Page images

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;
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!

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":

[To Gonekll.

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;
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,

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;
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She'll flea thy wolfish visage. Thou shalt find,

That I'll resume the shape, which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever.

[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?

[To Kent.

Some other time for that.—Beloved Regan,
Thy sister's naught: O Regan, she hath tied

Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here

[Points to his heart.
I can scarce speak to thee; thou'lt not believe,
Of how deprav'd a quality O Regan!

Regan, I pray you, sir, take patience; I have hope
You less know how to value her desert,
Than she to scant her duty.
. Lear. Say, how is that?

Regan. I cannot think my sister in the least
Would fail her obligation; if, sir, perchance,
She have restrain'd the riots of your followers,
'Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end,
As clears her from all blame.'

Lear. My curses on her!

Regan. O, sir, you are old 5
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine: you should be rul'd, and led
By some discretion, that discerns your state
Better than you yourself: therefore, I pray you,
That to our sister you do make return 5
Say, you have wrong'd her, sir.

Lear. Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the use?
Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary; on my knees I beg,
That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.

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
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall, and blast her pride!

Regan. O the blest gods!
So will you wish on me, when the rash mood is on.

Lear. No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse;
Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
Thee o'er to harshness; her eyes are fierce, but thine
Do comfort, and not burn: 'Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
Against my coming in: thou better know'st
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude;
Thy half o' the kingdom thou hast not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow'd.

Regan. Good sir, to the purpose. [Trumpets within.
Lear. Who put my man i' the stocks?
Cornwall. What trumpet's that?

Enter Steward.

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,

Enter Goneriix.

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,
And dotage terms so.

Lear. O, sides, you are too tough!
Will you yet hold?—How came my man i' the stocks?

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.
If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me;

« PreviousContinue »