List iconKing Lear:
Act 1, scene 4
List icon

King Lear
Act 1, scene 4



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 4
Enter Kent in disguise.

 If but as well I other accents borrow
 That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
 May carry through itself to that full issue
 For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
5 If thou canst serve where thou dost stand
 So may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st,
 Shall find thee full of labors.

Horns within. Enter Lear, Knights, and Attendants.

LEAR Let me not stay a jot for dinner. Go get it ready.
An Attendant exits.
10 How now, what art thou?
KENT A man, sir.
LEAR What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with
KENT I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve
15 him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that
 is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says
 little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot
 choose, and to eat no fish.
LEAR What art thou?
KENT 20A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the
LEAR If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he’s for a
 king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
KENT Service.
LEAR 25Who wouldst thou serve?
LEAR Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT No, sir, but you have that in your countenance
 which I would fain call master.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

LEAR 30What’s that?
KENT Authority.
LEAR What services canst do?
KENT I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a
 curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message
35 bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for I
 am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
LEAR How old art thou?
KENT Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing,
 nor so old to dote on her for anything. I have years
40 on my back forty-eight.
LEAR Follow me. Thou shalt serve me—if I like thee
 no worse after dinner. I will not part from thee
 yet.—Dinner, ho, dinner!—Where’s my knave, my
 Fool? Go you and call my Fool hither.
An Attendant exits.

Enter Oswald, the Steward.

45 You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?
OSWALD So please you—He exits.
LEAR What says the fellow there? Call the clotpole
 back. A Knight exits. Where’s my Fool? Ho! I think
 the world’s asleep.

Enter Knight again.

50 How now? Where’s that mongrel?
KNIGHT He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
LEAR Why came not the slave back to me when I
 called him?
KNIGHT Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner,
55 he would not.
LEAR He would not?
KNIGHT My lord, I know not what the matter is, but to
 my judgment your Highness is not entertained
 with that ceremonious affection as you were wont.
60 There’s a great abatement of kindness appears as

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

 well in the general dependents as in the Duke
 himself also, and your daughter.
LEAR Ha? Sayst thou so?
KNIGHT I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be
65 mistaken, for my duty cannot be silent when I think
 your Highness wronged.
LEAR Thou but remembrest me of mine own conception.
 I have perceived a most faint neglect of late,
 which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous
70 curiosity than as a very pretense and purpose of
 unkindness. I will look further into ’t. But where’s
 my Fool? I have not seen him this two days.
KNIGHT Since my young lady’s going into France, sir,
 the Fool hath much pined away.
LEAR 75No more of that. I have noted it well.—Go you
 and tell my daughter I would speak with her. An
 Attendant exits. 
Go you call hither my Fool.
Another exits.

Enter Oswald, the Steward.

 O you, sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?
OSWALD My lady’s father.
LEAR 80“My lady’s father”? My lord’s knave! You whoreson
 dog, you slave, you cur!
OSWALD I am none of these, my lord, I beseech your
LEAR Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
Lear strikes him.
OSWALD 85I’ll not be strucken, my lord.
KENT, tripping him Nor tripped neither, you base
 football player?
LEAR I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll
 love thee.
KENT, to Oswald 90Come, sir, arise. Away. I’ll teach you
 differences. Away, away. If you will measure your
 lubber’s length again, tarry. But away. Go to. Have
 you wisdom? So.Oswald exits.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

LEAR Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. There’s
95 earnest of thy service.He gives Kent a purse.

Enter Fool.

FOOL Let me hire him too. To Kent. Here’s my
 coxcomb.He offers Kent his cap.
LEAR How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?
FOOL, to Kent Sirrah, you were best take my
100 coxcomb.
LEAR Why, my boy?
FOOL Why? For taking one’s part that’s out of favor.
 To Kent. Nay, an thou canst not smile as the
 wind sits, thou ’lt catch cold shortly. There, take my
105 coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two on ’s
 daughters and did the third a blessing against his
 will. If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my
 coxcomb.—How now, nuncle? Would I had two
 coxcombs and two daughters.
LEAR 110Why, my boy?
FOOL If I gave them all my living, I’d keep my coxcombs
 myself. There’s mine. Beg another of thy
LEAR Take heed, sirrah—the whip.
FOOL 115Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be
 whipped out, when the Lady Brach may stand by th’
 fire and stink.
LEAR A pestilent gall to me!
FOOL Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.
LEAR 120Do.
FOOL Mark it, nuncle:
 Have more than thou showest.
 Speak less than thou knowest,
 Lend less than thou owest,
125 Ride more than thou goest,
 Learn more than thou trowest,
 Set less than thou throwest;

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

 Leave thy drink and thy whore
 And keep in-a-door,
130 And thou shalt have more
 Than two tens to a score.

KENT This is nothing, Fool.
FOOL Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer.
 You gave me nothing for ’t.—Can you make no use
135 of nothing, nuncle?
LEAR Why no, boy. Nothing can be made out of
FOOL, to Kent Prithee tell him, so much the rent of his
 land comes to. He will not believe a Fool.
LEAR 140A bitter Fool!
FOOL Dost know the difference, my boy, between a
 bitter fool and a sweet one?
LEAR No, lad, teach me.
FOOL  That lord that counseled thee
145  To give away thy land,
 Come place him here by me;
  Do thou for him stand.
 The sweet and bitter fool
  Will presently appear:
150 The one in motley here,
  The other found out there.

LEAR Dost thou call me “fool,” boy?
FOOL All thy other titles thou hast given away. That
 thou wast born with.
KENT 155This is not altogether fool, my lord.
FOOL No, faith, lords and great men will not let me. If
 I had a monopoly out, they would have part on ’t.
 And ladies too, they will not let me have all the fool
 to myself; they’ll be snatching.—Nuncle, give me
160 an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
LEAR What two crowns shall they be?
FOOL Why, after I have cut the egg i’ th’ middle and eat
 up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

 clovest thy crown i’ th’ middle and gav’st away
165 both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er
 the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown
 when thou gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak
 like myself in this, let him be whipped that first
 finds it so. Sings.
170 Fools had ne’er less grace in a year,
  For wise men are grown foppish
 And know not how their wits to wear,
  Their manners are so apish.

LEAR When were you wont to be so full of songs,
175 sirrah?
FOOL I have used it, nuncle, e’er since thou mad’st thy
 daughters thy mothers. For when thou gav’st them
 the rod and put’st down thine own breeches,
 Then they for sudden joy did weep,
180  And I for sorrow sung,
 That such a king should play bo-peep
  And go the fools among.

 Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
 thy Fool to lie. I would fain learn to lie.
LEAR 185An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped.
FOOL I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are.
 They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou ’lt
 have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am
 whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any
190 kind o’ thing than a Fool. And yet I would not be
 thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides
 and left nothing i’ th’ middle. Here comes one o’ the

Enter Goneril.

 How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on?
195 Methinks you are too much of late i’ th’ frown.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

FOOL Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no
 need to care for her frowning. Now thou art an O
 without a figure. I am better than thou art now. I
 am a Fool. Thou art nothing. To Goneril. Yes,
200 forsooth, I will hold my tongue. So your face bids
 me, though you say nothing.
 Mum, mum,
 He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
 Weary of all, shall want some.

He points at Lear.
205 That’s a shelled peascod.
 Not only, sir, this your all-licensed Fool,
 But other of your insolent retinue
 Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
 In rank and not-to-be-endurèd riots. Sir,
210 I had thought by making this well known unto you
 To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful,
 By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
 That you protect this course and put it on
 By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
215 Would not ’scape censure, nor the redresses sleep
 Which in the tender of a wholesome weal
 Might in their working do you that offense,
 Which else were shame, that then necessity
 Will call discreet proceeding.
FOOL 220For you know, nuncle,
 The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
 That it’s had it head bit off by it young.

 So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
LEAR Are you our daughter?
225 I would you would make use of your good wisdom,
 Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
 These dispositions which of late transport you
 From what you rightly are.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

FOOL May not an ass know when the cart draws the
230 horse? Whoop, Jug, I love thee!
 Does any here know me? This is not Lear.
 Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his
 Either his notion weakens, his discernings
235 Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
 Who is it that can tell me who I am?
FOOL Lear’s shadow.
 I would learn that, for, by the marks of
240 Knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded
 I had daughters.
FOOL Which they will make an obedient father.
LEAR Your name, fair gentlewoman?
 This admiration, sir, is much o’ th’ savor
245 Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
 To understand my purposes aright.
 As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
 Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
 Men so disordered, so debauched and bold,
250 That this our court, infected with their manners,
 Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
 Makes it more like a tavern or a brothel
 Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
 For instant remedy. Be then desired,
255 By her that else will take the thing she begs,
 A little to disquantity your train,
 And the remainders that shall still depend
 To be such men as may besort your age,
 Which know themselves and you.
LEAR 260 Darkness and
 Saddle my horses. Call my train together.
Some exit.

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

 Degenerate bastard, I’ll not trouble thee.
 Yet have I left a daughter.
265 You strike my people, and your disordered rabble
 Make servants of their betters.

Enter Albany.

 Woe that too late repents!—O, sir, are you
 Is it your will? Speak, sir.—Prepare my horses.
Some exit.
270 Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
 More hideous when thou show’st thee in a child
 Than the sea monster!
[ALBANY  Pray, sir, be patient.]
LEAR, to Goneril Detested kite, thou liest.
275 My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
 That all particulars of duty know
 And in the most exact regard support
 The worships of their name. O most small fault,
 How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,
280 Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of
 From the fixed place, drew from my heart all love
 And added to the gall! O Lear, Lear, Lear!
He strikes his head.
 Beat at this gate that let thy folly in
285 And thy dear judgment out. Go, go, my people.
Some exit.
 My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant
 [Of what hath moved you.]
LEAR  It may be so, my lord.—
 Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear!
290 Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

 To make this creature fruitful.
 Into her womb convey sterility.
 Dry up in her the organs of increase,
 And from her derogate body never spring
295 A babe to honor her. If she must teem,
 Create her child of spleen, that it may live
 And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.
 Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
 With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
300 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!
Lear and the rest of his train exit.
 Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
305 Never afflict yourself to know more of it,
 But let his disposition have that scope
 As dotage gives it.

Enter Lear and the Fool.

 What, fifty of my followers at a clap?
 Within a fortnight?
ALBANY 310 What’s the matter, sir?
 I’ll tell thee. To Goneril. Life and death! I am
 That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
 That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
315 Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon
 Th’ untented woundings of a father’s curse
 Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
 Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck you out

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 4

320 And cast you, with the waters that you loose,
 To temper clay. Yea, is ’t come to this?
 Ha! Let it be so. I have another daughter
 Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable.
 When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
325 She’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
 That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
 I have cast off forever.He exits.
GONERIL  Do you mark that?
 I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
330 To the great love I bear you—
GONERIL Pray you, content.—What, Oswald, ho!—
 You, sir, more knave than Fool, after your master.
FOOL Nuncle Lear, Nuncle Lear, tarry. Take the Fool
 with thee.
335 A fox, when one has caught her,
 And such a daughter,
 Should sure to the slaughter,
 If my cap would buy a halter.
 So the Fool follows after.
He exits.
340 This man hath had good counsel. A hundred
 ’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
 At point a hundred knights! Yes, that on every
345 Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
 He may enguard his dotage with their powers
 And hold our lives in mercy.—Oswald, I say!
ALBANY Well, you may fear too far.
GONERIL Safer than trust too far.
350 Let me still take away the harms I fear,
 Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
 What he hath uttered I have writ my sister.
 If she sustain him and his hundred knights
 When I have showed th’ unfitness—

King Lear
ACT 1. SC. 5

Enter Oswald, the Steward.

355 How now, Oswald?]
 What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
OSWALD Ay, madam.
 Take you some company and away to horse.
 Inform her full of my particular fear,
360 And thereto add such reasons of your own
 As may compact it more. Get you gone,
 And hasten your return. Oswald exits. No, no, my
 This milky gentleness and course of yours,
365 Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
 You are much more at task for want of wisdom
 Than praised for harmful mildness.
 How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell.
 Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
GONERIL 370Nay, then—
ALBANY Well, well, th’ event.
They exit.