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King Lear
Act 4, scene 1

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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 1
Enter Edgar in disguise.

EDGAR 
 Yet better thus, and known to be contemned,
 Than still contemned and flattered. To be worst,
 The lowest and most dejected thing of Fortune,
 Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear.
5 The lamentable change is from the best;
 The worst returns to laughter. [Welcome, then,
 Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace.
 The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
 Owes nothing to thy blasts.] But who comes here?

Enter Gloucester and an old man.

10 My father, poorly led? World, world, O world,
 But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee,
 Life would not yield to age.
OLD MAN 
 O my good lord, I have been your tenant
 And your father’s tenant these fourscore years.
GLOUCESTER 
15 Away, get thee away. Good friend, begone.
 Thy comforts can do me no good at all;
 Thee they may hurt.
OLD MAN  You cannot see your way.
171

173
King Lear
ACT 4. SC. 1

GLOUCESTER 
 I have no way and therefore want no eyes.
20 I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen
 Our means secure us, and our mere defects
 Prove our commodities. O dear son Edgar,
 The food of thy abusèd father’s wrath,
 Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
25 I’d say I had eyes again.
OLD MAN  How now? Who’s there?
EDGAR, aside 
 O gods, who is ’t can say “I am at the worst”?
 I am worse than e’er I was.
OLD MAN  ’Tis poor mad Tom.
EDGAR, aside 
30 And worse I may be yet. The worst is not
 So long as we can say “This is the worst.”
OLD MAN 
 Fellow, where goest?
GLOUCESTER  Is it a beggar-man?
OLD MAN Madman and beggar too.
GLOUCESTER 
35 He has some reason, else he could not beg.
 I’ th’ last night’s storm, I such a fellow saw,
 Which made me think a man a worm. My son
 Came then into my mind, and yet my mind
 Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard
40 more since.
 As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods;
 They kill us for their sport.
EDGAR, aside  How should this be?
 Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow,
45 Ang’ring itself and others.—Bless thee, master.
GLOUCESTER 
 Is that the naked fellow?
OLD MAN  Ay, my lord.
GLOUCESTER 
 Then, prithee, get thee away. If for my sake

175
King Lear
ACT 4. SC. 1

 Thou wilt o’ertake us hence a mile or twain
50 I’ th’ way toward Dover, do it for ancient love,
 And bring some covering for this naked soul,
 Which I’ll entreat to lead me.
OLD MAN Alack, sir, he is mad.
GLOUCESTER 
 ’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.
55 Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure.
 Above the rest, begone.
OLD MAN 
 I’ll bring him the best ’parel that I have,
 Come on ’t what will.He exits.
GLOUCESTER  Sirrah, naked fellow—
EDGAR 
60 Poor Tom’s a-cold. Aside. I cannot daub it further.
GLOUCESTER Come hither, fellow.
EDGAR, aside 
 And yet I must.—Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed.
GLOUCESTER Know’st thou the way to Dover?
EDGAR Both stile and gate, horseway and footpath.
65 Poor Tom hath been scared out of his good wits.
 Bless thee, good man’s son, from the foul fiend.
 Five fiends have been in Poor Tom at once: of lust,
 as Obidicut; Hobbididance, prince of dumbness;
 Mahu, of stealing; Modo, of murder; Flibbertigibbet,
70 of mopping and mowing, who since possesses
 chambermaids and waiting women. So, bless
 thee, master.
GLOUCESTER, giving him money 
 Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens’
 plagues
75 Have humbled to all strokes. That I am wretched
 Makes thee the happier. Heavens, deal so still:
 Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
 That slaves your ordinance, that will not see
 Because he does not feel, feel your power quickly.

177
King Lear
ACT 4. SC. 2

80 So distribution should undo excess
 And each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?
EDGAR Ay, master.
GLOUCESTER 
 There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
 Looks fearfully in the confinèd deep.
85 Bring me but to the very brim of it,
 And I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear
 With something rich about me. From that place
 I shall no leading need.
EDGAR  Give me thy arm.
90 Poor Tom shall lead thee.
They exit.