List iconKing Lear:
Act 3, scene 4
List icon

King Lear
Act 3, 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, Kent in disguise, and Fool.

 Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter.
 The tyranny of the open night ’s too rough
 For nature to endure.Storm still.
LEAR  Let me alone.
5 Good my lord, enter here.
LEAR  Wilt break my heart?
 I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.
 Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
 Invades us to the skin. So ’tis to thee.
10 But where the greater malady is fixed,
 The lesser is scarce felt. Thou ’dst shun a bear,
 But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 4

 Thou ’dst meet the bear i’ th’ mouth. When the
 mind’s free,
15 The body’s delicate. This tempest in my mind
 Doth from my senses take all feeling else
 Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
 Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
 For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home.
20 No, I will weep no more. [In such a night
 To shut me out? Pour on. I will endure.]
 In such a night as this? O Regan, Goneril,
 Your old kind father whose frank heart gave all!
 O, that way madness lies. Let me shun that;
25 No more of that.
KENT  Good my lord, enter here.
 Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease.
 This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
 On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.—
30 [In, boy; go first.—You houseless poverty—
 Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.]
Fool exits.
 Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
 That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
 How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
35 Your looped and windowed raggedness defend
 From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
 Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
 Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
40 That thou may’st shake the superflux to them
 And show the heavens more just.
[EDGAR within Fathom and half, fathom and half!
 Poor Tom!

Enter Fool.]

FOOL Come not in here, nuncle; here’s a spirit. Help
45 me, help me!

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 4

KENT Give me thy hand. Who’s there?
FOOL A spirit, a spirit! He says his name’s Poor Tom.
KENT What art thou that dost grumble there i’ th’
 straw? Come forth.

Enter Edgar in disguise.

EDGAR 50Away. The foul fiend follows me. Through the
 sharp hawthorn blows the cold wind. Hum! Go to
 thy cold bed and warm thee.
LEAR Didst thou give all to thy daughters? And art thou
 come to this?
EDGAR 55Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the
 foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame,
 through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire;
 that hath laid knives under his pillow and
 halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge,
60 made him proud of heart to ride on a bay trotting
 horse over four-inched bridges to course his own
 shadow for a traitor? Bless thy five wits! Tom’s
 a-cold. O, do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from
 whirlwinds, star-blasting, and taking! Do Poor Tom
65 some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes. There
 could I have him now, and there—and there again
 —and there.Storm still.
 Has his daughters brought him to this pass?—
 Couldst thou save nothing? Wouldst thou give ’em
70 all?
FOOL Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all
 Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
 Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!
KENT 75He hath no daughters, sir.
 Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature
 To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 4

 Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
 Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
80 Judicious punishment! ’Twas this flesh begot
 Those pelican daughters.
EDGAR Pillicock sat on Pillicock Hill. Alow, alow, loo,
FOOL This cold night will turn us all to fools and
85 madmen.
EDGAR Take heed o’ th’ foul fiend. Obey thy parents,
 keep thy word’s justice, swear not, commit not with
 man’s sworn spouse, set not thy sweet heart on
 proud array. Tom’s a-cold.
LEAR 90What hast thou been?
EDGAR A servingman, proud in heart and mind, that
 curled my hair, wore gloves in my cap, served the
 lust of my mistress’ heart and did the act of
 darkness with her, swore as many oaths as I spake
95 words and broke them in the sweet face of heaven;
 one that slept in the contriving of lust and waked to
 do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly, and in
 woman out-paramoured the Turk. False of heart,
 light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in
100 stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in
 prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling
 of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy
 foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy
 pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend.
105 Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind;
 says suum, mun, nonny. Dolphin my boy, boy, sessa!
 Let him trot by.Storm still.
LEAR Thou wert better in a grave than to answer with
 thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.—Is
110 man no more than this? Consider him well.—Thou
 ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
 no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha, here’s three on ’s
 are sophisticated. Thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated
 man is no more but such a poor, bare,

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 4

115 forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings!
 Come, unbutton here.Tearing off his clothes.
FOOL Prithee, nuncle, be contented. ’Tis a naughty
 night to swim in. Now, a little fire in a wild field
 were like an old lecher’s heart—a small spark, all
120 the rest on ’s body cold.

Enter Gloucester, with a torch.

 Look, here comes a walking fire.
EDGAR This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet. He begins
 at curfew and walks till the first cock. He
 gives the web and the pin, squints the eye, and
125 makes the harelip, mildews the white wheat, and
 hurts the poor creature of earth.
 Swithold footed thrice the ’old,
 He met the nightmare and her ninefold,
  Bid her alight,
130  And her troth plight,
 And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee.

KENT How fares your Grace?
LEAR What’s he?
KENT Who’s there? What is ’t you seek?
GLOUCESTER 135What are you there? Your names?
EDGAR Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the
 toad, the tadpole, the wall newt, and the water;
 that, in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend
 rages, eats cow dung for sallets, swallows the old
140 rat and the ditch-dog, drinks the green mantle of
 the standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to
 tithing, and stocked, punished, and imprisoned;
 who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to
 his body,
145 Horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
 But mice and rats and such small deer
 Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 4

 Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin! Peace, thou
150 What, hath your Grace no better company?
EDGAR The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. Modo
 he’s called, and Mahu.
 Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile
 That it doth hate what gets it.
EDGAR 155Poor Tom’s a-cold.
 Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer
 T’ obey in all your daughters’ hard commands.
 Though their injunction be to bar my doors
 And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
160 Yet have I ventured to come seek you out
 And bring you where both fire and food is ready.
 First let me talk with this philosopher.
 To Edgar. What is the cause of thunder?
 Good my lord, take his offer; go into th’ house.
165 I’ll talk a word with this same learnèd Theban.—
 What is your study?
EDGAR How to prevent the fiend and to kill vermin.
LEAR Let me ask you one word in private.
They talk aside.
KENT, to Gloucester 
 Importune him once more to go, my lord.
170 His wits begin t’ unsettle.
GLOUCESTER  Canst thou blame him?
Storm still.
 His daughters seek his death. Ah, that good Kent!
 He said it would be thus, poor banished man.
 Thou sayest the King grows mad; I’ll tell thee,
175 friend,

King Lear
ACT 3. SC. 5

 I am almost mad myself. I had a son,
 Now outlawed from my blood. He sought my life
 But lately, very late. I loved him, friend,
 No father his son dearer. True to tell thee,
180 The grief hath crazed my wits. What a night’s this!
 —I do beseech your Grace—
LEAR O, cry you mercy, sir.
 To Edgar. Noble philosopher, your company.
EDGAR Tom’s a-cold.
185 In fellow, there, into th’ hovel. Keep thee warm.
LEAR Come, let’s in all.
KENT  This way, my lord.
LEAR, indicating Edgar  With him.
 I will keep still with my philosopher.
KENT, to Gloucester 
190 Good my lord, soothe him. Let him take the fellow.
GLOUCESTER, to Kent Take him you on.
KENT, to Edgar 
 Sirrah, come on: go along with us.
LEAR Come, good Athenian.
GLOUCESTER No words, no words. Hush.
195 Child Rowland to the dark tower came.
 His word was still “Fie, foh, and fum,
 I smell the blood of a British man.”

They exit.