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Alb. O, save him, save him!1


This is mere practice, Gloster By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquished, But cozened and beguiled.


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 Gon. Say, if I do; the laws are mine, not thine. Who shall arraign me for't?


Know'st thou this paper? 2

Most monstrous!

Ask me not what I know. [Exit GONERIL.

Alb. Go after her; she's desperate; govern her.

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Edm. What you have done;

And more, much more. 'Tis past, and so am I.

[To an Officer, who goes out.
charged me with, that have I

The time will bring it out;
But what art thou,

That hast this fortune on me? If thou art noble,

I do forgive thee.


Let's exchange charity.

I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund ;
If more, the more thou hast wronged me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.3

The dark and vicious place where thee he got,
Cost him his eyes.


Thou hast spoken right; 'tis true; The wheel is come full circle: I am here.

1 Albany desires that Edmund's life may be spared at present, only to obtain his confession, and to convict him openly by his own letter.

2 "Knowest thou these letters?" says Leir to Regan, in the old anonymous play, when he shows her both her own and her sister's letters, which were written to procure his death; upon which she snatches the letters and tears them.

3 The folio reads "to plague us."

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Alb. 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.


Worthy prince, I know't Alb. Where have you hid yourself?

How have you known the miseries of your father? Edg. By nursing them, my lord.-List a brief


And, when 'tis told, O that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape,

That followed 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 disdained; and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair;
Never, (O fault!) revealed myself unto him,
Until, some half-hour past, when I was armed,
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I asked his blessing, and, from first to last,
Told him my pilgrimage. But his flawed heart,
(Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.


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.

Alb. If there be more, more woful, hold it in; For I am almost ready to dissolve,

Hearing of this.

2 [Edg.

This would have seemed a period

To such as love not sorrow; but another,

To amplify too much, would make much more,

1 The quartos read:

"That with the pain of death would hourly die."

2 The lines within crotchets are not in the folio.

And top extremity.'


Whilst I was big in clamor, came there a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunned my abhorred society; but then finding
Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck, and bellowed out
As he'd 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 trumpet sounded,
And there I left him tranced.


But who was this?

Edg. Kent, sir, the banished Kent; who in disguise Followed his enemy king, and did him service

Improper for a slave.]

Enter a Gentleman, hastily, with a bloody knife.



Gent. Help! help! O, help!

What kind of help?

Speak, man.

'Tis hot, it smokes ;

Edg. What means that bloody knife?

It came even from the heart of

Who, man? speak.

1 Of this difficult passage, which is probably corrupt, Steevens gives the following explanation:-" This would have seemed a period to such as love not sorrow, but-another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as will increase the horrors of what has been already told." It will be necessary, if we admit this interpretation, to point the passage thus:

but another:

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Malone's explanation is:-"This would have seemed the utmost completion of woe, to such as do not delight in sorrow; but another, of a different disposition, to amplify misery would give more strength to that which hath too much;"" referring to the bastard's desiring to hear more, and to Albany's thinking that enough had been said.

2 The quartos read, "threw me on my father." The reading in the text is certainly more likely to be correct.

Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister By her is poisoned; she hath confessed it.'

Edm. I was contracted to them both; a three Now marry in an instant.

Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead!— This judgment of the Heavens, that makes us tremble, Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.

Enter KENT.


Here comes Kent, sir.

Alb. O it is he.

The time will not allow the compliment,

Which very manners urges.


I am come

To bid my king and master aye good night;
Is he not here?


Great thing of us forgot!

Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cor

delia ?

Seest thou this object, Kent?

[The bodies of GONERIL and REGAN are brought in.

Kent. Alack, why thus?


Yet Edmund was beloved.

The one the other poisoned for my sake,

And after slew herself.

Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces.

Edm. I pant for life:-Some good I mean to do, Despite of mine own nature. Quickly sendBe brief in it-to the castle, for my writ

Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.

Nay, send in time.


Run, run, O, run

Edg. To whom, my lord?-Who has the office? send

Thy token of reprieve.

Edm. Well thought on; take my sword,

Give it the captain.

1 Thus the quarto. The folio reads "she confesses it."



Haste thee, for thy life.

Edm. He hath commission from thy
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid' herself.

[Exit EDGAR. wife and me

Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.

[EDMUND is borne off.


Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms; EDGAR, Officer, and others.

Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O, you are men

of stones;

Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack.-O, she is


gone for

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.


Is this the promised end? 3 Edg. Or image of that horror?


Fall, and cease!


Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,

It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows

That ever I have felt.


O my good master! [Kneeling.

Lear. 'Pr'ythee, away.

Edg. 'Tis noble Kent, your friend. Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!

1 To fordo signifies to destroy. It is used again in Hamlet.

2 The old historians say that Cordelia retired with victory from the battle, which she conducted in her father's cause, and thereby replaced him on the throne; but in a subsequent one fought against her (after the death of the old king), by the sons of Regan and Goneril, she was taken, and died miserably in prison. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of the story, says that she killed herself.

3 Kent, in contemplating the scene before him, recollects those passages of St. Mark's Gospel, in which Christ foretells to his disciples the end of the world; and hence his question. To which Edgar adds, Or only a representation or resemblance of that horror.

4 To cease is to die. "Rather fall, and cease to be at once, than con tinue in existence only to be wretched."

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