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middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er the dirt thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so. [Singing] Fools had ne'er less wit in a year; For wise men are grown foppish,

They know not how their wits to wear,

Their manners are so apish.

Lear. When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?

Fool. I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mother: for when thou gavest them the rod, and puttest down thine own breeches,

[Singing] Then they for sudden joy did weep, And I for sorrow sung,

That such a king should play bo-peep,

And go the fools among.

Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.

Lear. An you lie, sirrah, we 'll whipped.

have you

Fool. I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o' thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides, and left nothing i' the middle here comes one o' the parings.


Lear. How now, daughter! what makes that 189. puttest, i.e. didst put.




frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i' the frown.

Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou 210 hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing. [To Gon.] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing.


He that keeps nor crust nor crum,

Weary of all, shall want some.


[Pointing to Lear] That's a shealed peascod. Gon. Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool, But other of your insolent retinue

Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth


In rank and not to be endured riots.


I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow


By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.

Fool. For, you know, nuncle,

The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had it head bit off by it young.

So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Lear. Are you our daughter?


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I would you would make use of that good wisdom, 240
Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
These dispositions that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.

Fool. May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.

Lear. Doth any here know me? This is not

Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?

Either his notion weakens, his discernings

Are lethargied-Ha! waking? 'tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

Fool. Lear's shadow.

Lear. I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

Fool. Which they will make an obedient father.

Lear. Your name, fair gentlewoman?

Gon. This admiration, sir, is much o' the savour Of other your new pranks.

I do beseech you To understand my purposes aright:

As you are old and reverend, you should be wise. Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires; Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold,

That this our court, infected with their manners,

Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel

Than a graced palace.


245. Whoop, Jug, etc. Intentional nonsense to cloak his plain speaking. 'Jug' was a colloquial term for a mistress.

248. notion, understanding. 252-256. I would learn .

The shame itself doth



father. Omitted in Ff. Perhaps
originally in verse.
255. Which, whom.

263. debosh'd, debauched.
267. graced, honourable.

For instant remedy: be then desired

By her that else will take the thing she begs
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainder that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
And know themselves and you.


Darkness and devils!

Saddle my horses; call my train together.

Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee:
Yet have I left a daughter.

Gon. You strike my people, and your disorder'd

Make servants of their betters.



Lear. Woe, that too late repents,-[To Alb.]

O, sir, are you come?

Is it your will? Speak, sir.

Prepare my horses. 280 Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,

More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child
Than the sea-monster !


Pray, sir, be patient.

Lear. [To Gon.] Detested kite! thou liest : My train are men of choice and rarest parts, That all particulars of duty know,

And in the most exact regard support

The worships of their name.

O most small fault,

How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!

That, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature 290 From the fix'd place; drew from my heart all love,

271. still depend, continue to wait on you (the word is suggested by 'train ').

272. besort, sort with, be


283. the sea-monster; perhaps the hippopotamus, which

according to Egyptian tradition (accessible to Shakespeare in Holland's translation of Plutarch) 'kills its sire and ravishes its dam' (Wright).

285. choice and rarest (the superlative applies to both).

And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,

[Striking his head.
And thy dear judgement out! Go, go, my people.
Alb. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath moved you.
• Lear.

It may be

so, my lord.

Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!

Into her womb convey sterility!

Dry up in her the organs of increase ;
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
(How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is

To have a thankless child! Away, away! [Exit. Alb. Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

Gon. Never afflict yourself to know the cause, But let his disposition have that scope

That dotage gives it.

Re-enter LEAR.

Lear. What, fifty of my followers at a clap!

Within a fortnight!


What's the matter, sir?

Lear. I'll tell thee: [To Gon.] Life and

death! I am ashamed

302. derogate, degraded.

303. teem, give birth.

305. thwart, cross, perverse.



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