Document: All > Shakespeare > Tragedies > King Lear > Act V, scene III
[Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, EDMUND,
KING LEAR and CORDELIA, prisoners; Captain,
EDMUND: Some officers take them away: good guard,
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure them.
CORDELIA: We are not the first
Who, with best meaning, have incurr'd the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
KING LEAR: No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
EDMUND: Take them away.
KING LEAR: Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep: we'll see 'em starve
[Exeunt KING LEAR and CORDELIA, guarded]
EDMUND: Come hither, captain; hark.
Take thou this note;
[Giving a paper]
go follow them to prison:
One step I have advanced thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes: know thou this, that men
Are as the time is: to be tender-minded
Does not become a sword: thy great employment
Will not bear question; either say thou'lt do 't,
Or thrive by other means.
Captain: I'll do 't, my lord.
EDMUND: About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it so
As I have set it down.
Captain: I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
If it be man's work, I'll do 't.
[Flourish. Enter ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, another
Captain, and Soldiers]
ALBANY: Sir, you have shown to-day your valiant strain,
And fortune led you well: you have the captives
That were the opposites of this day's strife:
We do require them of you, so to use them
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.
EDMUND: Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention and appointed guard;
Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
An turn our impress'd lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the queen;
My reason all the same; and they are ready
To-morrow, or at further space, to appear
Where you shall hold your session. At this time
We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are cursed
By those that feel their sharpness:
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.
ALBANY: Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.
REGAN: That's as we list to grace him.
Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded,
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers;
Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy may well stand up,
And call itself your brother.
GONERIL: Not so hot:
In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
More than in your addition.
REGAN: In my rights,
By me invested, he compeers the best.
GONERIL: That were the most, if he should husband you.
REGAN: Jesters do oft prove prophets.
GONERIL: Holla, holla!
That eye that told you so look'd but a-squint.
REGAN: Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach. General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine:
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.
GONERIL: Mean you to enjoy him?
ALBANY: The let-alone lies not in your good will.
EDMUND: Nor in thine, lord.
ALBANY: Half-blooded fellow, yes.
REGAN: [To EDMUND] Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
ALBANY: Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
This gilded serpent
[Pointing to Goneril]
For your claim, fair sister,
I bar it in the interest of my wife:
'Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your bans.
If you will marry, make your loves to me,
My lady is bespoke.
GONERIL: An interlude!
ALBANY: Thou art arm'd, Gloucester: let the trumpet sound:
If none appear to prove upon thy head
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge;
[Throwing down a glove]
I'll prove it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim'd thee.
REGAN: Sick, O, sick!
GONERIL: [Aside] If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine.
EDMUND: There's my exchange:
[Throwing down a glove]
what in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies:
Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.
ALBANY: A herald, ho!
EDMUND: A herald, ho, a herald!
ALBANY: Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.
REGAN: My sickness grows upon me.
ALBANY: She is not well; convey her to my tent.
[Exit Regan, led]
[Enter a Herald]
Come hither, herald,--Let the trumpet sound,
And read out this.
Captain: Sound, trumpet!
[A trumpet sounds]
Herald: [Reads] 'If any man of quality or degree within
the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund,
supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold
traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the
trumpet: he is bold in his defence.'
[Trumpet answers within]
[Enter EDGAR, at the third sound, armed, with a
trumpet before him]
ALBANY: Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o' the trumpet.
Herald: What are you?
Your name, your quality? and why you answer
This present summons?
EDGAR: Know, my name is lost;
By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.
ALBANY: Which is that adversary?
EDGAR: What's he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?
EDMUND: Himself: what say'st thou to him?
EDGAR: Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice: here is mine.
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession: I protest,
Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor;
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
Conspirant 'gainst this high-illustrious prince;
And, from the extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'No,'
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits, are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
EDMUND: In wisdom I should ask thy name;
But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn:
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head;
With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart;
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!
[Alarums. They fight. EDMUND falls]
ALBANY: Save him, save him!
GONERIL: This is practise, Gloucester:
By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish'd,
But cozen'd and beguiled.
ALBANY: Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it: Hold, sir:
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil:
No tearing, lady: I perceive you know it.
[Gives the letter to EDMUND]
GONERIL: Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine:
Who can arraign me for't.
ALBANY: Most monstrous! oh!
Know'st thou this paper?
GONERIL: Ask me not what I know.
ALBANY: Go after her: she's desperate; govern her.
EDMUND: What you have charged me with, that have I done;
And more, much more; the time will bring it out:
'Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou'rt noble,
I do forgive thee.
EDGAR: Let's exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more thou hast wrong'd me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us:
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.
EDMUND: Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true;
The wheel is come full circle: I am here.
ALBANY: Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee:
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father!
EDGAR: Worthy prince, I know't.
ALBANY: Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?
EDGAR: By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale;
And when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape,
That follow'd me so near,--O, our lives' sweetness!
That we the pain of death would hourly die
Rather than die at once!--taught me to shift
Into a madman's rags; to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain'd: and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost: became his guide,
Led him, begg'd for him, saved him from despair;
Never,--O fault!--reveal'd myself unto him,
Until some half-hour past, when I was arm'd:
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last
Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw'd heart,
Alack, too weak the conflict to support!
'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
EDMUND: This speech of yours hath moved me,
And shall perchance do good: but speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.
ALBANY: If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.
EDGAR: This would have seem'd a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity.
Whilst I was big in clamour came there in a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck, and bellow'd out
As he'ld burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear received: which in recounting
His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
Began to crack: twice then the trumpets sounded,
And there I left him tranced.
ALBANY: But who was this?
EDGAR: Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in disguise
Follow'd his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.
[Enter a Gentleman, with a bloody knife]
Gentleman: Help, help, O, help!
EDGAR: What kind of help?
ALBANY: Speak, man.
EDGAR: What means that bloody knife?
Gentleman: 'Tis hot, it smokes;
It came even from the heart of--O, she's dead!
ALBANY: Who dead? speak, man.
Gentleman: Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister
By her is poisoned; she hath confess'd it.
EDMUND: I was contracted to them both: all three
Now marry in an instant.
EDGAR: Here comes Kent.
ALBANY: Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead:
This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
Touches us not with pity.
O, is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.
KENT: I am come
To bid my king and master aye good night:
Is he not here?
ALBANY: Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cordelia?
See'st thou this object, Kent?
[The bodies of GONERIL and REGAN are brought in]
KENT: Alack, why thus?
EDMUND: Yet Edmund was beloved:
The one the other poison'd for my sake,
And after slew herself.
ALBANY: Even so. Cover their faces.
EDMUND: I pant for life: some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia:
Nay, send in time.
ALBANY: Run, run, O, run!
EDGAR: To who, my lord? Who hath the office? send
Thy token of reprieve.
EDMUND: Well thought on: take my sword,
Give it the captain.
ALBANY: Haste thee, for thy life.
EDMUND: He hath commission from thy wife and me
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.
ALBANY: The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
[EDMUND is borne off]
[Re-enter KING LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms;
EDGAR, Captain, and others following]
KING LEAR: Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
KENT: Is this the promised end
EDGAR: Or image of that horror?
ALBANY: Fall, and cease!
KING LEAR: This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
KENT: [Kneeling] O my good master!
KING LEAR: Prithee, away.
EDGAR: 'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
KING LEAR: A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have saved her; now she's gone for ever!
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is't thou say'st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill'd the slave that was a-hanging thee.
Captain: 'Tis true, my lords, he did.
KING LEAR: Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o' the best: I'll tell you straight.
KENT: If fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
One of them we behold.
KING LEAR: This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
KENT: The same,
Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius?
KING LEAR: He's a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He'll strike, and quickly too: he's dead and rotten.
KENT: No, my good lord; I am the very man,--
KING LEAR: I'll see that straight.
KENT: That, from your first of difference and decay,
Have follow'd your sad steps.
KING LEAR: You are welcome hither.
KENT: Nor no man else: all's cheerless, dark, and deadly.
Your eldest daughters have fordone them selves,
And desperately are dead.
KING LEAR: Ay, so I think.
ALBANY: He knows not what he says: and vain it is
That we present us to him.
EDGAR: Very bootless.
[Enter a Captain]
Captain: Edmund is dead, my lord.
ALBANY: That's but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come
Shall be applied: for us we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power:
[To EDGAR and KENT]
you, to your rights:
With boot, and such addition as your honours
Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
KING LEAR: And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!
EDGAR: He faints! My lord, my lord!
KENT: Break, heart; I prithee, break!
EDGAR: Look up, my lord.
KENT: Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
EDGAR: He is gone, indeed.
KENT: The wonder is, he hath endured so long:
He but usurp'd his life.
ALBANY: Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.
[To KENT and EDGAR]
Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.
KENT: I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.
ALBANY: The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
[Exeunt, with a dead march]