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An Antechamber in King Lear's Palace.
Enter Edmund. Edm. Thou, Nature, art my goddess ; to thy law My services are bound: why am I then Depriv'd of a son's right, because I came not In the dull road that custom has prescrib'd ? Why bastard ? Wherefore base? when I can beast A mind as gen'rous, and a shape as true As honest madam's issue? Why are we Held base, who, in the lusty stealth of nature Take fiercer qualities than what compound The scanted births of the stale marriage-bed ? Well then, legitimate Edgar, to thy right Of law I will oppose a bastard's cunning. Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund As to legitimate Edgar; with success I've practis'd yet on both their
natures. -Here comes the old man, chaf'd with the information, Which last I forg'd against my brother Edgar ; A tale so plausible, so boldly utter'd, And heighten'd by such lucky accidents, That now the slightest circumstance confirm's him, And base-born Edmund, spite of law, inherits.
Enter Kent and Gloster. Glost. Nay, good my Lord, your charity
O'ershoots itself, to plead in his behalf ;
You are yourself a father, and may feel
The sting of disobedience from a son
First-born and best-belov'd.—O, villain Edgar!
Kent. Be not too rash; all may be forgery,
And time yet clear the duty of your son.
Glost, Plead with the seas, and reason down the
winds, Yet shalt thou ne'er convince me: I have seen His foul designs through all a father's fondness.
Edm. It works as I cou'd wish ; I'll show myself. Glost. Ha, Edmund! welcome, boy.- Kent !
Inverted nature, Gloster's shame and glory :
This bye-born, the wild sally of my youth,
Pursues me with all filial offices;
Whilst Edgar, begg'd of Heaven, and born in honour,
Draws, plagues upon my head, that urge me still
To curse in age the pleasure of my youth.
Nay, -weep not, Edmund, for thy brother's crimes.
O gen'rous boy! thou shar'st but half his blood,
Yet-lov'st beyond the kindness of a brother :
But I'll reward thy virtue. Follow me.
My lord, you wait the King, who comes resolv'd
To quit the toils of empire, and divide
His realms amongst his daughters. Heav'n succeed it!
But much I fear the change.
Kent. I grieve to see him.
With such wild starts of passion hourly seiz'd,
As render majesty beneath itself.
Glost. Alas! 'tis the infirmity of his age :
Yet has his temper ever been unfixt,
Cholric, and sudden.
[Flourish of Trumpets. Hark, they approach.
[Exeunt Gloster, Kent, and Edmund.
Enter Cordelia and Edgar.
Edg. Cordelia, royal fair, turn yet, once more,
And, ere successful Burgundy receive
The treasure of thy beauties from the King,
Ere happy Burgundy for ever fold thee,
Cast back one pitying look on wretched Edgar.
Cord. Alas! what wou'd the wretched Edgar with
The more unfortunate Cordelia,
Who, in obedience to a father's will,
Flies from her Edgar's arms to Burgundy's?
A Room of State in the Palace.
Flourish of Trumpets—Drums.
King Lear upon his Throne.
Albany, Cornwall, Burgundy, Kent, Gloster,
Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, Captain of the Guard, Knights, Pages, Gentleman with the Map, Gentleman with the Crown, LORDS, LADIES, &c. &c. discovered.
Lear. Attend, my lords of Albany and Cornwall, With princely Burgundy.
Alb. We do, my liege.
Lear. Give me the map.—Know, Lords, we have
In three our kingdom, having now resolv'd
To disengage from our long toil of state,
Conferring all upon your younger years.
You, Burgundy, Cornwall, and Albany,
Long in our court have made your amorous sojourn,
And now are to be answer'd.--Tell me, my daughters,
Which of you loves us most, that we may place
Our largest bounty with the largest merit.
Goneril, our eldest born, speak first.
Gon. Sir, I do love you more than words can utter,
Beyond what can be valu'd rich or rare;
Nor liberty, nor sight, health, fame, or beauty,
Are half so dear; my life for you were vile;
As much as child can love the best of fathers.
Lear. Of all these bounds, e'en from this line to
With shady forests, and wide skirted meads,
We make thee lady; to thine and Albany's issue
Be this perpetual.—What says our second daughter,
Regan, wife to Cornwall?
Reg. My sister, sir, in part, exprest my love;
For such as hers, is mine, though more extended :
Sense has no other joy that I can relish;
I have my all in my dear liege's love.
Lear. Therefore, to thee and thine hereditary,
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom.
Cord. Now comes my trial.—How am I distrest,
That must with cold speech tempt the cholric king,
Rather to leave me dowerless, than condemn me
To Burgundy's embraces !
Lear. Speak now our last, not least in our dear
So ends my task of state,—Cordelia, speak;
What canst thou say to win a richer third,
Than what thy sisters gain'd ?
Cord, Now must my love in words, fall short of
As much as it exceeds in truth.—Nothing, my Lord.
Lear. Nothing ?
Lear. Nothing can come of nothing; speak again.
Cord. Unhappy am I that I can't dissemble:
Sir, as I ought, I love your Majesty,
more, nor less.
Lear. Take heed, Cordelia ;
Thy fortunes are at stake; think better on't,
And mend thy speech a little.
Cord. O my liege!
You gave me being, bred me, dearly love me,
And I return my duty as I ought,
and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they love you all!
Haply when I shall wed, the lord, whose hand
Shall take my plight, will carry half my love;
For I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.
Lear. And goes thy heart with this?
"Tis said that I am cholric. Judge me, gods,
is there not cause ? Now, minion, I perceive
The truth of what has been suggested to us,
Thy fondness for the rebel son of Gloster.
And, oh! take heed, rash girl, lest we comply
With thy fond wishes, which thou wilt too late
Repent, for know, our nature cannot brook
A child so young and so ungentle.
Cord. So young, my lord, and true.
Lear. Thy truth then be thy dower;
For, by the sacred sun and solemn night,
I here disclaim all my paternal care,
And, from this minute, hold thee as a stranger
Both to my blood and favour.
Kent. This is phrenzy.
Consider, good my liege-
Lear. Peace, Kent;
Come not between a dragon and his rage.
I lo»'d her most, and in her tender trust
Design'd to have bestow'd mine age at ease.
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
My heart from her, and with it all my
My Lords of Cornwall and of Albany,
į do invest you jointly with full right