King Lear

Act V

Scene I. The Camp of the British Forces near Dover.

[Enter, with drum and colours, Edmund, Regan, Officers, Soldiers,

and others.]


Know of the duke if his last purpose hold,

Or whether since he is advis'd by aught

To change the course: he's full of alteration

And self-reproving:--bring his constant pleasure.

[To an Officer, who goes out.]


Our sister's man is certainly miscarried.


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?


In honour'd 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

And bosom'd with her, as far as we call hers.


No, by mine honour, madam.


I never shall endure her: dear my lord,

Be not familiar with her.


Fear me not:--

She and the duke her husband!

[Enter, with drum and colours, 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 heard,--the king is come to his daughter,

With others whom the rigour of our state

Forc'd 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.


Sir, you speak nobly.


Why is this reason'd?


Combine together 'gainst the enemy;

For these domestic and particular broils

Are not the question here.


Let's, then, determine

With the ancient of war on our proceeding.


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.

[Exeunt Edmund, Regan, Goneril, Officers, Soldiers, and



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,

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,

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

Is now urg'd on you.


We will greet the time.



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?

Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoy'd,

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

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,

Shall never see his pardon: for my state

Stands on me to defend, not to debate.


Scene II. A field between the two Camps.

[Alarum within. Enter, with drum and colours, Lear, Cordelia, and

their Forces, and exeunt.]

[Enter Edgar and Gloster.]


Here, father, take the shadow of this tree

For your good host; pray that the right may thrive:

If ever I return to you again,

I'll bring you comfort.


Grace go with you, sir!

[Exit Edgar].

[Alarum and retreat within. R-enter Edgar.]


Away, old man,--give me thy hand,--away!

King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta'en:

Give me thy hand; come on!


No further, sir; a man may rot even here.


What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure

Their going hence, even as their coming hither;

Ripeness is all:--come on.


And that's true too.


Scene III. The British Camp near Dover.

[Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, Edmund; Lear and

Cordelia prisoners; Officers, Soldiers, &c.]


Some officers take them away: good guard

Until their greater pleasures first be known

That are to censure them.


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?


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.


Take them away.


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 goodyears shall devour them, flesh and fell,

Ere they shall make us weep: we'll see 'em starve first.


[Exeunt Lear and Cordelia, guarded.]


Come hither, captain; hark.

Take thou this note [giving a paper]; go follow them to prison:

One step I have advanc'd 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.


I'll do't, my lord.


About it; and write happy when thou hast done.

Mark,--I say, instantly; and carry it so

As I have set it down.


I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;

If it be man's work, I'll do't.


[Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Officers, and



Sir, you have show'd to-day your valiant strain,

And fortune led you well: you have the captives

Who 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.


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,

And 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 curs'd

By those that feel their sharpness:--

The question of Cordelia and her father

Requires a fitter place.


Sir, by your patience,

I hold you but a subject of this war,

Not as a brother.


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.


Not so hot:

In his own grace he doth exalt himself,

More than in your addition.


In my rights

By me invested, he compeers the best.


That were the most if he should husband you.


Jesters do oft prove prophets.


Holla, holla!

That eye that told you so look'd but asquint.


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.


Mean you to enjoy him?


The let-alone lies not in your good will.


Nor in thine, lord.


Half-blooded fellow, yes.


[To Edmund.] Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.


Stay yet; hear reason.--Edmund, I arrest thee

On capital treason; and, in thine arrest,

This gilded serpent [pointing to Goneril.],--For your claim, fair


I bar it in the interest of my wife;

'Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,

And I, her husband, contradict your bans.

If you will marry, make your loves to me,--

My lady is bespoke.


An interlude!


Thou art arm'd, Gloster:--let the trumpet sound:

If none appear to prove upon thy person

Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,

There is my pledge [throwing down a glove]; I'll prove it on thy


Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less

Than I have here proclaim'd thee.


Sick, O, sick!


[Aside.] If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine.


There's my exchange [throwing down a glove]: what in the world he


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.


A herald, ho!


A herald, ho, a herald!


Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,

All levied in my name, have in my name

Took their discharge.


My sickness grows upon me.


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.


Sound, trumpet!

[A trumpet sounds.]


[Reads.] 'If any man of quality or degree within the lists of

the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloster,

that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound

of the trumpet. He is bold in his defence.'



[First trumpet.]



[Second trumpet.]



[Third trumpet. Trumpet answers within. Enter Edgar, armed,

preceded by a trumpet.]


Ask him his purposes, why he appears

Upon this call o' the trumpet.


What are you?

Your name, your quality? and why you answer

This present summons?


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.


Which is that adversary?


What's he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloster?


Himself:--what say'st thou to him?


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 beneath 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,

Thou liest.


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 those 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.]


Save him, save him!


This is mere practice, Gloster:

By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer

An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish'd,

But cozen'd and beguil'd.


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.]


Say if I do,--the laws are mine, not thine:

Who can arraign me for't?


Most monstrous!

Know'st thou this paper?


Ask me not what I know.



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

[To an Officer, who goes out.]


What, you have charg'd 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.


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.


Thou hast spoken right; 'tis true;

The wheel is come full circle; I am here.


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.


Where have you hid yourself?

How have you known the miseries of your father?


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 with the pain of death we'd 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, sav'd 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,

Burst smilingly.


This speech of yours hath mov'd me,

And shall perchance do good: but speak you on;

You look as you had something more to say.


If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;

For I am almost ready to dissolve,

Hearing of this.


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 a man

Who, having seen me in my worst estate,

Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding

Who 'twas that so endur'd, with his strong arms

He fastened on my neck, and bellow'd out

As he'd burst heaven; threw him on my father;

Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him

That ever ear receiv'd: 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 tranc'd.


But who was this?


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 hastily, with a bloody knife.]


Help, help! O, help!


What kind of help?


Speak, man.


What means that bloody knife?


'Tis hot, it smokes;

It came even from the heart of--O! she's dead!


Who dead? speak, man.


Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister

By her is poisoned; she hath confess'd it.


I was contracted to them both: all three

Now marry in an instant.


Here comes Kent.


Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead:--

This judgement of the heavens, that makes us tremble

Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.]

[Enter Kent.]

O, is this he?

The time will not allow the compliment

That 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 Cordelia?

[The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in.]

Seest thou this object, Kent?


Alack, why thus?


Yet Edmund was belov'd.

The one the other poisoned for my sake,

And after slew herself.


Even so.--Cover their faces.


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.


Run, run, O, run!


To who, my lord?--Who has the office? send

Thy token of reprieve.


Well thought on: take my sword,

Give it the Captain.


Haste thee for thy life.

[Exit Edgar.]


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.


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

[Edmund is borne off.]

[Re-enter Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms; Edgar, Officer,

and others following.]


Howl, howl, howl, howl!--O, you are men of stone.

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.


Is this the promis'd end?


Or image of that horror?


Fall, and cease!


This feather stirs; she lives! If it be so,

It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows

That ever I have felt.


O my good master! [Kneeling.]


Pr'ythee, away!


'Tis noble Kent, your friend.


A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!

I might have sav'd 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.


'Tis true, my lords, he did.


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.


If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,

One of them we behold.


This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?


The same,

Your servant Kent.--Where is your servant Caius?


He's a good fellow, I can tell you that;

He'll strike, and quickly too:--he's dead and rotten.


No, my good lord; I am the very man,--


I'll see that straight.


That from your first of difference and decay

Have follow'd your sad steps.


You are welcome hither.


Nor no man else:--All's cheerless, dark, and deadly.--

Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,

And desperately are dead.


Ay, so I think.


He knows not what he says; and vain is it

That we present us to him.


Very bootless.

[Enter a Officer.]


Edmund is dead, my lord.


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


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!


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!--

[He dies.]


He faints!--My lord, my lord!--


Break, heart; I pr'ythee break!


Look up, my lord.


Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him

That would upon the rack of this rough world

Stretch him out longer.


He is gone indeed.


The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long:

He but usurp'd his life.


Bear them from hence.--Our present business

Is general woe.--[To Kent and Edgar.] Friends of my soul, you


Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.


I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;

My master calls me,--I must not say no.


The weight of this sad time we must obey;

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

The oldest have borne most: we that are young

Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

[Exeunt, with a dead march.]