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King Lear
Act 1, scene 2

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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 2
Enter Edmund, the Bastard.

EDMUND 
 Thou, Nature, art my goddess. To thy law
 My services are bound. Wherefore should I
 Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
 The curiosity of nations to deprive me
5 For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
 Lag of a brother? why “bastard”? Wherefore “base,”
 When my dimensions are as well compact,
 My mind as generous and my shape as true
 As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
10 With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,”
 “base,”
 Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
 More composition and fierce quality
 Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
15 Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
 Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,
 Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
 Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
 As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, “legitimate.”
20 Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

31
King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

 And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
 Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
 Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Enter Gloucester.

GLOUCESTER 
 Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?
25 And the King gone tonight, prescribed his power,
 Confined to exhibition? All this done
 Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?
EDMUND So please your Lordship, none. He puts a
 paper in his pocket.

GLOUCESTER Why so earnestly seek you to put up that
30 letter?
EDMUND I know no news, my lord.
GLOUCESTER What paper were you reading?
EDMUND Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER No? What needed then that terrible dispatch
35 of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing
 hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see. Come, if
 it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
EDMUND I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter
 from my brother that I have not all o’erread; and
40 for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for
 your o’erlooking.
GLOUCESTER Give me the letter, sir.
EDMUND I shall offend either to detain or give it. The
 contents, as in part I understand them, are to
45 blame.
GLOUCESTER Let’s see, let’s see.
Edmund gives him the paper.
EDMUND I hope, for my brother’s justification, he
 wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.
GLOUCESTER (reads) This policy and reverence of age
50 makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps
 our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish

33
King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

 them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the
 oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath
 power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I
55 may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked
 him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever and
 live the beloved of your brother. Edgar.

 Hum? Conspiracy? “Sleep till I wake him, you
 should enjoy half his revenue.” My son Edgar! Had
60 he a hand to write this? A heart and brain to breed it
 in?—When came you to this? Who brought it?
EDMUND It was not brought me, my lord; there’s the
 cunning of it. I found it thrown in at the casement
 of my closet.
GLOUCESTER 65You know the character to be your
 brother’s?
EDMUND If the matter were good, my lord, I durst
 swear it were his; but in respect of that, I would
 fain think it were not.
GLOUCESTER 70It is his.
EDMUND It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is
 not in the contents.
GLOUCESTER Has he never before sounded you in this
 business?
EDMUND 75Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft
 maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and
 fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the
 son, and the son manage his revenue.
GLOUCESTER O villain, villain! His very opinion in the
80 letter. Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish
 villain! Worse than brutish!—Go, sirrah, seek
 him. I’ll apprehend him.—Abominable villain!—
 Where is he?
EDMUND I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please
85 you to suspend your indignation against my brother
 till you can derive from him better testimony of his
 intent, you should run a certain course; where, if

35
King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

 you violently proceed against him, mistaking his
 purpose, it would make a great gap in your own
90 honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience.
 I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath
 writ this to feel my affection to your Honor, and to
 no other pretense of danger.
GLOUCESTER Think you so?
EDMUND 95If your Honor judge it meet, I will place you
 where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an
 auricular assurance have your satisfaction, and that
 without any further delay than this very evening.
GLOUCESTER He cannot be such a monster.
EDMUND 100Nor is not, sure.
GLOUCESTER To his father, that so tenderly and entirely
 loves him! Heaven and Earth! Edmund, seek him
 out; wind me into him, I pray you. Frame the
 business after your own wisdom. I would unstate
105 myself to be in a due resolution.
EDMUND I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the
 business as I shall find means, and acquaint you
 withal.
GLOUCESTER These late eclipses in the sun and moon
110 portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of
 nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds
 itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools,
 friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities, mutinies;
 in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and
115 the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. [This villain
 of mine comes under the prediction: there’s son
 against father. The King falls from bias of nature:
 there’s father against child. We have seen the best of
 our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and
120 all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our
 graves.]—Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall
 lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble
 and true-hearted Kent banished! His offense, honesty!
 ’Tis strange.He exits.

37
King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

EDMUND 125This is the excellent foppery of the world, that
 when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of
 our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters
 the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains
 on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves,
130 thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance;
 drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced
 obedience of planetary influence; and all that we
 are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable
 evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
135 disposition on the charge of a star! My father
 compounded with my mother under the Dragon’s
 tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it
 follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should
 have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the
140 firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar

Enter Edgar.

 and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
 comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a
 sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam.—O, these eclipses do
 portend these divisions. Fa, sol, la, mi.
EDGAR 145How now, brother Edmund, what serious contemplation
 are you in?
EDMUND I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read
 this other day, what should follow these eclipses.
EDGAR Do you busy yourself with that?
EDMUND 150I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed
 unhappily, as of unnaturalness between the
 child and the parent, death, dearth, dissolutions of
 ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and
 maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences,
155 banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
 nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
EDGAR How long have you been a sectary
 astronomical?

39
King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 2

EDMUND Come, come, when saw you my father last?
EDGAR 160The night gone by.
EDMUND Spake you with him?
EDGAR Ay, two hours together.
EDMUND Parted you in good terms? Found you no
 displeasure in him by word nor countenance?
EDGAR 165None at all.
EDMUND Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended
 him, and at my entreaty forbear his presence
 until some little time hath qualified the heat
 of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in
170 him that with the mischief of your person it would
 scarcely allay.
EDGAR Some villain hath done me wrong.
EDMUND That’s my fear. [I pray you have a continent
 forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower;
175 and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from
 whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak.
 Pray you go. There’s my key. If you do stir abroad,
 go armed.
EDGAR Armed, brother?]
EDMUND 180Brother, I advise you to the best. I am no
 honest man if there be any good meaning toward
 you. I have told you what I have seen and heard, but
 faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray
 you, away.
EDGAR 185Shall I hear from you anon?
EDMUND I do serve you in this business.Edgar exits.
 A credulous father and a brother noble,
 Whose nature is so far from doing harms
 That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
190 My practices ride easy. I see the business.
 Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.
 All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.
He exits.