Act V - Scene I

The British camp, near Dover.

[Enter, with drum and colors, Edmund, Regan, Gentlemen, and Soldiers.]

Know of the duke if his last purpose hold,
Or whether since he is advised by aught
To change the course: he's full of alteration
And self-reproving: bring his constant pleasure.

[Exit one or more soldiers.]

Our sister's man is certainly miscarried.(5)
'Tis to be doubted, madam.
Now, sweet lord,
You know the goodness I intend upon you:
Tell me—but truly—but then speak the truth,
Do you not love my sister?(10)
In honored love.
But have you never found my brother's way
To the forfended place?
That thought abuses you.
I am doubtful that you have been conjunct(15)
And bosomed with her, as far as we call hers.
No, by mine honor, madam.
I never shall endure her: dear my lord,
Be not familiar with her.
Fear me not:—(20)
She and the duke her husband!

[Enter, with drum and colors, Albany, Goneril, and Soldiers]

[Aside] I had rather lose the battle than that sister should loosen him and me.
Our very loving sister, well be-met.
Sir, this I hear; the king is come to his daughter,
With others whom the rigor of our state(25)
Forced to cry out. Where I could not be honest,
I never yet was valiant: for this business,
It toucheth us as France invades our land,
Not bolds the king, with others, whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.(30)
Sir, you speak nobly.
Why is this reasoned?
Combine together 'gainst the enemy;
For these domestic and particular broils
Are not the question here.(35)
Let's then determine
With the ancient of war on our proceedings.
I shall attend you presently at your tent.
Sister, you'll go with us?
'Tis most convenient; pray you, go with us.
[Aside] O, ho, I know the riddle.—I will go.

[As they are going out, enter Edgar disguised]

If e'er your grace had speech with man so poor,
Hear me one word.
I'll overtake you. Speak.(45)

[Exeunt all but Albany and Edgar]

Before you fight the battle, ope this letter.
If you have victory, let the trumpet sound
For him that brought it: wretched though I seem,
I can produce a champion that will prove
What is avouched there. If you miscarry,(50)
Your business of the world hath so an end,
And machination ceases. Fortune love you.
Stay till I have read the letter.
I was forbid it.
When time shall serve, let but the herald cry,(55)
And I'll appear again.
Why, fare thee well: I will o'erlook thy paper.

[Exit Edgar. Re-enter Edmund.]

The enemy's in view; draw up your powers.
Here is the guess of their true strength and forces
By diligent discovery; but your haste(60)
Is now urged on you.
We will greet the time.

[Exit Albany.]

To both these sisters have I sworn my love;
Each jealous of the other, as the stung
Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take?(65)
Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoyed,
If both remain alive: to take the widow
Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril;
And hardly shall I carry out my side,
Her husband being alive. Now then we'll use(70)
His countenance for the battle; which being done,
Let her who would be rid of him devise
His speedy taking off. As for the mercy
Which he intends to Lear and to Cordelia,
The battle done, and they within our power,(75)
Shall never see his pardon; for my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate.



  1. As an illegitimate child, Edmund would not have received any of his father’s estate or social status. “State” in this context means social position. Edmund has fought for his place in the nobility and concludes this monologue by reaffirming his aims: despite his romantic entanglements with both women, he will “defend” or maintain his “state” or social position. This soliloquy offers the audience a motive behind Edmund’s actions and generates a small amount of empathy for the character.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Like Goneril, Regan uses the royal we to assert her claim to power over others. This shows Regan is just as power hungry as her sister.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Here, Goneril asserts that she would sacrifice her army and all of her ambition if it meant that her sister would not take away Edmund, her love. Throughout the previous scenes, Goneril and other characters have talked about Goneril’s military prowess and stated that she is a better commander of the army than her husband. Within this aside, Goneril proves these claims to be false: her leadership is undermined by her selfish pursuits.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff