List iconKing Lear:
Act 5, scene 3
List icon

King Lear
Act 5, scene 3



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 3
Enter in conquest, with Drum and Colors, Edmund;
Lear and Cordelia as prisoners; Soldiers, Captain.

 Some officers take them away. Good guard
 Until their greater pleasures first be known
 That are to censure them.
CORDELIA, to Lear  We are not the first
5 Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
 For thee, oppressèd king, I am cast down.
 Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown.
 Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
 No, no, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison.
10 We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ cage.
 When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
 And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
 And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
 At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
15 Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too—
 Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out—
 And take upon ’s the mystery of things,
 As if we were God’s spies. And we’ll wear out,
 In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
20 That ebb and flow by th’ moon.
EDMUND  Take them away.
 Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

 The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught
25 He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven
 And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.
 The good years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
 Ere they shall make us weep. We’ll see ’em starved
30 Come.
Lear and Cordelia exit, with Soldiers.
EDMUND Come hither, captain. Hark.
Handing him a paper.
 Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison.
 One step I have advanced thee. If thou dost
 As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
35 To noble fortunes. Know thou this: that men
 Are as the time is; to be tender-minded
 Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
 Will not bear question. Either say thou ’lt do ’t,
 Or thrive by other means.
CAPTAIN 40 I’ll do ’t, my lord.
 About it, and write “happy” when th’ hast done.
 Mark, I say, instantly, and carry it so
 As I have set it down.
 I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats.
45 If it be man’s work, I’ll do ’t.Captain exits.

Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Soldiers and a

ALBANY, to Edmund 
 Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain,
 And Fortune led you well. You have the captives
 Who were the opposites of this day’s strife.
 I do require them of you, so to use them
50 As we shall find their merits and our safety
 May equally determine.

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

EDMUND Sir, I thought it fit
 To send the old and miserable king
 To some retention and appointed guard,
55 Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
 To pluck the common bosom on his side
 And turn our impressed lances in our eyes,
 Which do command them. With him I sent the
60 My reason all the same, and they are ready
 Tomorrow, or at further space, t’ appear
 Where you shall hold your session. At this time
 We sweat and bleed. The friend hath lost his friend,
 And the best quarrels in the heat are cursed
65 By those that feel their sharpness.
 The question of Cordelia and her father
 Requires a fitter place.
ALBANY  Sir, by your patience,
 I hold you but a subject of this war,
70 Not as a brother.
REGAN  That’s as we list to grace him.
 Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded
 Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
 Bore the commission of my place and person,
75 The which immediacy may well stand up
 And call itself your brother.
GONERIL  Not so hot.
 In his own grace he doth exalt himself
 More than in your addition.
REGAN 80 In my rights,
 By me invested, he compeers the best.
 That were the most if he should husband you.
 Jesters do oft prove prophets.
GONERIL  Holla, holla!
85 That eye that told you so looked but asquint.

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

 Lady, I am not well, else I should answer
 From a full-flowing stomach. To Edmund.
 Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
90 [Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.]
 Witness the world that I create thee here
 My lord and master.
GONERIL  Mean you to enjoy him?
 The let-alone lies not in your goodwill.
95 Nor in thine, lord.
ALBANY  Half-blooded fellow, yes.
REGAN, to Edmund 
 Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
 Stay yet, hear reason.—Edmund, I arrest thee
 On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
100 This gilded serpent.—For your claim, fair
 I bar it in the interest of my wife.
 ’Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
 And I, her husband, contradict your banns.
105 If you will marry, make your loves to me.
 My lady is bespoke.
[GONERIL  An interlude!]
 Thou art armed, Gloucester. Let the trumpet sound.
 If none appear to prove upon thy person
110 Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
 There is my pledge.He throws down a glove.
 I’ll make it on thy heart,
 Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
 Than I have here proclaimed thee.

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

REGAN 115Sick, O, sick!
GONERIL, aside If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.
 There’s my exchange.He throws down a glove.
 What in the world he is
 That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
120 Call by the trumpet. He that dares approach,
 On him, on you, who not, I will maintain
 My truth and honor firmly.
 A herald, ho!
EDMUND  A herald, ho, a herald!
125 Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers,
 All levied in my name, have in my name
 Took their discharge.
REGAN  My sickness grows upon me.
 She is not well. Convey her to my tent.
Regan is helped to exit.

Enter a Herald.

130 Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound,
 And read out this.He hands the Herald a paper.
CAPTAIN Sound, trumpet!
A trumpet sounds.
HERALD reads. 
 If any man of quality or degree, within the lists of the
 army, will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of
135 Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him
 appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in
 his defense.
[First trumpet sounds.
HERALD Again!Second trumpet sounds.
HERALD Again!Third trumpet sounds.
Trumpet answers within.]

Enter Edgar armed.

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

ALBANY, to Herald 
140 Ask him his purposes, why he appears
 Upon this call o’ th’ trumpet.
HERALD  What are you?
 Your name, your quality, and why you answer
 This present summons?
EDGAR 145 Know my name is lost,
 By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit.
 Yet am I noble as the adversary
 I come to cope.
ALBANY  Which is that adversary?
150 What’s he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of
 Himself. What sayest thou to him?
EDGAR  Draw thy sword,
 That if my speech offend a noble heart,
155 Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
He draws his sword.
 Behold, it is my privilege, the privilege of mine
 My oath, and my profession. I protest,
 Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
160 Despite thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
 Thy valor, and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
 False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
 Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince,
 And from th’ extremest upward of thy head
165 To the descent and dust below thy foot,
 A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “no,”
 This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
 To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
 Thou liest.
EDMUND 170 In wisdom I should ask thy name,
 But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

 And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
 [What safe and nicely I might well delay]
 By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
175 Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
 With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,
 Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
 This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
 Where they shall rest forever. Trumpets, speak!
He draws his sword. Alarums. Fights.
Edmund falls, wounded.
ALBANY, to Edgar 
180 Save him, save him!
GONERIL  This is practice, Gloucester.
 By th’ law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
 An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
 But cozened and beguiled.
ALBANY 185 Shut your mouth, dame,
 Or with this paper shall I stopple it.—Hold, sir.—
 Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
 No tearing, lady. I perceive you know it.
 Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
190 Who can arraign me for ’t?
ALBANY  Most monstrous! O!
 Know’st thou this paper?
GONERIL  Ask me not what I know.
She exits.
 Go after her, she’s desperate. Govern her.
A Soldier exits.
EDMUND, to Edgar 
195 What you have charged me with, that have I done,
 And more, much more. The time will bring it out.
 ’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
 That hast this fortune on me? If thou ’rt noble,
 I do forgive thee.

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

EDGAR 200 Let’s exchange charity.
 I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
 If more, the more th’ hast wronged me.
 My name is Edgar and thy father’s son.
 The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
205 Make instruments to plague us.
 The dark and vicious place where thee he got
 Cost him his eyes.
EDMUND  Th’ hast spoken right. ’Tis true.
 The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
ALBANY, to Edgar 
210 Methought thy very gait did prophesy
 A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
 Let sorrow split my heart if ever I
 Did hate thee or thy father!
EDGAR Worthy prince, I know ’t.
ALBANY 215Where have you hid yourself?
 How have you known the miseries of your father?
 By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
 And when ’tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
 The bloody proclamation to escape
220 That followed me so near—O, our lives’ sweetness,
 That we the pain of death would hourly die
 Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
 Into a madman’s rags, t’ assume a semblance
 That very dogs disdained, and in this habit
225 Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
 Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
 Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair.
 Never—O fault!—revealed myself unto him
 Until some half hour past, when I was armed.
230 Not sure, though hoping of this good success,
 I asked his blessing, and from first to last
 Told him our pilgrimage. But his flawed heart
 (Alack, too weak the conflict to support)

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

 ’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
235 Burst smilingly.
EDMUND  This speech of yours hath moved me,
 And shall perchance do good. But speak you on.
 You look as you had something more to say.
 If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
240 For I am almost ready to dissolve,
 Hearing of this.
EDGAR  This would have seemed a period
 To such as love not sorrow; but another,
 To amplify too much, would make much more
245 And top extremity. Whilst I
 Was big in clamor, came there in a man
 Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
 Shunned my abhorred society; but then, finding
 Who ’twas that so endured, with his strong arms
250 He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
 As he’d burst heaven, threw him on my father,
 Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
 That ever ear received, which, in recounting,
 His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
255 Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
 And there I left him tranced.
ALBANY  But who was this?
 Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise
 Followed his enemy king and did him service
260 Improper for a slave.

Enter a Gentleman with a bloody knife.

 Help, help, O, help!
EDGAR  What kind of help?
[ALBANY, to Gentleman  Speak, man!]
EDGAR What means this bloody knife?

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

265 ’Tis hot, it smokes! It came even from the heart
 Of—O, she’s dead!
ALBANY Who dead? Speak, man.
 Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister
 By her is poisoned. She confesses it.
270 I was contracted to them both. All three
 Now marry in an instant.
[EDGAR  Here comes Kent.

Enter Kent.]

ALBANY, to the Gentleman 
 Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
Gentleman exits.
 This judgment of the heavens, that makes us
275 tremble,
 Touches us not with pity. O, is this he?
 To Kent. The time will not allow the compliment
 Which very manners urges.
KENT  I am come
280 To bid my king and master aye goodnight.
 Is he not here?
ALBANY  Great thing of us forgot!
 Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s
Goneril and Regan’s bodies brought out.
285 Seest thou this object, Kent?
KENT Alack, why thus?
EDMUND Yet Edmund was beloved.
 The one the other poisoned for my sake,
 And after slew herself.
ALBANY 290Even so.—Cover their faces.
 I pant for life. Some good I mean to do

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

 Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send—
 Be brief in it—to th’ castle, for my writ
 Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.
295 Nay, send in time.
ALBANY  Run, run, O, run!
 To who, my lord? To Edmund. Who has the office?
 Thy token of reprieve.
300 Well thought on. Take my sword. Give it the
EDGAR, to a Soldier Haste thee for thy life.
The Soldier exits with Edmund’s sword.
EDMUND, to Albany 
 He hath commission from thy wife and me
 To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
305 To lay the blame upon her own despair,
 That she fordid herself.
 The gods defend her!—Bear him hence awhile.
Edmund is carried off.

Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms,
followed by a Gentleman.

 Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
 Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
310 That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone
 I know when one is dead and when one lives.
 She’s dead as earth.—Lend me a looking glass.
 If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
315 Why, then she lives.
KENT  Is this the promised end?
 Or image of that horror?

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

ALBANY  Fall and cease.
 This feather stirs. She lives. If it be so,
320 It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
 That ever I have felt.
KENT  O, my good master—
 Prithee, away.
EDGAR  ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
325 A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
 I might have saved her. Now she’s gone forever.—
 Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
 What is ’t thou sayst?—Her voice was ever soft,
 Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
330 I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.
 ’Tis true, my lords, he did.
LEAR  Did I not, fellow?
 I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
 I would have made him skip. I am old now,
335 And these same crosses spoil me. To Kent. Who
 are you?
 Mine eyes are not o’ th’ best. I’ll tell you straight.
 If Fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
 One of them we behold.
340 This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
KENT  The same,
 Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
 He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that.
 He’ll strike and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.
345 No, my good lord, I am the very man—

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

LEAR I’ll see that straight.
 That from your first of difference and decay
 Have followed your sad steps.
LEAR  You are welcome
350 hither.
 Nor no man else. All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
 Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
 And desperately are dead.
LEAR  Ay, so I think.
355 He knows not what he says, and vain is it
 That we present us to him.
EDGAR  Very bootless.

Enter a Messenger.

MESSENGER Edmund is dead, my lord.
ALBANY That’s but a trifle here.—
360 You lords and noble friends, know our intent:
 What comfort to this great decay may come
 Shall be applied. For us, we will resign,
 During the life of this old Majesty,
 To him our absolute power; you to your rights,
365 With boot and such addition as your Honors
 Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
 The wages of their virtue, and all foes
 The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
 And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life?
370 Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
 And thou no breath at all? Thou ’lt come no more,
 Never, never, never, never, never.—
 Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir.
 [Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
375 Look there, look there!He dies.]

King Lear
ACT 5. SC. 3

EDGAR  He faints. To Lear. My lord,
 my lord!
 Break, heart, I prithee, break!
EDGAR  Look up, my lord.
380 Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! He hates him
 That would upon the rack of this tough world
 Stretch him out longer.
EDGAR  He is gone indeed.
 The wonder is he hath endured so long.
385 He but usurped his life.
 Bear them from hence. Our present business
 Is general woe. To Edgar and Kent. Friends of my
 soul, you twain
 Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.
390 I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
 My master calls me. I must not say no.
 The weight of this sad time we must obey,
 Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
 The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
395 Shall never see so much nor live so long.
They exit with a dead march.