Act IV - Scene VII

A tent in the French camp.

[Enter Cordelia, Kent, and Doctor]

O thou good Kent, how shall I live and work,
To match thy goodness? My life will be too short,
And every measure fail me.
To be acknowledged, madam, is o'erpaid.
All my reports go with the modest truth;(5)
Nor more nor clipped, but so.
Be better suited:
These weeds are memories of those worser hours:
I prithee, put them off.
Pardon me, dear madam;(10)
Yet to be known shortens my made intent:
My boon I make it, that you know me not
Till time and I think meet.
Then be 't so, my good lord.
[To the Doctor] How does the king?(15)
Madam, sleeps still.
O you kind gods,
Cure this great breach in his abused nature!
The untuned and jarring senses, O, wind up
Of this child-changed father!(20)
So please your majesty
That we may wake the king: he hath slept long.
Be governed by your knowledge, and proceed
I' the sway of your own will. Is he arrayed?

[Enter Lear in a chair carried by servants.]

Ay, madam; in the heaviness of his sleep(25)
We put fresh garments on him.
Be by, good madam, when we do awake him;
I doubt not of his temperance.
Very well.

[Music plays.]

Please you, draw near. Louder the music there!(30)
O my dear father! Restoration hang
Thy medicine on my lips; and let this kiss
Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
Have in thy reverence made!
Kind and dear princess!(35)
Had you not been their father, these white flakes
Had challenged pity of them. Was this a face
To be opposed against the warring winds?
To stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?
In the most terrible and nimble stroke(40)
Of quick, cross lightning? to watch—poor perdu!—
With this thin helm? Mine enemy's dog,
Though he had bit me, should have stood that night
Against my fire; and wast thou fain, poor father,
To hovel thee with swine, and rogues forlorn,(45)
In short and musty straw? Alack, alack!
'Tis wonder that thy life and wits at once
Had not concluded all. He wakes; speak to him.
Madam, do you; 'tis fittest.
How does my royal lord? How fares your majesty?(50)
You do me wrong to take me out o' the grave:
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
Sir, do you know me?(55)
You are a spirit, I know: when did you die?
Still, still, far wide!
He's scarce awake: let him alone awhile.
Where have I been? Where am I? Fair daylight?
I am mightily abused. I should e'en die with pity,(60)
To see another thus. I know not what to say.
I will not swear these are my hands: let's see;
I feel this pin prick. Would I were assured
Of my condition!
O, look upon me, sir,(65)
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me:
No, sir, you must not kneel.
Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;(70)
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you, and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful, for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have(75)
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.
And so I am, I am.(80)
Be your tears wet? yes, faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.(85)
No cause, no cause.
Am I in France?
In your own kingdom, sir.
Do not abuse me.
Be comforted, good madam: the great rage,(90)
You see, is killed in him: and yet it is danger
To make him even o'er the time he has lost.
Desire him to go in; trouble him no more
Till further settling.
Will 't please your highness walk?(95)
You must bear with me. Pray you now, forget and
forgive: I am old and foolish.

[Exeunt all but Kent and Gentleman]

Holds it true, sir, that the Duke of Cornwall was so
Most certain, sir.(100)
Who is conductor of his people?
As 'tis said, the bastard son of Gloucester.
They say Edgar, his banished son, is with the Earl
of Kent in Germany.
Report is changeable. 'Tis time to look about; the powers(105)
of the kingdom approach apace.
The arbitrement is like to be bloody. Fare you well, sir.

[Exit Gentleman.]

My point and period will be throughly wrought,
Or well or ill, as this day's battle's fought.(110)

[Exit Kent.]


  1. Cordelia asks her father to hold a “benediction,” a blessing that offers spiritual guidance, over her and tells him that he “must not kneel” before her. Both of these requests suggest a restoration of order: as a king, Lear should be able to lead and kneels to no one but God. However, Lear does not assume this role as he should and instead reads this request as mockery. This exchange demonstrates that Lear has descended from the role of king and accepted his role as a old fool.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The adjective “poor” here is actually a little redundant; the nature of work that a “perdu” performs is already dangerous and not enviable. Perdus are soldiers who are assigned to extremely hazardous duties, often standing guard in dangerous, exposed positions.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Cordelia calls out to the “kind gods” to restore her father to his former glory. This cry indicates her belief in the presence of divine justice and order to her world. However, as we will see over the course of the scene, the “gods” do not come to her aid and Lear’s mind is not restored.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Cordelia is asking Kent to take off his disguise, which she refers to both as weeds, to emphasize the low quality of his clothes, and as bad memories, to recall his and her banishment from the kingdom. Since clothes have served as a symbol of status in the play, Kent’s refusal to take them off illustrates that he does not yet feel comfortable resuming his position as earl quite yet; there is still the battle to be fought.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Explicitly, this is Lear asking his daughter to “forget and forgive” his old foolish nature. However, this line could also signify that Lear actually does recognize Cordelia and he is asking her to “forget and forgive” the moment at the beginning of the play when he cast her out and disowned her.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Lear awakes from a much needed sleep to question the reality of his present situation. He sees what he believes to be Cordelia and speaks coherently, showing that his mental state has much improved. This admission of his foolishness in front of Cordelia amounts to a confession for his rash actions earlier when his pride caused him to break his familial bond with his daughter and cast her out.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. This is one of Shakespeare's most brilliant metaphors. Lear is imagining he is in hell, and he is experiencing the hallucination so vividly that he can describe one of the devices the demons use to torture the damned. Note the alliteration of four "L" sounds in the last line in "scald," "like," "molten" and "lead." The effect is to enhance the image of tears as hot as molten lead dripping on Lear's flesh slowly, drop by drop. 

    Notice that these lines contain a simile within a metaphor. The metaphor is the wheel of fire. The simile is the tears that scald* like* molten lead. Shakespeare does the opposite in Macbeth where he has Lady Macbeth tell her husband: "Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it." A metaphor within a simile. A real serpent hiding behind an imaginary flower.

    — William Delaney