Act I - Scene I

King Lear's palace.

[Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund]

KENT:
I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
GLOUCESTER:
It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division
of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values
most; for equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither(5)
can make choice of either's moiety.
KENT:
Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER:
His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.(10)
KENT:
I cannot conceive you.
GLOUCESTER:
Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon
she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her
cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a
fault?(15)
KENT:
I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so
proper.
GLOUCESTER:
But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder
than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this
knave came something saucily into the world before he was(20)
sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his
making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you
know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
EDMUND:
No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER:
My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my(25)
honorable friend.
EDMUND:
My services to your lordship.
KENT:
I must love you, and sue to know you better.
EDMUND:
Sir, I shall study deserving.
GLOUCESTER:
He hath been out nine years, and away he shall(30)
again. The king is coming.

[Enter King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and Attendants]

KING LEAR:
Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,
Gloucester.
GLOUCESTER:
I shall, my liege.

[Exeunt Gloucester and Edmund]

KING LEAR:
Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.(35)
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,(40)
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,(45)
Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters,—
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,—(50)
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.
GONERIL:
Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; (55)
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;(60)
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA:
[aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

LEAR:
Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,(65)
With shadowy forests and with champains riched,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany's issue
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.(70)
REGAN:
Sir, I am made
Of the self-same mettle that my sister is,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess(75)
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses;
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love.
CORDELIA:
[aside] Then poor Cordelia!(80)
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's
More richer than my tongue.

KING LEAR:
To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,(85)
Than that conferred on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interest; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.(90)
CORDELIA:
Nothing, my lord.
KING LEAR:
Nothing!
CORDELIA:
Nothing.
KING LEAR:
Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
CORDELIA:
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave(95)
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.
KING LEAR:
How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA:
Good my lord,(100)
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honor you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,(105)
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.
KING LEAR:
But goes thy heart with this?(110)
CORDELIA:
Ay, good my lord.
KING LEAR:
So young, and so untender?
CORDELIA:
So young, my lord, and true.
KING LEAR:
Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,(115)
The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,(120)
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbored, pitied, and relieved,(125)
As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT:
Good my liege,—
KING LEAR:
Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved her most, and thought to set my rest(130)
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father's heart from her! Call France; who stirs?
Call Burgundy, Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters' dowers digest this third:(135)
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,(140)
By you to be sustained, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name, and all the additions to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,(145)
This coronet part betwixt you.
KENT:
Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honored as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master followed,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,—(150)
KING LEAR:
The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.
KENT:
Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly,
When Lear is mad. What wilt thou do, old man?
Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,(155)
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor's bound,
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
And, in thy best consideration, check
This hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;(160)
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
KING LEAR:
Kent, on thy life, no more.
KENT:
My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it,(165)
Thy safety being the motive.
KING LEAR:
Out of my sight!
KENT:
See better, Lear; and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.
KING LEAR:
Now, by Apollo,—(170)
KENT:
Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.
KING LEAR:
O, vassal! miscreant! [laying his hand on his sword]
ALBANY, CORNWALL:
Dear sir, forbear!
KENT:
Do!(175)
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom;
Or, whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,
I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
KING LEAR:
Hear me, recreant!(180)
On thine allegiance, hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride
To come between our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,(185)
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days we do allot thee, for provision
To shield thee from diseases of the world;
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,(190)
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.
KENT:
Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.(195)
[to Cordelia] The gods to their dear shelter take thee,maid,
That justly think'st, and hast most rightly said!
[to Regan and Goneril] And your large speeches may your deeds approve,(200)
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;
He'll shape his old course in a country new.

[Exit Kent. Flourish. Re-enter Gloucester, with France, Burgundy, and Attendants]

GLOUCESTER:
Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
KING LEAR:
My lord of Burgundy.(205)
We first address towards you, who with this king
Hath rivalled for our daughter: what, in the least,
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY:
Most royal majesty,(210)
I crave no more than what your highness offered,
Nor will you tender less.
KING LEAR:
Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands:(215)
If aught within that little seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced,
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,
She's there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY:
I know no answer.(220)
KING LEAR:
Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
Dowered with our curse, and strangered with our oath,
Take her, or leave her?
BURGUNDY:
Pardon me, royal sir;(225)
Election makes not up on such conditions.
KING LEAR:
Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.
[to France] For you, great king,(230)
I would not from your love make such a stray,
To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed
Almost to acknowledge hers.(235)
FRANCE:
This is most strange,
That she, that even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle(240)
So many folds of favor. Sure, her offense
Must be of such unnatural degree,
That monsters it, or your fore-vouched affection
Fall'n into taint: which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle(245)
Could never plant in me.
CORDELIA:
I yet beseech your majesty,—
If for I want that glib and oily art,
To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend,
I'll do't before I speak,—that you make known(250)
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action, or dishonored step,
That hath deprived me of your grace and favor;
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue(255)
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
KING LEAR:
Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better.
FRANCE:
Is it but this,—a tardiness in nature(260)
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love's not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?(265)
She is herself a dowry.
BURGUNDY:
Royal Lear,
Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.(270)
KING LEAR:
Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
BURGUNDY:
I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA:
Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,(275)
I shall not be his wife.
FRANCE:
Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised!
Thee and thy virtues here seize upon:
Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.(280)
Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect.
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy(285)
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
KING LEAR:
Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see(290)
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.

[Flourish. Exeunt all but King of France, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia]

FRANCE:
Bid farewell to your sisters.
CORDELIA:
The jewels of our father, with washed eyes(295)
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Use well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him.
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,(300)
I would prefer him to a better place.
So, farewell to you both.
REGAN:
Prescribe not us our duties.
GONERIL:
Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath received you(305)
At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
CORDELIA:
Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides:
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!(310)
FRANCE:
Come, my fair Cordelia.

[Exeunt King of France and Cordelia]

GONERIL:
Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly
appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.
REGAN:
That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
GONERIL:
You see how full of changes his age is; the observation(315)
we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our
sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast
her off appears too grossly.
REGAN:
'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he
hath ever but slenderly known himself.(320)
GONERIL:
The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash;
then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the
imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal
the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.(325)
REGAN:
Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as
this of Kent's banishment.
GONERIL:
There is further compliment of leavetaking between
France and him. Pray you, let's hit together: if our father
carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us. (330)
REGAN:
We shall further think on 't.
GONERIL:
We must do something, and i' the heat.

[Exeunt]