Act II - Scene II

Before Gloucester's castle.

[Enter Kent and Oswald, severally]

Good dawning to thee, friend: art of this house?
Where may we set our horses?
I' the mire.
Prithee, if thou lovest me, tell me.(5)
I love thee not.
Why, then, I care not for thee.
If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make thee care for me.
Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.(10)
Fellow, I know thee.
What dost thou know me for?
A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base,
proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy,
worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave,(15)
a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in
way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of
a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a
mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining,
if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.
Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on
one that is neither known of thee nor knows thee!
What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou
knowest me! Is it two days ago since I tripped up thy heels,(25)
and beat thee before the king? Draw, you rogue: for, though
it be night, yet the moon shines; I'll make a sop o' the
moonshine of you: draw, you whoreson cullionly barbermonger, draw!

[Drawing his sword]

Away! I have nothing to do with thee.(30)
Draw, you rascal: you come with letters against the king;
and take vanity the puppet's part against the royalty of her
father: draw, you rogue, or I'll so carbonado your shanks:
draw, you rascal; come your ways.
Help, ho! murder! help!(35)

[Enter Edmund, with his rapier drawn, Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, and Servants]

Strike, you slave; stand, rogue, stand; you neat slave, strike! [beating him]
Help, ho! murder! murder!
How now! What's the matter? Part.(40)
With you, goodman boy, an you please: come, I'll flesh
ye; come on, young master.
Weapons! arms! What's the matter here?
Keep peace, upon your lives:
He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?(45)
The messengers from our sister and the king.
What is your difference? Speak.
I am scarce in breath, my lord.
No marvel, you have so bestirred your valor. You
cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee: a tailor made thee. (50)
Thou art a strange fellow: a tailor make a man?
Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone-cutter or painter could not have made him so ill, though he had been but two hours at the trade.(55)
Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at
suit of his gray beard,—
Thou whoreson zed! Thou unnecessary letter! My
lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted(60)
villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with
him. Spare my gray beard, you wagtail?
Peace, sirrah!
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
Yes, sir; but anger hath a privilege.(65)
Why art thou angry?
That such a slave as this should wear a sword,
Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse to unloose; smooth every passion(70)
That in the natures of their lords rebel;
Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,(75)
Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
I'ld drive ye cackling home to Camelot.(80)
Why, art thou mad, old fellow?
How fell you out? say that.
No contraries hold more antipathy
Than I and such a knave.
Why dost thou call him a knave? What's his offense?(85)
His countenance likes me not.
No more, perchance, does mine, nor his, nor hers.
Sir, 'tis my occupation to be plain:
I have seen better faces in my time(90)
Than stands on any shoulder that I see
Before me at this instant.
This is some fellow,
Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect
A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb(95)
Quite from his nature: he cannot flatter, he,
An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth!
An they will take it, so; if not, he's plain.
These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness
Harbor more craft and more corrupter ends(100)
Than twenty silly ducking observants
That stretch their duties nicely.
Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity,
Under the allowance of your great aspect,
Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire(105)
On flickering Phoebus' front,—
What mean'st by this?
To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much.
I know, sir, I am no flatterer: he that beguiled you in a plain
accent was a plain knave; which for my part I will not be,(110)
though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to 't.
What was the offence you gave him?
I never gave him any:
It pleased the king his master very late
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;(115)
When he, conjunct and flattering his displeasure,
Tripped me behind; being down, insulted, railed,
And put upon him such a deal of man,
That worthied him, got praises of the king
For him attempting who was self-subdued;(120)
And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here again.
None of these rogues and cowards
But Ajax is their fool.
Fetch forth the stocks!(125)
You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,
We'll teach you—
Sir, I am too old to learn:
Call not your stocks for me: I serve the king;
On whose employment I was sent to you:(130)
You shall do small respect, show too bold malice
Against the grace and person of my master,
Stocking his messenger.
Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life and honor,
There shall he sit till noon.(135)
Till noon! till night, my lord; and all night too.
Why, madam, if I were your father's dog,
You should not use me so.
Sir, being his knave, I will.
This is a fellow of the self-same color(140)
Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away the stocks!

[Stocks brought out]

Let me beseech your grace not to do so:
His fault is much, and the good king his master
Will check him for 't: your purposed low correction
Is such as basest and contemned'st wretches(145)
For pilferings and most common trespasses
Are punished with: the king must take it ill,
That he's so slightly valued in his messenger,
Should have him thus restrained.
I'll answer that.(150)
My sister may receive it much more worse,
To have her gentleman abused, assaulted,
For following her affairs. Put in his legs.

[Kent is put in the stocks]

Come, my good lord, away.

[Exeunt all but Gloucester and Kent]

I am sorry for thee, friend; 'tis the duke's pleasure, (155)
Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
Will not be rubbed nor stopped: I'll entreat for thee.
Pray, do not, sir: I have watched and travelled hard;
Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I'll whistle.(160)
A good man's fortune may grow out at heels:
Give you good morrow!
The duke's to blame in this; 'twill be ill taken.

[Exit Gloucester.]

Good king, that must approve the common saw,(165)
Thou out of heaven's benediction comest
To the warm sun!
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter! Nothing almost sees miracles(170)
But misery: I know 'tis from Cordelia,
Who hath most fortunately been informed
Of my obscured course; and shall find time
From this enormous state, seeking to give
Losses their remedies. All weary and o'erwatched,(175)
Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold
This shameful lodging.
Fortune, good night: smile once more: turn thy wheel!



  1. Ajax is a hero in Greek mythology that was known for his prowess in battle, much like Achilles. However, Ajax lacked the kind of intricate knowledge of battle and strategy that Achilles had.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. A “ruffian” is a brutal villain. Oswald shows the same discrimination towards the elderly that Goneril and Regan do, but this time, he reminds the audience that the troubles of old age affect commoners, not just the nobility. Shakespeare thus reminds the audience that both the nobles and the lowly ruffians are bound to the laws of nature.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The theme of blindness and insight comes into play here again. Kent claims that the miserable are capable of seeing miracles, which suggests that his miserable state has allowed him an opportunity to help Lear by contacting Cordelia. He reads aloud her letter, revealing to the audience that she knows he’s serving in disguise and plans on finding a way to help improve the country’s situation. Lear’s situation is increasingly becoming more miserable, suggesting that he may see miracles or gain new insights.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. What Kent means is that he will fill Oswald so full of holes with his sword that the frightened man will soak up the moonshine like a sop, a word which is defined as a piece of bread or cake used to soak up soup, gravy, or other liquid. 

    Shakespeare also has Kent use the word "moonshine" to indicate that the scene is supposedly taking place in the evening by moonlight, although, of course, it would be daytime in the theater.

    — William Delaney