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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,
To be a thwart disnatur'd 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.
Albany. Now, gods, that we adore, whereof comes this?
Gonerill. Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
Lear. What, fifty of my followers at a clap! Within a fortnight!
Albany. What's the matter, sir?
Lear. I'll tell thee; life and death! I am ashamed That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus":
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon
The untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes
Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck you out;
To temper clay. Ha! is it come to this?
Let it be so: Yet have I left a daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable;
That I'll resume the shape, which thou dost think
[Exeunt Lear, Kent, and Attendants."
This is certainly fine: no wonder that Lear says after it, "O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heavens," feeling its effects by anticipation: but fine as is this burst of rage and indignation at the first blow aimed at his hopes and expectations, it is nothing near so fine as what follows from his double disappointment, and his lingering efforts to see which of them he shall lean upon for support and find comfort in, when both his daughters turn against his age and weakness. It is with some difficulty that Lear gets to speak with his daughter Regan, and her husband, at Gloster's castle. In concert with Gonerill they have left their own home on purpose to avoid him. His apprehensions are first alarmed by this circumstance, and when Gloster, whose guests they are, urges the fiery temper of the Duke of Cornwall as an excuse for not importuning him a second time, Lear breaks out,
"Vengeance! Plague! Death! Confusion! Fiery? What fiery quality J Why, Gloster, I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife."
Afterwards, feeling perhaps not well himself, he is inclined to admit their excuse from illness, but then recollecting that they have set his messenger (Kent) in the stocks, all his suspicions are roused again, and he insists on seeing them.
"Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, and Servants.
Lear. Good-morrow to you both.
Cornwall. Hail to your grace! [Kent is set at liberty.
Regan. I am glad to see your highness.
Lear. Regan, I think you are; I know what reason I have to think so: if thou should'st not be glad, I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb, Sepulchring an adultress. O, are you free?
Some other time for that.—Beloved Regan,
Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here
[Points to his heart.
Regan, I pray you, sir, take patience; I have hope
Regan. I cannot think my sister in the least
Lear. My curses on her!
Regan. O, sir, you are old 5
Lear. Ask her forgiveness?
Regan. Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks Return you to my sister.
Lear. Never, Regan: She hath abated me of half my train; Look'd blank upon me; struck me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart:
All the stor'd vengeances of heaven fall
On her ungrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking airs, with lameness!
Cornwall. Fie, sir, fie!
Lear. You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flame
Regan. O the blest gods!
Lear. No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse;
Regan. Good sir, to the purpose. [Trumpets within.
Regan. I know't, my sister's • this approves her letter, That she would soon be here.—Is your lady come?
Lear. This is a slave, whose easy-borrow'd pride
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows: —
Out, varlet, from my sight!
Cornwall. What means your grace?
Lear. Who stock'd my servant? Regan, I have good hope
Thou didst not know on't. Who comes here? O heavens,
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
Make it your cause; send down, and take my part!—
Art not asham'd to look upon this beard?— [To Gonerill.
O, Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?
Gonerill. Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended?
All's not offence, that indiscretion finds,
Lear. O, sides, you are too tough!
Cornwall. I set him there, sir: but his own disorders Deserv'd much less advancement.
Lear. You! did you?
Regan, I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.