worth.
  Doct.  There is means, madam.
Our foster-nurse of nature is repose,
The which he lacks; that to provoke in him,
Are many simples 1 operative, whose power
Will close the eye of anguish.
  Cor.        All blest secrets,
All you unpublish’d virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears! be aidant and remediate 2
In the good man’s distress! Seek, seek for him,
Lest his ungovern’d rage dissolve the life
That wants the means to lead it.

Enter a Messenger

  Mess.        News, madam!
The British powers are marching hitherward.
  Cor.  ’Tis known before; our preparation stands
In expectation of them. O dear father,
It is thy business that I go about;
Therefore great France
My mourning and importune 3 tears hath pitied.
No blown 4 ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our ag’d father’s right.
Soon may I hear and see him!  Exeunt.

Note 1. Medicinal herbs. 
Note 2. Helpful and curative. 
Note 3. Importunate, persistent. 
Note 4. Puffed up. 

Scene V

[Gloucester’s castle]
Enter REGAN and Steward [OSWALD]

  Reg.  But are my brother’s powers set forth?
  Osw.        Ay, madam.
  Reg.  Himself in person there?
  Osw.        Madam, with much ado. 1
Your sister is the better soldier.
  Reg.  Lord Edmund spake not with your lord at home?
  Osw.  No, madam.
  Reg.  What might import my sister’s letter to him?
  Osw.  I know not, lady.
  Reg.  Faith, he is posted hence on serious matter.
It was great ignorance, 2 Gloucester’s eyes being out,
To let him live; where he arrives he moves
All hearts against us. Edmund, I think, is gone,
In pity of his misery, to dispatch
His nighted 3 life; moreover, to descry
The strength o’ the enemy.
  Osw.  I must needs after him, madam, with my letter.
  Reg.  Our troops set forth to-morrow, stay with us;
The ways are dangerous.
  Osw.        I may not, madam:
My lady charg’d my duty in this business.
  Reg.  Why should she write to Edmund? Might not you
Transport her purposes by word? Belike
Some things—I know not what. I’ll love thee much,
Let me unseal the letter.
  Osw.        Madam, I had rather—
  Reg.  I know your lady does not love her husband;
I am sure of that; and at her late being here
She gave strange œillades 4 and most speaking looks
To noble Edmund. I know you are of her bosom. 5
  Osw.  I, madam?
  Reg.  I speak in understanding; y’ are, I know ’t.
Therefore I do advise you, take this note:
My lord is dead; Edmund and I have talk’d;
And more convenient is he for my hand
Than for your lady’s. You may gather more.
If you do find him, pray you, give him this;
And when your mistress hears thus much from you,
I pray, desire her call her wisdom to her.
So, fare you well.
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
Preferment falls on him that cuts him off.
  Osw.  Would I could meet him, madam! I should show What party I do follow.
  Reg.        Fare thee well.  [Exeunt.

Note 1. Induced with much difficulty. 
Note 2. Folly. 
Note 3. Blinded. 
Note 4. Amorous glances. 
Note 5. In her confidence. 

Scene VI

[Fields near Dover]
Enter GLOUCESTER, and EDGAR [dressed like a peasant]

  Glou.  When shall I come to the top of that same hill?
  Edg.  You do climb up it now; look, how we labour.
  Glou.  Methinks the ground is even.
  Edg.        Horrible steep.
Hark, do you hear the sea?
  Glou.        No, truly.
  Edg.  Why, then, your other senses grow imperfect
By your eyes’ anguish.
  Glou.        So may it be, indeed.
Methinks thy voice is alter’d, and thou speak’st
In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
  Edg.  You’re much deceiv’d. In nothing am I chang’d
But in my garments.
  Glou.        Methinks you’re better spoken.
  Edg.  Come on, sir, here’s the place; stand still. How fearful
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs 1 that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross 2 as beetles. Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, 3 dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
Diminish’d to her cock; 4 her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
That on the unnumb’red idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
  Glou.        Set me where you stand.
  Edg.  Give me your hand; you are now within a foot
Of the extreme verge. For all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.
  Glou.        Let go my hand.
Here, friend, ’s another purse; in it a jewel
Well worth a poor man’s taking. Fairies and gods
Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
  Edg.  Now fare ye well, good sir.
  Glou.        With all my heart.
  Edg.  Why I do trifle thus with his despair
Is done to cure it.
  Glou.  [Kneeling.]  O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce, and in your sights
Shake patiently my great affliction off.
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff 5 and loathed part of nature should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well.
  Edg.        Gone, sir; farewell!
—And yet I know not how conceit 6 may rob
The treasury of life, when life itself
Yields 7 to the theft. [GLOU. throws himself forward.] Had he been where he thought,
By this had thought been past. Alive or dead?—
Ho, you sir! friend! Hear you, sir! speak!—
Thus might he pass 8 indeed; yet he revives.—
What are you, sir?
  Glou.        Away, and let me die.
  Edg.  Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou ’dst shiver’d like an egg: but thou dost breathe;
Hast heavy substance; bleed’st not; speak’st; art sound.
Ten masts at each 9 make not the altitude
Which thou hast perpendicularly fell.
Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again.
  Glou.  But have I fallen, or no?
  Edg.  From the dread summit of this chalky bourn. 10
Look up a-height; 11 the shrill-gorg’d 12 lark so far
Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.
  Glou.  Alack, I have no eyes.
Is wretchedness depriv’d that benefit,
To end itself by death? ’Twas yet some comfort,
When misery could beguile the tyrant’s rage,
And frustrate his proud will.
  Edg.        Give me your arm.
Up: so. How is ’t? Feel you your legs? You stand.
  Glou.  Too well, too well.
  Edg.        This is above all strangeness.
Upon the crown o’ the cliff, what thing was that
Which parted from you?
  Glou.        A poor unfortunate beggar.
  Edg.  As I stood here below, methought his eyes
Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
Horns whelk’d 13 and waved like the enridged sea.
It was some fiend; therefore, thou happy father,
Think that the clearest 14 gods, who make them honours
Of men’s impossibilities, have preserv’d thee.
  Glou.  I do remember now. Henceforth I’ll bear
Affliction till it do cry out itself,
“Enough, enough,” and die. That thing you speak of,
I took it for a man; often ’twould say,
“The fiend, the fiend!” He led me to that place.
  Edg.  Bear free and patient thoughts.

Enter LEAR [fantastically dressed with wild flowers]

        But who comes here?
The safer 15 sense will ne’er accommodate 16
His master thus.
  Lear.  No, they cannot touch me for coining;
I am the King himself.
  Edg.  O thou side-piercing sight!
  Lear.  Nature’s above art in that respect. There’s your press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper; draw me a clothier’s yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted cheese will do ’t. There’s my gauntlet; I’ll prove it on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird! I’ the clout, 17 i’ the clout! Hewgh! Give the word. 18
  Edg.  Sweet marjoram.
  Lear.  Pass.
  Glou.  I know that voice.
  Lear.  Ha! Goneril, with a white beard! They flatter’d me like a dog, and told me I had the white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say “ay” and “no” to everything that I said! “Ay” and “no” too was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at my bidding; there I found ’em, there I smelt ’em out. Go to, they are not men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.
  Glou.  The trick of that voice I do well remember.
Is ’t not the King?
  Lear.          Ay, every inch a king!
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man’s life. What was thy cause? 19
Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery! No:
The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester’s bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got ’tween the lawful sheets.
To ’t, luxury, 20 pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
Behold yond simp’ring dame,
Whose face between her forks 21 presages snow,
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure’s name,—
The fitchew, 22 nor the soiled 23 horse, goes to ’t
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above;
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends’;
There’s hell, there’s darkness, there’s the sulphurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!
Give me an ounce of civet; good apothecary, sweeten my imagination.
There’s money for thee.
  Glou.  O, let me kiss that hand!
  Lear.  Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.
  Glou.  O ruin’d piece of nature! This great world
Shall so wear out to nought. Dost thou know me?
  Lear.  I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny 24 at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid; I’ll not love. Read thou this challenge; mark but the penning of it.
  Glou.  Were all thy letters suns, I could not see.
  Edg.  [Aside.]  I would not take this from report. It is; and my heart breaks at it.
  Lear.  Read.
  Glou.  What, with the case 25 of eyes?
  Lear.  O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how this world goes.
  Glou.  I see it feelingly.
  Lear.  What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears; see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places, and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou has seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?
  Glou.  Ay, sir.
  Lear.  And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a dog’s obey’d in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thy own back;
Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind
For which thou whip’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener. 26
Through tatter’d clothes great vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sins with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.
None does offend, none, I say, none; I’ll able 27 ’em.
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser’s lips. Get thee glass eyes,
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now.
Pull off my boots; harder, harder: so.
  Edg.  O, matter and impertinency 28 mix’d!
Reason in madness!
  Lear.  If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.
Thou must be patient; we came crying hither.
Thou know’st, the first time that we smell the air,
We wawl and cry. I will preach to thee; mark.
  Glou.  Alack, alack the day!
  Lear.  When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools.—This a good block. 29
It were a delicate stratagem, to shoe
A troop of horse with felt. I’ll put ’t in proof; 30
And when I have stol’n upon these son-in-laws,
Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

Enter a Gentleman [with Attendants]

  Gent.  O, here he is! Lay hand upon him. Sir,
Your most dear daughter—
  Lear.  No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even
The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
You shall have ransom. Let me have surgeons;
I am cut to the brains.
  Gent.        You shall have anything.
  Lear.  No seconds? All myself?
Why, this would make a man a man of salt, 31
To use his eyes for garden water-pots,
[Ay, and laying autumn’s dust.
  Gent.        Good sir,—]
  Lear.  I will die bravely, like a smug 32 bridegroom. What! I will be jovial. Come, come; I am a king,
My masters, know you that?
  Gent.  You are a royal one, and we obey you.
  Lear.  Then there’s life in ’t. Come, an you get it, you shall get it by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa.  Exit [running; Attendants follow].
  Gent.  A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one daughter
Who redeems Nature from the general curse
Which twain have brought her to.
  Edg.  Hail, gentle sir.
  Gent.        Sir, speed you: what’s your will?
  Edg.  Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?
  Gent.  Most sure and vulgar; 33 every one hears that,
Which can distinguish sound.
  Edg.        But, by your favour,
How near’s the other army?
  Gent.  Near and on speedy foot; the main descry 34
Stands on the hourly thought.
  Edg.  I thank you, sir; that’s all.
  Gent.  Though that the Queen on special cause is here,
Her army is mov’d on.  Exit.
  Edg.        I thank you, sir.
  Glou.  You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me;
Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
To die before you please!
  Edg.        Well pray you, father.
  Glou.  Now, good sir, what are you?
  Edg.  A most poor man, made tame to fortune’s blows;
Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
Am pregnant 35 to good pity. Give me your hand,
I’ll lead you to some biding.
  Glou.        Hearty thanks;
The bounty and the benison of Heaven
To boot, and boot!

Enter Steward [OSWALD]

  Osw.        A proclaim’d prize! Most happy!
That eyeless head of thine was first fram’d flesh
To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
Briefly thyself remember; the sword is out
That must destroy thee.
  Glou.        Now let thy friendly hand
Put strength enough to ’t.  [EDGAR interposes.]
  Osw.        Wherefore, bold peasant,
Dar’st thou support a publish’d 36 traitor? Hence;
Lest that the infection of his fortune take
Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
  Edg.  ’Chill 37 not let go, zir, without vurther ’casion.
  Osw.  Let go, slave, or thou diest!
  Edg.  Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor volk pass. An ’chud 38 ha’ bin zwagger’d out of my life, ’t would not ha’bin zo long as ’tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th’ old man; keep out, ’che vor ye, 39 or Ise try whether your costard 40 or my ballow 41 be the harder. ’Chill be plain with you.
  Osw.  Out, dunghill!
  Edg.  ’Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come, no matter vor your foins. 42  [They fight, andEDGAR knocks him down.]
  Osw.  Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find’st about me
To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon 43 the English party. O, untimely death!
Death!  Dies.
  Edg.  I know thee well; a serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
  Glou.        What, is he dead?
  Edg.  Sit you down, father; rest you.
Let’s see these pockets; the letters that he speaks of
May be my friends. He’s dead; I am only sorry
He had no other death’s-man. Let us see.
Leave, gentle wax; and, manners, blame us not.
To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts;
Their papers, is more lawful.
  (Reads the letter.) “Let our reciprocal vows be rememb’red. You have many opportunities to cut him off; if your will want not, time and place will be fruitfully offer’d. There is nothing done, if he return the conqueror; then am I the prisoner, and his bed my gaol; from the loathed warmth whereof deliver me, and supply the place for your labour.
“Your—wife, so I would say—
“Affectionate servant,

O indistinguish’d space 44 of woman’s will! 45
A plot upon her virtuous husband’s life;
And the exchange my brother! Here, in the sands,
Thee I’ll rake up, the post unsanctified
Of murderous lechers; and in the mature time
With this ungracious paper strike the sight
Of the death-practis’d 46 duke. For him ’tis well
That of thy death and business I can tell.
  Glou.  The King is mad; how stiff is my vile sense
That I stand up and have ingenious 47 feeling
Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract;
So should my thoughts be sever’d from my griefs,  Drum afar off.
And woes by wrong imaginations lose
The knowledge of themselves.
  Edg.  Give me your hand.
Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum.
Come, father, I’ll bestow 48 you with a friend.  Exeunt.

Note 1. Jackdaws. 
Note 2. Large. 
Note 3. A herb used for pickling. 
Note 4. Cock-boat. 
Note 5. Refuse, worthless part. 
Note 6. Imagination. 
Note 7. Consents to. 
Note 8. Die. 
Note 9. End to end. 
Note 10. Boundary. 
Note 11. On high. 
Note 12. Shrill-throated. 
Note 13. Twisted (?). 
Note 14. Most righteous. 
Note 15. Saner. 
Note 16. Fit out. 
Note 17. Mark. 
Note 18. Pass-word. 
Note 19. Accusation. 
Note 20. Lust. 
Note 21. Probably, hair ornaments. 
Note 22. Pole-cat. 
Note 23. Lusty with feeding. 
Note 24. Squint. 
Note 25. Sockets. 
Note 26. Swindler. 
Note 27. Warrant. 
Note 28. Sense and nonsense. 
Note 29. Hat (?). 
Note 30. To the test. 
Note 31. Tears. 
Note 32. Neat, fine. 
Note 33. Generally known. 
Note 34. The sight of the main body is hourly expected. 
Note 35. Ready. 
Note 36. Publicly proclaimed. 
Note 37. I will. 
Note 38. If I could. 
Note 39. I warn you. 
Note 40. Head. 
Note 41. Cudgel. 
Note 42. Thrusts. 
Note 43. Among. 
Note 44. Unlimited range. 
Note 45. Appetites. 
Note 46. Whose death was plotted. 
Note 47. Conscious. 
Note 48. Lodge. 

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