Document:  All > Shakespeare > Tragedies > King Lear > Act I, scene II



	[Enter EDMUND, with a letter]

EDMUND: Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
	My services are bound. Wherefore should I
	Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
	The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
	For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
	Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
	When my dimensions are as well compact,
	My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
	As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
	With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
	Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
	More composition and fierce quality
	Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
	Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
	Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
	Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
	Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
	As to the legitimate: fine word,--legitimate!
	Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
	And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
	Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
	Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

	[Enter GLOUCESTER]

GLOUCESTER: Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
	And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
	Confined to exhibition! All this done
	Upon the gad! Edmund, how now! what news?

EDMUND: So please your lordship, none.

	[Putting up the letter]

GLOUCESTER: Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

EDMUND: I know no news, my lord.

GLOUCESTER: What paper were you reading?

EDMUND: Nothing, my lord.

GLOUCESTER: No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of
	it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath
	not such need to hide itself. Let's see: come,
	if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

EDMUND: I beseech you, sir, pardon me: it is a letter
	from my brother, that I have not all o'er-read;
	and for so much as I have perused, I find it not
	fit for your o'er-looking.

GLOUCESTER: Give me the letter, sir.

EDMUND: I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The
	contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

GLOUCESTER: Let's see, let's see.

EDMUND: I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote
	this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

GLOUCESTER: [Reads]  'This policy and reverence of age makes
	the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps
	our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish
	them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage
	in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not
	as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to
	me, that of this I may speak more. If our father
	would sleep till I waked him, you should half his
	revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your
	brother,	EDGAR.'

	Hum--conspiracy!--'Sleep till I waked him,--you
	should enjoy half his revenue,'--My son Edgar!
	Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain
	to breed it in?--When came this to you? who
	brought it?

EDMUND: It was not brought me, my lord; there's the
	cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the
	casement of my closet.

GLOUCESTER: You know the character to be your brother's?

EDMUND: If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear
	it were his; but, in respect of that, I would
	fain think it were not.

GLOUCESTER: It is his.

EDMUND: It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is
	not in the contents.

GLOUCESTER: Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?

EDMUND: Never, my lord: but I have heard him oft
	maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age,
	and fathers declining, the father should be as
	ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

GLOUCESTER: O villain, villain! His very opinion in the
	letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested,
	brutish villain! worse than brutish! Go, sirrah,
	seek him; I'll apprehend him: abominable villain!
	Where is he?

EDMUND: I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please
	you to suspend your indignation against my
	brother till you can derive from him better
	testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain
	course; where, if you violently proceed against
	him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great
	gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the
	heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life
	for him, that he hath wrote this to feel my
	affection to your honour, and to no further
	pretence of danger.

GLOUCESTER: Think you so?

EDMUND: If your honour judge it meet, I will place you
	where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an
	auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and
	that without any further delay than this very evening.

GLOUCESTER: He cannot be such a monster--

EDMUND: Nor is not, sure.

GLOUCESTER: To his father, that so tenderly and entirely
	loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him
	out: wind me into him, I pray you: frame the
	business after your own wisdom. I would unstate
	myself, to be in a due resolution.

EDMUND: I will seek him, sir, presently: convey the
	business as I shall find means and acquaint you withal.

GLOUCESTER: These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
	no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
	reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
	scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
	friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
	cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in
	palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son
	and father. This villain of mine comes under the
	prediction; there's son against father: the king
	falls from bias of nature; there's father against
	child. We have seen the best of our time:
	machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all
	ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our
	graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall
	lose thee nothing; do it carefully. And the
	noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his
	offence, honesty! 'Tis strange.

	[Exit]

EDMUND: This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,
	when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit
	of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our
	disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as
	if we were villains by necessity; fools by
	heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and
	treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards,
	liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of
	planetary influence; and all that we are evil in,
	by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion
	of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
	disposition to the charge of a star! My
	father compounded with my mother under the
	dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa
	major; so that it follows, I am rough and
	lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am,
	had the maidenliest star in the firmament
	twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar--

	[Enter EDGAR]

	And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
	comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a
	sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do
	portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.

EDGAR: How now, brother Edmund! what serious
	contemplation are you in?

EDMUND: I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read
	this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

EDGAR: Do you busy yourself about that?

EDMUND: I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed
	unhappily; as of unnaturalness between the child
	and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of
	ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and
	maledictions against king and nobles; needless
	diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation
	of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

EDGAR: How long have you been a sectary astronomical?

EDMUND: Come, come; when saw you my father last?

EDGAR: Why, the night gone by.

EDMUND: Spake you with him?

EDGAR: Ay, two hours together.

EDMUND: Parted you in good terms? Found you no
	displeasure in him by word or countenance?

EDGAR: None at all.

EDMUND: Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended
	him: and at my entreaty forbear his presence
	till some little time hath qualified the heat of
	his displeasure; which at this instant so rageth
	in him, that with the mischief of your person it
	would scarcely allay.

EDGAR: Some villain hath done me wrong.

EDMUND: That's my fear. I pray you, have a continent
	forbearance till the spied of his rage goes
	slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my
	lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to
	hear my lord speak: pray ye, go; there's my key:
	if you do stir abroad, go armed.

EDGAR: Armed, brother!

EDMUND: Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed: I
	am no honest man if there be any good meaning
	towards you: I have told you what I have seen
	and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image
	and horror of it: pray you, away.

EDGAR: Shall I hear from you anon?

EDMUND: I do serve you in this business.

	[Exit EDGAR]

	A credulous father! and a brother noble,
	Whose nature is so far from doing harms,
	That he suspects none: on whose foolish honesty
	My practises ride easy! I see the business.
	Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
	All with me's meet that I can fashion fit.

	[Exit]




	KING LEAR






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