List iconKing Lear:
Act 2, scene 4
List icon

King Lear
Act 2, 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 Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.

 ’Tis strange that they should so depart from home
 And not send back my messenger.
GENTLEMAN  As I learned,
 The night before there was no purpose in them
5 Of this remove.
KENT, waking  Hail to thee, noble master.
 Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?
[KENT  No, my lord.]
FOOL 10Ha, ha, he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied
 by the heads, dogs and bears by th’ neck, monkeys
 by th’ loins, and men by th’ legs. When a man’s
 overlusty at legs, then he wears wooden
15 What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
 To set thee here?
KENT  It is both he and she,
 Your son and daughter.

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

KENT 20Yes.
LEAR No, I say.
KENT I say yea.
LEAR By Jupiter, I swear no.
[KENT By Juno, I swear ay.
LEAR] 25 They durst not do ’t.
 They could not, would not do ’t. ’Tis worse than
 To do upon respect such violent outrage.
 Resolve me with all modest haste which way
30 Thou might’st deserve or they impose this usage,
 Coming from us.
KENT  My lord, when at their home
 I did commend your Highness’ letters to them,
 Ere I was risen from the place that showed
35 My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
 Stewed in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
 From Goneril his mistress salutations;
 Delivered letters, spite of intermission,
 Which presently they read; on whose contents
40 They summoned up their meiny, straight took
 Commanded me to follow and attend
 The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks;
 And meeting here the other messenger,
45 Whose welcome, I perceived, had poisoned mine,
 Being the very fellow which of late
 Displayed so saucily against your Highness,
 Having more man than wit about me, drew.
 He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
50 Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
 The shame which here it suffers.
[FOOL Winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Fathers that wear rags
55  Do make their children blind,
 But fathers that bear bags
  Shall see their children kind.
 Fortune, that arrant whore,
 Ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.

60 But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for
 thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.]
 O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
 Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow!
 Thy element’s below.—Where is this daughter?
KENT 65With the Earl, sir, here within.
LEAR, to Fool and Gentleman Follow me not. Stay
 here.He exits.
 Made you no more offense but what you speak of?
KENT None.
70 How chance the King comes with so small a number?
FOOL An thou hadst been set i’ th’ stocks for that
 question, thou ’dst well deserved it.
KENT Why, Fool?
FOOL We’ll set thee to school to an ant to teach thee
75 there’s no laboring i’ th’ winter. All that follow
 their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and
 there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him
 that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel
 runs down a hill lest it break thy neck with following;
80 but the great one that goes upward, let him
 draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better
 counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but
 knaves follow it, since a Fool gives it.
 That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
85  And follows but for form,
 Will pack when it begins to rain

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

  And leave thee in the storm.
 But I will tarry; the Fool will stay,
  And let the wise man fly.
90 The knave turns fool that runs away;
  The Fool no knave, perdie.

KENT Where learned you this, Fool?
FOOL Not i’ th’ stocks, fool.

Enter Lear and Gloucester.

 Deny to speak with me? They are sick? They are
95 weary?
 They have traveled all the night? Mere fetches,
 The images of revolt and flying off.
 Fetch me a better answer.
GLOUCESTER  My dear lord,
100 You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
 How unremovable and fixed he is
 In his own course.
 Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!
 “Fiery”? What “quality”? Why Gloucester,
105 Gloucester,
 I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
 Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.
 “Informed them”? Dost thou understand me,
GLOUCESTER 110Ay, my good lord.
 The King would speak with Cornwall. The dear
 Would with his daughter speak, commands, tends
115 [Are they “informed” of this? My breath and

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 “Fiery”? The “fiery” duke? Tell the hot duke that—
 No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
 Infirmity doth still neglect all office
120 Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves
 When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
 To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,
 And am fallen out with my more headier will,
 To take the indisposed and sickly fit
125 For the sound man. Noticing Kent again. Death on
 my state! Wherefore
 Should he sit here? This act persuades me
 That this remotion of the Duke and her
 Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
130 Go tell the Duke and ’s wife I’d speak with them.
 Now, presently, bid them come forth and hear me,
 Or at their chamber door I’ll beat the drum
 Till it cry sleep to death.
GLOUCESTER I would have all well betwixt you.
He exits.
135 O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!
FOOL Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels
 when she put ’em i’ th’ paste alive. She knapped
 ’em o’ th’ coxcombs with a stick and cried “Down,
 wantons, down!” ’Twas her brother that in pure
140 kindness to his horse buttered his hay.

Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, Servants.

LEAR Good morrow to you both.
CORNWALL Hail to your Grace.
Kent here set at liberty.
REGAN I am glad to see your Highness.
 Regan, I think you are. I know what reason
145 I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
 I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Sepulch’ring an adult’ress. To Kent. O, are you
 Some other time for that.—Belovèd Regan,
150 Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied
 Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.
 I can scarce speak to thee. Thou ’lt not believe
 With how depraved a quality—O Regan!
 I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
155 You less know how to value her desert
 Than she to scant her duty.
[LEAR  Say? How is that?
 I cannot think my sister in the least
 Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
160 She have restrained 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.
165 Nature in you stands on the very verge
 Of his confine. You should be ruled 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.
170 Say you have wronged her.
LEAR  Ask her forgiveness?
 Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
He kneels.
 “Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
 Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
175 That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
 Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks.
 Return you to my sister.

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

LEAR, rising  Never, Regan.
 She hath abated me of half my train,
180 Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue
 Most serpentlike upon the very heart.
 All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
 On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
 You taking airs, with lameness!
CORNWALL 185 Fie, sir, fie!
 You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
 Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
 You fen-sucked fogs drawn by the powerful sun
 To fall and blister!
190 O, the blest gods! So will you wish on me
 When the rash mood is on.
 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
195 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
200 Against my coming in. Thou better know’st
 The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
 Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude.
 Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot,
 Wherein I thee endowed.
REGAN 205 Good sir, to th’ purpose.
Tucket within.
 Who put my man i’ th’ stocks?
CORNWALL  What trumpet’s that?

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 I know ’t—my sister’s. This approves her letter,
 That she would soon be here.

Enter Oswald, the Steward.

210 Is your lady come?
 This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
 Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.—
 Out, varlet, from my sight!
CORNWALL  What means your Grace?
215 Who stocked my servant? Regan, I have good hope
 Thou didst not know on ’t.

Enter Goneril.

 Who comes here? O heavens,
 If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
 Allow obedience, if you yourselves are old,
220 Make it your cause. Send down and take my part.
 To Goneril. Art not ashamed to look upon this
 beard?Regan takes Goneril’s hand.
 O Regan, will you take her by the hand?
 Why not by th’ hand, sir? How have I offended?
225 All’s not offense that indiscretion finds
 And dotage terms so.
LEAR  O sides, you are too tough!
 Will you yet hold?—How came my man i’ th’
230 I set him there, sir, but his own disorders
 Deserved much less advancement.
LEAR  You? Did you?
 I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
 If till the expiration of your month

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

235 You will return and sojourn with my sister,
 Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
 I am now from home and out of that provision
 Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
 Return to her? And fifty men dismissed?
240 No! Rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
 To wage against the enmity o’ th’ air,
 To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,
 Necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her?
 Why the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
245 Our youngest born—I could as well be brought
 To knee his throne and, squire-like, pension beg
 To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
 Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
 To this detested groom.He indicates Oswald.
GONERIL 250 At your choice, sir.
 I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
 I will not trouble thee, my child. Farewell.
 We’ll no more meet, no more see one another.
 But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter,
255 Or, rather, a disease that’s in my flesh,
 Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil,
 A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle
 In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee.
 Let shame come when it will; I do not call it.
260 I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
 Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
 Mend when thou canst. Be better at thy leisure.
 I can be patient. I can stay with Regan,
 I and my hundred knights.
REGAN 265Not altogether so.
 I looked not for you yet, nor am provided
 For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister,
 For those that mingle reason with your passion

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Must be content to think you old, and so—
270 But she knows what she does.
LEAR  Is this well spoken?
 I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
 Is it not well? What should you need of more?
 Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
275 Speak ’gainst so great a number? How in one house
 Should many people under two commands
 Hold amity? ’Tis hard, almost impossible.
 Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
 From those that she calls servants, or from mine?
280 Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack
 We could control them. If you will come to me
 (For now I spy a danger), I entreat you
 To bring but five-and-twenty. To no more
285 Will I give place or notice.
LEAR I gave you all—
REGAN And in good time you gave it.
 Made you my guardians, my depositaries,
 But kept a reservation to be followed
290 With such a number. What, must I come to you
 With five-and-twenty? Regan, said you so?
 And speak ’t again, my lord. No more with me.
 Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favored
 When others are more wicked. Not being the worst
295 Stands in some rank of praise. To Goneril. I’ll go
 with thee.
 Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
 And thou art twice her love.
GONERIL  Hear me, my lord.

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

300 What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
 To follow in a house where twice so many
 Have a command to tend you?
REGAN  What need one?
 O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
305 Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
 Allow not nature more than nature needs,
 Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;
 If only to go warm were gorgeous,
 Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
310 Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true
 You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
 You see me here, you gods, a poor old man
 As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
315 If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts
 Against their father, fool me not so much
 To bear it tamely. Touch me with noble anger,
 And let not women’s weapons, water drops,
 Stain my man’s cheeks.—No, you unnatural hags,
320 I will have such revenges on you both
 That all the world shall—I will do such things—
 What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
 The terrors of the Earth! You think I’ll weep.
 No, I’ll not weep.
325 I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Storm and tempest.
 Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
 Or ere I’ll weep.—O Fool, I shall go mad!
Lear, Kent, and Fool exit
with Gloucester and the Gentleman.

CORNWALL Let us withdraw. ’Twill be a storm.
 This house is little. The old man and ’s people
330 Cannot be well bestowed.

King Lear
ACT 2. SC. 4

 ’Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,
 And must needs taste his folly.
 For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly,
 But not one follower.
335 So am I purposed. Where is my lord of Gloucester?
 Followed the old man forth.

Enter Gloucester.

 He is returned.
GLOUCESTER The King is in high rage.
[CORNWALL Whither is he going?
340 He calls to horse,] but will I know not whither.
 ’Tis best to give him way. He leads himself.
GONERIL, to Gloucester 
 My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
 Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
 Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
345 There’s scarce a bush.
REGAN  O sir, to willful men
 The injuries that they themselves procure
 Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
 He is attended with a desperate train,
350 And what they may incense him to, being apt
 To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
 Shut up your doors, my lord. ’Tis a wild night.
 My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.
They exit.