Act III - Scene VII

Gloucester's castle.

[Enter Cornwall, Regan, Goneril, Edmund, and Servants]

[to Goneril] Post speedily to my lord your husband; show him
this letter: the army of France is landed. Seek out the villain

[Exeunt some of the Servants]

Hang him instantly.
Pluck out his eyes.(5)
Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you
our sister company: the revenges we are bound to take
upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding.
Advise the duke, where you are going, to a most festinate
preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us.
Farewell, dear sister: farewell, my lord of Gloucester.

[Enter Oswald]

How now! where's the king?
My lord of Gloucester hath conveyed him hence:
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,(15)
Hot questrists after him, met him at gate;
Who, with some other of the lords dependants,
Are gone with him towards Dover; where they boast
To have well-armed friends.
Get horses for your mistress.(20)
Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
Edmund, farewell.

[Exeunt Goneril, Edmund, and Oswald]

Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.

[Exeunt other Servants]

Though well we may not pass upon his life(25)
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control. Who's there? the traitor?

[Enter Gloucester, brought in by two or three]

Ingrateful fox! 'tis he.
Bind fast his corky arms.(30)
What mean your graces? Good my friends,
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends.
Bind him, I say.

[Servants bind him]

Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!(35)
Unmerciful lady as you are, I'm none.
To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt find—

[Regan plucks his beard]

By the kind gods, 'tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.
So white, and such a traitor!(40)
Naughty lady,
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,
Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:
With robbers' hands my hospitable favors
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?(45)
Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?
Be simple-answered, for we know the truth.
And what confederacy have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?(50)
To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king? Speak.
I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that's of a neutral heart,
And not from one opposed.(55)
And false.
Where hast thou sent the king?
To Dover.
Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charged at peril—(60)
Wherefore to Dover? Let him first answer that.
I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the course.
Wherefore to Dover, sir?(65)
Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endured, would have buoyed up,(70)
And quenched the stelled fires:
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howled that stern time,
Thou shouldst have said ‘Good porter, turn the key,’
All cruels else subscribed: but I shall see(75)
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
See't shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.
Upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot.
He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help! O cruel! O you gods!(80)
One side will mock another; the other too.
If you see vengeance,—
Hold your hand, my lord:
I have served you ever since I was a child;
But better service have I never done you(85)
Than now to bid you hold.
How now, you dog!
If you did wear a beard upon your chin,
I'ld shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?
My villain!(90)
Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger.
Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus!

[Cornwall is wounded. Takes a sword, and runs at him behind.]

O, I am slain! My lord, you have one eye left
To see some mischief on him. O!(95)

[First Servant Dies]

Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?
All dark and comfortless. Where's my son Edmund?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature,(100)
To quit this horrid act.
Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call'st on him that hates thee: it was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us;
Who is too good to pity thee.(105)
O my follies! then Edgar was abused.
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!
Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell
His way to Dover. [Exit one with Gloucester]
How is't, my lord? How look you?(110)
I have received a hurt: follow me, lady.
Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave
Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace:
Untimely comes this hurt: give me your arm.

[Exit Cornwall, led by Regan]

I'll never care what wickedness I do,(115)
If this man come to good.
If she live long,
And in the end meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.
Let's follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam (120)
To lead him where he would: his roguish madness
Allows itself to any thing.
Go thou: I'll fetch some flax and whites of eggs (125)
To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!

[Exeunt severally]


  1. “Jelly” here refers to the necessary liquids of the eye that aid in its function. In this case, Shakespeare’s use of the term “vile” has a double meaning. Cornwall suggests that Gloucester’s eye is vile in that it belonged to someone who has committed “treason,” but the line itself is vile in referring to the eye in such a grotesque manner.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Here, Regan further insults Gloucester by plucking out hairs from his “white” beard, an action that once again highlights her disrespect for the elderly. Shakespeare further heightens our awareness of Regan’s cruelty by reminding us of Gloucester’s old age and his helplessness.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The verb “to festinate” has similar meaning to the verb “to hasten” although here it is used as an adjective to modify the noun “preparation.” So, Cornwall is telling Edmund to inform the Duke of Albany to make fast preparations regarding the reports of the French army’s landing on English soil.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Cornwall and Regan have turned against their own host, which illustrates their complete disregard for custom and tradition. Cornwall and Regan’s “foul play” highlights the theme of disintegration; dismantling any remaining semblance of order and tradition, and bringing Britain further into chaos.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The theme of blindness and insight finds a physical manifestation in the blinding of Gloucester. He and Lear have not been able to see the cunning and ambition of their children; both are “blind” to these actions. Gloucester, for his loyalty to Lear, is physically blinded, paying with the loss of his sight for his blind trust of Edmund. This attack signals an increasingly literal violence taking place in the play, with the blind being punished for their mistakes but those who are doing the blinding becoming more monstrous and hateful.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. A “questrist” is a seeker, or a person who goes in search of another person.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Notice that while Regan calls for Gloucester’s death, Goneril instead states that they should remove his sight. While blindness and insight largely have been figurative and metaphorical in the play to this point, this call for physically blinding Gloucester raises the stakes of the political climate, emphasizing the cruelty of Lear’s daughters and their boundless ambition.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Gloucester is speaking figuratively, not literally; but he may have made an unfortunate choice of words and given Cornwall an idea of how to take his revenge.

    — William Delaney
  9. Dover is a seaport at the narrowest part of the English Channel. It was traditionally a landing place for invaders because of its close proximity to the Continent. Both Gloucester and Regan are sure that a contingent of the French army has already landed there and that Gloucester must know about it. They assume he has sent the king to Dover to join the invaders . 

    Lear can only be revenged and restored to his throne by an outside military force, but Shakespeare is cautious about mentioning the French. The English and the French have been rivals for centuries and have engaged in many wars. Shakespeare's audience, as he knew, would not be likely to sympathize with an army of French invaders, even though he establishes that they are only there temporarily (not unlike the American GIs during World War II) and have no objective other than to help the king. Shakespeare does not have Cornwall and Regan kill Gloucester on the spot because he wants to use this important character further.

    — William Delaney