King Lear


Scene VII

William Shakespeare

A Room in GLOSTER’S Castle.


Post speedily to my lord your husband, show him this letter:— the army of France is landed.—Seek out the traitor Gloster.

[Exeunt some of the Servants.

Hang him instantly.

Pluck out his eyes.

Leave him to my displeasure.—Edmund, keep you our sister company: the revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding. Advise the duke where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister:—farewell, my lord of Gloster.

How now! Where’s the king?

My lord of Gloster hath convey’d him hence:
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,
Hot questrists after him, met him at gate;
Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,
Are gone with him towards Dover: where they boast
To have well-armed friends.

                        Get horses for your mistress.

Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.

Edmund, farewell.

[Exeunt Goneril, Edmund, and Oswald.
                        Go seek the traitor Gloster,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.
[Exeunt other Servants.
Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control.—Who’s there? the traitor?

Re-enter Servants, with GLOSTER.

Ingrateful fox! ’Tis he.

Bind fast his corky arms.

What mean your graces?—Good my friends, consider
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends.

Bind him, I say.

Servants bind him.

                        Hard, hard.—O filthy traitor!

Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.

To this chair bind him.—Villain, thou shalt find,—

Regan plucks his beard.

By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.

So white, and such a traitor!

                                        Naughty lady,
These hairs which thou dost ravish from my chin
Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:
With robber’s hands my hospitable favours
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?

Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?

Be simple-answer’d, for we know the truth.

And what confederacy have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?

To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king?

I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one oppos’d.


                                        And false.

Where hast thou sent the king?

                                                        To Dover.

Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charg’d at peril,—

Wherefore to Dover? Let him first answer that.

I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the course.

Wherefore to Dover, sir?

Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endur’d, would have buoy’d up,
And quench’d the stelled fires; yet, poor old heart,
He holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that stern time,
Thou shouldst have said, ‘Good porter, turn the key.’
All cruels else subscrib’d:—but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.

See’t shalt thou never.—Fellows, hold the chair.
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.

Gloster is held down in his chair, while Cornwall plucks out one of his eyes and sets his foot on it.

He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help!—O cruel!—O ye gods!

One side will mock another; the other too!

If you see vengeance,—

                                Hold your hand, my lord:
I have serv’d you ever since I was a child;
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.

How now, you dog!

If you did wear a beard upon your chin, I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?

My villain!

Draws, and runs at him.

Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger.

Draws. They fight. Cornwall is wounded.

Give me thy sword [to another servant.]—A peasant stand up thus?

Snatches a sword, comes behind, and stabs him.

O, I am slain!—My lord, you have one eye left
To see some mischief on thim. O!


Lest it see more, prevent it.—Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?

Tears out Gloster’s other eye and throws it on the ground.

All dark and comfortless.—Where’s my son Edmund?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature
To quit this horrid act.

                        Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call’st on him that hates thee: it was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us;
Who is too good to pity thee.

O my follies! Then Edgar was abus’d.—
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!

Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell
His way to Dover.—How is’t, my lord? How look you?

I have receiv’d a hurt:—follow me, lady.—
Turn out that eyeless villain;—throw this slave
Upon the dunghill.—Regan, I bleed apace:
Untimely comes this hurt: give me your arm.

[Exit Cornwall, led by Regan; Servants unbind Gloster and lead him out.

I’ll never care what wickedness I do,
If this man come to good.

                        If she live long,
And in the end meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.

Let’s follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would: his roguish madness
Allows itself to anything.

Go thou: I’ll fetch some flax and whites of eggs
To apply to his bleeding face. Now heaven help him!

[Exeunt severally.

King Lear - Contents    |     Act IV, Scene I

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