Page images

SCENE VI. A Chamber in a Farm-House, adjoining the Castle.

Enter GLOSTER, Lear, Kent, Fool, and EDgar.

Glo. Here is better than the open air; take it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can; I will not be long from you.

Kent. All the power of his wits has given way to his impatience. The gods reward your kindness!

[Exit GLOSTER. Edg. Frateretto' calls me; and tells me Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.

Fool. 'Pr'ythee, nuncle, tell me, whether a madman be a gentleman, or a yeoman?

Lear. A king, a king!

Fool. No; he's a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son; for he's a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before him.

Lear. To have a thousand with red burning spits Come hissing in upon them:


Edg. The foul fiend bites my back."

Fool. He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's heels," a boy's love, or a whore's oath. Lear. It shall be done; I will arraign them straight. Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer;


1 Rabelais says that Nero was a fiddler in hell, and Trajan an angler. 2 Perhaps he is here addressing the fool. Fools were anciently termed innocents.

3 The old copies have hizzing, which Malone changed to whizzing. One of the quartos spells the word hiszing, which indicates that the reading of the present text is right.

4 This and the next thirteen speeches are only in the quartos.

5 The old copies read, "a horse's health;" but heels was certainly meant. "Trust not a horse's heels, nor a dog's tooth," is a proverb in Ray's Collection; which may be traced at least as far back as the time of our Edward II.

6 Justicer, from justiciarius, was the old term, as we learn from Lambard's Eirenarcha.

Thou, sapient sir, sit here. [To the Fool.]-Now, you


Edg. Look, where he stands and glares!Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam?1

Come o'er the bourn,2 Bessy to me.

Fool. Her boat hath a leak,

And she must not speak

Why she dares not come over to thee.


Edg. The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a nightingale. Hopdance cries in Tom's belly for two white herrings. Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee.

Kent. How do you, sir? Stand you not so amazed. Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?

Lear. I'll see their trial first.-Bring in the evi


Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;

And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,

[TO EDGAR. [To the Fool.

Bench by his side.-You are of the commission,
Sit you too.


1 "Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam?" is a question addressed to some visionary spectator, and may mean no more than "Do you want eyes when you should use them most? that you cannot see this spectre."

2 A bourn is a brook or rivulet. At the beginning of A Very Mery and Pythie Comedie, called the Longer Thou Livest The More Fool Thou Art, &c. blk. let., no date :-"Entreth Moros, counterfaiting a vain gesture and foolish countenance, synging the foote of many songs, as fooles were wont;" and among them is this passage:

"Com over the boorne Bessé,

My litle pretie Bessé,

Come over the boorne, Bessé, to me."

The old copies read, "o'er the broome;" and Johnson suggested, as there was no connection between a boat and a broom, that it was an error. Steevens made the correction, and adduced this illustration. There is peculiar propriety in this address: Bessy and poor Tom usually travelled together, as appears by a passage cited from Dick Whipper's Sessions, 1607, by Malone. Mad women, who travel about the country, are called, in Shropshire, Cousin Betties, and elsewhere, Mad Bessies.

3 Much of this may have been suggested by Harsnet's book. Hoberdidance is mentioned in a former note. "One time shee remembereth that, shee having the said croaking in her belly, they said it was the devil that was about the bed, that spake with the voice of a toad," p. 194, 195, &c.

[blocks in formation]

Edg. Let us deal justly.

Sleepest, or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
Thy sheep be in the corn;

And for one blast of thy minikin1 mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm.

Pur! the cat is gray.

Lear. Arraign her first; 'tis Goneril. I here take my oath before this honorable assembly, she kicked the poor king her father.

Fool. Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?

Lear. She cannot deny it.

Fool. Cry you mercy, I took you for a jointstool.2 Lear. And here's another, whose warped looks proclaim

What store her heart is made of.-Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire !-Corruption in the place!
False justicer, why hast thou let her 'scape?
Edg. Bless thy five wits!

Kent. O pity!-Sir, where is the patience now,

That you so oft have boasted to retain?

Edg. My tears begin to take his part so much,

They'll mar my counterfeiting.

Lear. The little dogs and all,


Tray, Blanch, and Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me. Edg. Tom will throw his head at them.

Avaunt, you curs!

Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim,
Hound, or spaniel, brach, or lym;
Or bobtail tike, or trundle-tail;
Tom will make them weep and wail;


1 Minikin was anciently a term of endearment.-Baret, in his Alvearie, interprets feat by "proper, well-fashioned, minikin, handsome."

2 This proverbial expression occurs likewise in Lyly's Mother Bombie, 1594.

3 A lym or lyme was a blood-hound (see Minsheu's Dict. in voce); sometimes also called a limmer or leamer; from the leam or leash, in which he was held till he was let slip.

4 Tijk is the Runic word for a little worthless dog. Trindletails are

For, with throwing thus my head,

Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.

Do de, de de. Sessa.' Come, march to wakes and fairs, and market towns.-Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.2 Lear. Then let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature, that makes these hard hearts?-You, sir, I entertain you for one of my hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments. You will say they are Persian attire; but let them be changed. [TO EDGAR. Kent. Now, good my lord, lie here, and rest awhile.3 Lear. Make no noise, make no noise; draw the curtains. So, so, so. We'll go to supper i' the morning. So, so, so.

Fool. And I'll go to bed at noon.

Re-enter GLOSTER.

Glo. Come hither, friend; where is the king my master?

Kent. Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are


Glo. Good friend, I pr'ythee take him in thy arms; I have o'erheard a plot of death upon him.

There is a litter ready; lay him in't,

And drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master.
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,

With thine, and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assured loss. Take up, take up;


mentioned in The Booke of Huntyng, &c., blk. let., no date; and in the old comedy of A Woman Killed with Kindness.

1 Sessa; this word occurs before in the fourth scene of this act. It is spelled sessey in both places in the old copy. The same word occurs in the Induction to the Taming of the Shrew, where it is spelled sessa; it appears to have been a corruption of cessez, stop or hold, be quiet, have done.

2 A horn was usually carried about by every Tom of Bedlam, to receive such drink as the charitable might afford him, with whatever scraps of food they might give him.

3 i. e. on the cushions to which he points.

4 One of the quartos reads, "Take up the king ;" the other, "Take up to keep," &c.

And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.


Oppressed nature sleeps.1This rest might yet have balmed thy broken senses, Which, if convenience will not allow,

Stand in hard cure.-Come, help to bear thy master; Thou must not stay behind.


[To the Fool. Come, come, away.

[Exeunt KENT, GLOSTER, and the Fool, bearing off the King.

Edg. When we our betters see bearing our woes, We scarcely think our miseries our foes. Who alone suffers, suffers most i' the mind; Leaving free things, and happy shows, behind: But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip, When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship. How light and portable my pain seems now,

When that which makes me bend, makes the king bow;

He childed, as I fathered!-Tom, away!

Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray,3

When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles thee,
In thy just proof, repeals, and reconciles thee.
What will hap more to-night, safe scape the king!
Lurk, lurk.]


SCENE VII. A Room in Gloster's Castle.


Corn. Post speedily to my lord your husband; show him this letter;-the army of France is landed.-Seek out the villain Gloster. [Exeunt some of the Servants.

1 These two concluding speeches, by Kent and Edgar, are restored from the quarto.

2 The great events that are approaching, the loud tumult of approach. ing war.

Betray, discover.

« PreviousContinue »