List iconKing Lear:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

King Lear
Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

King Lear dramatizes the story of an aged king of ancient Britain, whose plan to divide his kingdom among his three…

Act 1, scene 1

King Lear, intending to divide his power and kingdom among his three daughters, demands public professions of their love. His…

Act 1, scene 2

Edmund, the earl of Gloucester’s illegitimate son, plots to displace his legitimate brother, Edgar, as Gloucester’s heir by turning Gloucester…

Act 1, scene 3

Goneril, with whom Lear has gone to live, expresses her anger at Lear and his knights. She orders her steward,…

Act 1, scene 4

The earl of Kent returns in disguise, offers his services to Lear, and is accepted as one of Lear’s followers….

Act 1, scene 5

Lear, setting out for Regan’s with his Fool, sends the disguised Kent ahead with a letter to Regan.

Act 2, scene 1

Edmund tricks Edgar into fleeing from Gloucester’s castle. After more of Edmund’s lies, Gloucester condemns Edgar to death and makes…

Act 2, scene 2

Kent meets Oswald at Gloucester’s castle (where both await answers to the letters they have brought Regan) and challenges Oswald…

Act 2, scene 3

Edgar disguises himself as a madman-beggar to escape his death sentence. (Although Kent remains onstage, a new scene begins because…

Act 2, scene 4

At Gloucester’s castle, Lear is angered that his messenger has been stocked and further angered that Regan and Cornwall refuse…

Act 3, scene 1

Kent, searching for Lear, meets a Gentleman and learns that Lear and the Fool are alone in the storm. Kent…

Act 3, scene 2

Lear rages against the elements while the Fool begs him to return to his daughters for shelter; when Kent finds…

Act 3, scene 3

Gloucester tells Edmund that he has decided to go to Lear’s aid; he also tells him about an incriminating letter…

Act 3, scene 4

Lear, Kent, and the Fool reach the hovel, where they find Edgar disguised as Poor Tom, a madman-beggar. When Gloucester…

Act 3, scene 5

Edmund tells Cornwall about Gloucester’s decision to help Lear and about the incriminating letter from France; in return, Cornwall makes…

Act 3, scene 6

Lear, in his madness, imagines that Goneril and Regan are on trial before a tribunal made up of Edgar, the…

Act 3, scene 7

Cornwall dispatches men to capture Gloucester, whom he calls a traitor. Sending Edmund and Goneril to tell Albany about the…

Act 4, scene 1

Edgar, still in disguise as Poor Tom, meets the blinded Gloucester and agrees to lead him to Dover.

Act 4, scene 2

Goneril and Edmund arrive at Albany and Goneril’s castle. After Goneril has sent Edmund back to Cornwall, Albany enters and…

Act 4, scene 3

In the French camp Kent and a Gentleman discuss Cordelia’s love of Lear, which has brought her back to Britain…

Act 4, scene 4

In the French camp Cordelia orders out a search party for Lear.

Act 4, scene 5

Regan questions Oswald about Goneril and Edmund, states her intention to marry Edmund, and asks Oswald to dissuade Goneril from…

Act 4, scene 6

To cure Gloucester of despair, Edgar pretends to aid him in a suicide attempt, a fall from Dover Cliff to…

Act 4, scene 7

In the French camp, Lear is waked by the doctor treating him and is reunited with Cordelia.

Act 5, scene 1

Albany joins his forces with Regan’s (led by Edmund) to oppose the French invasion. Edgar, still in disguise, approaches Albany…

Act 5, scene 2

Cordelia’s French army is defeated.

Act 5, scene 3

Edmund sends Lear and Cordelia to prison and secretly commissions their assassination. Albany confronts Edmund and Goneril with their intended…

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Scene 1
Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund.

KENT I thought the King had more affected the Duke
 of Albany than Cornwall.
GLOUCESTER It did always seem so to us, but now in
 the division of the kingdom, it appears not which
5 of the dukes he values most, for equalities are so
 weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice
 of either’s moiety.
KENT Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER His breeding, sir, hath been at my
10 charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge
 him that now I am brazed to ’t.
KENT I cannot conceive you.
GLOUCESTER Sir, this young fellow’s mother could,
 whereupon she grew round-wombed and had indeed,
15 sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband
 for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
KENT I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it
 being so proper.
GLOUCESTER But I have a son, sir, by order of law,
20 some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in
 my account. Though this knave came something
 saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was
 his mother fair, there was good sport at his making,

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

 and the whoreson must be acknowledged.—Do you
25 know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
EDMUND No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER My lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter
 as my honorable friend.
EDMUND My services to your Lordship.
KENT 30I must love you and sue to know you better.
EDMUND Sir, I shall study deserving.
GLOUCESTER He hath been out nine years, and away he
 shall again. (Sennet.) The King is coming.

Enter King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan,
Cordelia, and Attendants.

 Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,
35 Gloucester.
GLOUCESTER I shall, my lord.He exits.
 Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.—
 Give me the map there.He is handed a map.
 Know that we have divided
40 In three our kingdom, and ’tis our fast intent
 To shake all cares and business from our age,
 Conferring them on younger strengths, [while we
 Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of
45 And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
 We have this hour a constant will to publish
 Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife
 May be prevented now.]
 The two great princes, France and Burgundy,
50 Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
 Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn
 And here are to be answered. Tell me, my
 [Since now we will divest us both of rule,

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

55 Interest of territory, cares of state—]
 Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
 That we our largest bounty may extend
 Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
 Our eldest born, speak first.
60 Sir, I love you more than word can wield the
 Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,
 Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
 No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
65 As much as child e’er loved, or father found;
 A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable.
 Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA, aside 
 What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
LEAR, pointing to the map 
 Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
70 With shadowy forests [and with champains riched,
 With plenteous rivers] and wide-skirted meads,
 We make thee lady. To thine and Albany’s issue
 Be this perpetual.—What says our second
75 Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall? Speak.
 I am made of that self mettle as my sister
 And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
 I find she names my very deed of love;
 Only she comes too short, that I profess
80 Myself an enemy to all other joys
 Which the most precious square of sense
 And find I am alone felicitate
 In your dear Highness’ love.
CORDELIA, aside 85 Then poor Cordelia!
 And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s
 More ponderous than my tongue.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

 To thee and thine hereditary ever
 Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
90 No less in space, validity, and pleasure
 Than that conferred on Goneril.—Now, our joy,
 Although our last and least, to whose young love
 [The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
 Strive to be interessed,] what can you say to draw
95 A third more opulent than your sisters’? Speak.
CORDELIA Nothing, my lord.
[LEAR Nothing?
CORDELIA Nothing.]
 Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.
100 Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
 My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
 According to my bond, no more nor less.
 How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,
 Lest you may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA 105 Good my lord,
 You have begot me, bred me, loved me.
 I return those duties back as are right fit:
 Obey you, love you, and most honor you.
 Why have my sisters husbands if they say
110 They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
 That lord whose hand must take my plight shall
 Half my love with him, half my care and duty.
 Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
115 To love my father all.
LEAR But goes thy heart with this?
CORDELIA Ay, my good lord.
LEAR So young and so untender?
CORDELIA So young, my lord, and true.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

120 Let it be so. Thy truth, then, be thy dower,
 For by the sacred radiance of the sun,
 The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
 By all the operation of the orbs
 From whom we do exist and cease to be,
125 Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
 Propinquity, and property of blood,
 And as a stranger to my heart and me
 Hold thee from this forever. The barbarous
130 Or he that makes his generation messes
 To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
 Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved
 As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT  Good my liege—
LEAR 135Peace, Kent.
 Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
 I loved her most and thought to set my rest
 On her kind nursery. To Cordelia. Hence and avoid
 my sight!—
140 So be my grave my peace as here I give
 Her father’s heart from her.—Call France. Who stirs?
 Call Burgundy. An Attendant exits. Cornwall and
 With my two daughters’ dowers digest the third.
145 Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
 I do invest you jointly with my power,
 Preeminence, and all the large effects
 That troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly course,
 With reservation of an hundred knights
150 By you to be sustained, shall our abode
 Make with you by due turn. Only we shall retain
 The name and all th’ addition to a king.
 The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Belovèd sons, be yours, which to confirm,
155 This coronet part between you.
KENT  Royal Lear,
 Whom I have ever honored as my king,
 Loved as my father, as my master followed,
 As my great patron thought on in my prayers—
160 The bow is bent and drawn. Make from the shaft.
 Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
 The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly
 When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
 Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
165 When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s
 When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,
 And in thy best consideration check
 This hideous rashness. Answer my life my
170 judgment,
 Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
 Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
 Reverb no hollowness.
LEAR  Kent, on thy life, no more.
175 My life I never held but as a pawn
 To wage against thine enemies, nor fear to lose
 Thy safety being motive.
LEAR  Out of my sight!
180 See better, Lear, and let me still remain
 The true blank of thine eye.
LEAR Now, by Apollo—
KENT Now, by Apollo, king,
 Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
LEAR 185O vassal! Miscreant!

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

[ALBANY/CORNWALL Dear sir, forbear.]
 Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestow
 Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,
 Or whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,
190 I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
 Hear me, recreant; on thine allegiance, hear me!
 That thou hast sought to make us break our vows—
 Which we durst never yet—and with strained pride
 To come betwixt our sentence and our power,
195 Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
 Our potency made good, take thy reward:
 Five days we do allot thee for provision
 To shield thee from disasters of the world,
 And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
200 Upon our kingdom. If on the tenth day following
 Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
 The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,
 This shall not be revoked.
 Fare thee well, king. Sith thus thou wilt appear,
205 Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
 To Cordelia. The gods to their dear shelter take
 thee, maid,
 That justly think’st and hast most rightly said.
 To Goneril and Regan. And your large speeches
210 may your deeds approve,
 That good effects may spring from words of love.—
 Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu.
 He’ll shape his old course in a country new.
He exits.

Flourish. Enter Gloucester with France, and Burgundy,
and Attendants.

 Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

LEAR 215My lord of Burgundy,
 We first address toward you, who with this king
 Hath rivaled for our daughter. What in the least
 Will you require in present dower with her,
 Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY 220 Most royal Majesty,
 I crave no more than hath your Highness offered,
 Nor will you tender less.
LEAR  Right noble Burgundy,
 When she was dear to us, we did hold her so,
225 But now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands.
 If aught within that little seeming substance,
 Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced
 And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,
 She’s there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY 230 I know no answer.
 Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
 Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
 Dowered with our curse and strangered with our
235 Take her or leave her?
BURGUNDY  Pardon me, royal sir,
 Election makes not up in such conditions.
 Then leave her, sir, for by the power that made me
 I tell you all her wealth.—For you, great king,
240 I would not from your love make such a stray
 To match you where I hate. Therefore beseech you
 T’ avert your liking a more worthier way
 Than on a wretch whom Nature is ashamed
 Almost t’ acknowledge hers.
FRANCE 245 This is most strange,
 That she whom even but now was your best
 The argument of your praise, balm of your age,

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

 The best, the dearest, should in this trice of time
250 Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
 So many folds of favor. Sure her offense
 Must be of such unnatural degree
 That monsters it, or your forevouched affection
 Fall into taint; which to believe of her
255 Must be a faith that reason without miracle
 Should never plant in me.
CORDELIA, to Lear I yet beseech your Majesty—
 If for I want that glib and oily art
 To speak and purpose not, since what I well
260 intend
 I’ll do ’t before I speak—that you make known
 It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
 No unchaste action or dishonored step
 That hath deprived me of your grace and favor,
265 But even for want of that for which I am richer:
 A still-soliciting eye and such a tongue
 That I am glad I have not, though not to have it
 Hath lost me in your liking.
LEAR  Better thou
270 Hadst not been born than not t’ have pleased me
 Is it but this—a tardiness in nature
 Which often leaves the history unspoke
 That it intends to do?—My lord of Burgundy,
275 What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
 When it is mingled with regards that stands
 Aloof from th’ entire point. Will you have her?
 She is herself a dowry.
BURGUNDY, to Lear  Royal king,
280 Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
 And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
 Duchess of Burgundy.
 Nothing. I have sworn. I am firm.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

BURGUNDY, to Cordelia 
 I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
285 That you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA  Peace be with
 Since that respect and fortunes are his love,
 I shall not be his wife.
290 Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor;
 Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised,
 Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon,
 Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
 Gods, gods! ’Tis strange that from their cold’st
295 neglect
 My love should kindle to enflamed respect.—
 Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my
 Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.
300 Not all the dukes of wat’rish Burgundy
 Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.—
 Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
 Thou losest here a better where to find.
 Thou hast her, France. Let her be thine, for we
305 Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
 That face of hers again. To Cordelia. Therefore
 Without our grace, our love, our benison.—
 Come, noble Burgundy.
Flourish. All but France, Cordelia,
Goneril, and Regan exit.

FRANCE 310Bid farewell to your sisters.
 The jewels of our father, with washed eyes
 Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are,
 And like a sister am most loath to call

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Your faults as they are named. Love well our
315 father.
 To your professèd bosoms I commit him;
 But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
 I would prefer him to a better place.
 So farewell to you both.
320 Prescribe not us our duty.
GONERIL  Let your study
 Be to content your lord, who hath received you
 At Fortune’s alms. You have obedience scanted
 And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
325 Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides,
 Who covers faults at last with shame derides.
 Well may you prosper.
FRANCE  Come, my fair Cordelia.
France and Cordelia exit.
GONERIL Sister, it is not little I have to say of what
330 most nearly appertains to us both. I think our
 father will hence tonight.
REGAN That’s most certain, and with you; next month
 with us.
GONERIL You see how full of changes his age is; the
335 observation we have made of it hath not been
 little. He always loved our sister most, and with
 what poor judgment he hath now cast her off
 appears too grossly.
REGAN ’Tis the infirmity of his age. Yet he hath ever
340 but slenderly known himself.
GONERIL The best and soundest of his time hath been
 but rash. Then must we look from his age to
 receive not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed
 condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness
345 that infirm and choleric years bring with

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

REGAN Such unconstant starts are we like to have
 from him as this of Kent’s banishment.
GONERIL There is further compliment of leave-taking
350 between France and him. Pray you, let us sit
 together. If our father carry authority with such
 disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will
 but offend us.
REGAN We shall further think of it.
GONERIL 355We must do something, and i’ th’ heat.
They exit.