King Lear

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter in conquest with drum and colours Edmund;

Lear and Cordelia as prisoners; soldiers, Captain


Some officers take them away. Good guard,

Until their greater pleasures first be known
pleasure (n.) 2 intention, resolution, desire

That are to censure them.
censure (v.) 3 pass judgement on, condemn, pronounce sentence on


                         We are not the first

Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
meaning (n.) design, intention, purpose

For thee, oppressed King, I am cast down;

Myself could else out-frown false Fortune's frown.
false (adj.) 1 treacherous, traitorous, perfidious See Topics: Frequency count

(To Edmund)

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
gilded (adj.) 1 glittering, gold-coloured, tinged with gold

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
take upon (v.) 2 assume the burden of, undertake the study of [for oneself]

As if we were God's spies; and we'll wear out,
wear out (v.) 1 outlive, survive, outlast

In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
pack (n.) 1 gang, group, circle, confederacy
sect (n.) 1 faction, cabal, party

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 embraces her)

He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven

And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
fire hence / out (v.) drive away by fire

The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
fell (n.) 1 skin, hide
good-years (n.) [unclear meaning] good times to come

Ere they shall make us weep. We'll see 'em starved first.


Exeunt Lear and Cordelia, guarded


Come hither, captain. Hark.

Take thou this note; 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
become (v.) 1 be fitting, befit, be appropriate to See Topics: Frequency count
sword (n.) soldier, sword-wielder

Will not bear question; either say thou'lt do't,
question (n.) 4 debating, discussion, investigation

Or thrive by other means.


                         I'll do't, my lord.


About it; and write happy when th' hast done.
happy (adj.) 1 fortunate, lucky, favoured

Mark, I say ‘ instantly;’ and carry it so
carry (v.) 5 carry out, manage, conduct
mark (v.) 1 note, pay attention [to], take notice [of] See Topics: Frequency count

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, Gonerill, Regan, and



Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain,
strain (n.) 1 quality, character, disposition

And Fortune led you well. You have the captives

That were the opposites of this day's strife;
opposite (n.) 1 opponent, adversary, anatagonist

I do require them of you, so to use them
use (v.) 2 treat, deal with, manage

As we shall find their merits and our safety
merit (n.) 1 desert, deserving, inner worth

May equally determine.
determine (v.) 1 make a decision [about], reach a conclusion [about]
equally (adv.) 2 with justice, justly, impartially


                         Sir, I thought it fit

To send the old and miserable King

To some retention and appointed guard;
retention (n.) 4 place of detention, confinement

Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
charm (n.) 1 magic spell, enchantment
title (n.) 1 [legal] right, claim, entitlement

To pluck the common bosom on his side

And turn our impressed lances in our eyes
impressed (adj.) conscripted, forced to enlist
lance (n.) lancer, horse soldier armed with a lance

Which do command them. With him I sent the Queen,

My reason all the same; and they are ready

Tomorrow or at further space t' appear
space (n.) 1 space of time, while

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.


                         Sir, by your patience,

I hold you but a subject of this war,
subject (n.) 2 subordinate, junior, underling

Not as a brother.
brother (n.) 2 equal, fellow, peer
list (v.) 1 wish, like, please


                         That's as we list to grace him.

Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded
methinks(t), methought(s) (v.) it seems /seemed to me See Topics: Frequency count

Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
power (n.) 1 armed force, troops, host, army See Topics: Frequency count

Bore the commission of my place and person,
commission (n.) 1 warrant, authority [to act]
place (n.) 1 position, post, office, rank See Topics: Frequency count

The which immediacy may well stand up
immediacy (n.) position closest to the sovereign, being next in standing

And call itself your brother.
brother (n.) 2 equal, fellow, peer
hot (adj.) 2 enthusiastic, ardent, eager, keen


                         Not so hot!

In his own grace he doth exalt himself
grace (n.) 1 honour, favour, recognition, respect

More than in your addition.
addition (n.) 2 attribute, mark of honour, distinction [as if added to a coat of arms]


                         In my rights,

By me invested, he compeers the best.
compeer (v.) equal, match, be the peer of


That were the most if he should husband you.


Jesters do oft prove prophets.
holla (int.) whoa, stop [to a horse]
oft (adv.) often See Topics: Frequency count


                         Holla, holla!

That eye that told you so looked but asquint.
asquint (adv.) with prejudice, in a distorted manner


Lady, I am not well; else I should answer

From a full-flowing stomach. (To Edmund) General,

Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony,
patrimony (n.) estate, inheritance, property

Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.

Witness the world that I create thee here

My lord and master.
enjoy (v.) 4 possess in love, sleep with


                         Mean you to enjoy him?


The let-alone lies not in your good will.
let-alone (n.) power to interfere, ability to hinder


Nor in thine, lord.
half-blooded (adj.) of only one noble parent; bastard


                         Half-blooded fellow, yes.


(to Edmund)
strike (v.), past form stroke 2 beat, sound, strike up

Let the drum strike and prove my title thine.


Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
attaint (n.) 3 condemnation, accusation
reason (n.) 4 account, version, explanation

On capital treason, and, in thy attaint,

(he points to Gonerill)
gilded (adj.) 1 glittering, gold-coloured, tinged with gold

This gilded serpent. For your claim, fair sister,

I bar it in the interest of my wife.

'Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
sub-contracted (adj.) already betrothed, engaged a second time

And I her husband contradict your banns.

If you will marry, make your loves to me;
love (n.) 4 expression of love, love-vow

My lady is bespoke.
bespeak (v.), past forms bespake, bespoke 3 speak for, arrange for, claim
interlude, enterlude (n.) short play, theatrical performance [staged to fill an interval]


                         An interlude!


Thou art armed, Gloucester; let the trumpet sound.

If none appear to prove upon thy person
prove (v.) 1 test, try out, make trial [of]

Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,

There is my pledge.

He throws down his glove
make (v.) 2 do, perform, carry out

                         I'll make it on thy heart,

Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
nothing (n.) 5 no point, no particular

Than I have here proclaimed thee.


                         Sick, O sick!



If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine.

EDMUND (throwing down his glove)

(throwing down his glove)

There's my exchange. What in the world he is

That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
villain-like (adv.) like a serf; or: like a rogue

Call by the trumpet. He that dares approach,

On him, on you – who not? – I will maintain

My truth and honour firmly.


                         A herald, ho!

Enter a Herald
single (adj.) 4 unaided, single-handed, sole
virtue (n.) 3 courage, valour, bravery

Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,

All levied in my name, have in my name
levy (v.) 1 enlist, conscript, muster

Took their discharge.


                         My sickness grows upon me.


She is not well. Convey her to my tent.

Exit Regan, supported

Come hither, herald; let the trumpet sound,

And read out this.

A trumpet sounds
degree (n.) 1 rank, station, standing
quality (n.) 3 rank, standing, position
trumpet (n.) 1 trumpeter; herald, announcer See Topics: Stage directions



If any man of quality or degree within the

lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed
list (n.) 2 muster, troop, band, recruitment
supposed (adj.) 1 pretended, false, counterfeit

Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him

appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his


(First trumpet)


(Second trumpet)


(Third trumpet)

Trumpet answers within. Enter Edgar armed, a

trumpet before him


Ask him his purposes, why he appears
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

Upon this call o'the trumpet.


                         What are you?

Your name, your quality, and why you answer
quality (n.) 3 rank, standing, position

This present summons?


                         Know, my name is lost,

By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit;
bare-gnawn (adj.) totally consumed, worn away to nothing
canker-bit (adj.) worm-eaten, eaten away by canker grubs

Yet am I noble as the adversary

I come to cope.
cope, cope with (v.) 1 encounter, face, have to do [with], come into contact [with]


                         Which is that adversary?


What's he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of Gloucester?


Himself. What sayest thou to him?


                         Draw thy sword,

That if my speech offend a noble heart

Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.

He draws his sword
honour (n.) 3 noble rank, position of dignity, title of renown

Behold; it is the privilege of mine honours,

My oath, and my profession. I protest,
profession (n.) 2 solemn vow, sworn declaration

Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
maugre (prep.) [pron: 'mawguh] in spite of
place (n.) 1 position, post, office, rank See Topics: Frequency count

Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
fire-new (adj.) fresh from the fire, brand-new, freshly minted

Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
heart (n.) 1 courage, spirit, valour

False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
false (adj.) 1 treacherous, traitorous, perfidious See Topics: Frequency count

Conspirant 'gainst this high illustrious prince,
conspirant (n.) conspirator, intriguer, plotter

And, from th' extremest upward of thy head
upward (n.) crown, top part

To the descent and dust below thy foot,

A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou ‘ no,’
toad-spotted (adj.) spotted like the toad [as if with poison]

This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent

To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
prove (v.) 1 test, try out, make trial [of]

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,
assay (n.) 5 evidence, proof, indication

What safe and nicely I might well delay
nicely (adv.) 1 scrupulously, punctiliously, meticulously, fastidiously

By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
spurn (v.) 1 reject, scorn, despise, treat with contempt

Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,

With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart,
hell-hated (adj.) hated as hell is hated

Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
glance (v.) 1 touch, have an impact

This sword of mine shall give them instant way

Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!

Alarums. Fights. Edmund falls
practice (n.) 2 trickery, treachery
save (v.) 4 spare, allow to live


(to Edgar, about to kill Edmund)

Save him, save him!


                         This is practice, Gloucester:

By the law of war thou wast not bound to answer

An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
opposite (n.) 1 opponent, adversary, anatagonist

But cozened and beguiled.
beguile (v.) 1 cheat, deceive, trick
cozen (v.) cheat, dupe, trick, deceive


                         Shut your mouth, dame,

Or with this paper shall I stop it – Hold, sir!
hold (v.) 8 stop, cease, hold on
stople (v.) stop up, close up, plug

(To Gonerill)

Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.

No tearing, lady! I perceive you know it.


Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.

Who can arraign me for't?
arraign (v.) 2 put on trial, indict


                         Most monstrous! O!

(To Edmund)

Knowest thou this paper?


                         Ask me not what I know.

Exit Gonerill


Go after her. She's desperate. Govern her.
govern (v.) 1 restrain, control, hold in check

Exit First Officer


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,
fortune (n.) 1 good fortune, success
noble (adj.) 1 of good breeding, high-born

I do forgive thee.


                         Let's exchange charity.

I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;

If more, the more th' hast wronged me.

My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
pleasant (adj.) 3 pleasurable, enjoyable, pleasing

Make instruments to plague us:

The dark and vicious place where thee he got
get (v.) 1 beget, conceive, breed

Cost him his eyes.


                         Th' hast spoken right. 'Tis true;

The wheel is come full circle; I am here.


Methought thy very gait did prophesy
gait (n.) 1 manner of walking, bearing, movement
methinks(t), methought(s) (v.) it seems /seemed to me See Topics: Frequency count

A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
royal (adj.) 1 like a king, majestic

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;
list (v.) 3 listen to, pay attention to

And when 'tis told, O that my heart would burst!

The bloody proclamation to escape

That followed me so near – O, our life's sweetness,

That we the pain of death would hourly die

Rather than die at once – taught me to shift
shift (v.) 4 change [clothes]

Into a madman's rags, t' assume a semblance
semblance (n.) 1 appearance, outward show

That very dogs disdained; and in this habit
habit (n.) 1 dress, clothing, costume See Topics: Frequency count

Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
ring (n.) 3 eye-socket

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,
success (n.) 1 result, outcome, issue

I asked his blessing, and from first to last

Told him my pilgrimage; but his flawed heart –
flawed (adj.) cracked, broken
pilgrimage (n.) journey, passage, voyage

Alack, too weak the conflict to support –

'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,

Burst smilingly.
smilingly (adv.) with a smile, experiencing some happiness


                         This speech of yours hath moved me,

And shall perchance do good. But speak you on;
perchance (adv.) 1 perhaps, maybe See Topics: Frequency count

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,
dissolve (v.) 4 melt into tears, break down in grief

Hearing of this.
period (n.) 2 point of completion, fitting conclusion, consummation


                         This would have seemed a period

To such as love not sorrow; but another

To amplify too much would make much more

And top extremity.
extremity (n.) 1 utmost degree, greatest amount

Whilst I was big in clamour, came there in a man,
big (adj.) 2 loud, vocal, noisy
clamor, clamour (n.) protest, complaint, outcry

Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
estate (n.) 1 state, situation, circumstances

Shunned my abhorred society; but then finding
abhorred (adj.) horrifying, disgusting, abominable

Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms
endure (v.) 3 live out a life, continue in existence

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
puissant (adj.) powerful, mighty, strong

Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,

And there I left him tranced.
tranced (adj.) in a trance, lost in grief, stunned


                         But who was this?


Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who, in disguise,

Followed his enemy king and did him service

Improper for a slave.
improper (adj.) unfitting, unsuitable, inappropriate

Enter a Gentleman with a bloody knife


Help, help! O, help!


                         What kind of help?


                                                         Speak, man.


What means this bloody knife?
smoke (v.) 2 give off steam [i.e. blood]


                         '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 confesses it.


I was contracted to them both. All three

Now marry in an instant.
marry (v.) 1 join together, unite


                         Here comes Kent.

Enter Kent


Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.

Exit Gentleman

This judgement of the heavens that makes us tremble

Touches us not with pity. (To Kent) O, is this he?

The time will not allow the compliment
compliment, complement (n.) 2 ceremony, etiquette, protocol

Which very manners urges.
very (adj.) 4 proper, correct, appropriate


                         I am come

To bid my King and master aye good night:.
aye (adv.) always, ever, for eternity

Is he not here?


                         Great thing of us forgot.

Speak, Edmund, where's the King? and where's Cordelia?

Gonerill's and Regan's bodies are brought out
object (n.) 1 spectacle, sight, object of attention

See'st thou this object, Kent?


Alack, why thus?


                         Yet Edmund was beloved.

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
brief (adj.) 1 quick, speedy, swift, expeditious
writ (n.) 2 written authority, formal order, warrant

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
office (n.) 1 task, service, duty, responsibility See Topics: Frequency count

Thy token of reprieve.
token (n.) 1 sign, evidence, mark


Well thought on. (To Second Officer) Take my sword,

Give it the captain.


                         Haste thee for thy life.

Exit Second Officer


He hath commission from thy wife and me
commission (n.) 1 warrant, authority [to act]

To hang Cordelia in the prison, and

To lay the blame upon her own despair,

That she fordid herself.
fordo (v.) 2 put an end to, kill, destroy


The gods defend her. Bear him hence awhile.

Edmund is borne off

Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms, followed by

Second Officer and others –


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. She's gone for ever.
vault (n.) 1 roof, covering, ceiling

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,
stone (n.) 1 mineral substance used as a mirror

Why, then she lives.
end (n.) 3 ultimate end, end of all things


                         Is this the promised end?


Or image of that horror?
image (n.) 1 embodiment, instance, form


                         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!


Prithee away.


                         'Tis noble Kent, your friend.


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 sayest? Her voice was ever soft,

Gentle and low – an excellent thing in woman.
gentle (adj.) 6 soft, tender, kind

I killed 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
falchion (n.) curved broadsword See Topics: Weapons

I would have made him skip. I am old now

And these same crosses spoil me. – Who are you?
cross (n.) 1 trial, affliction, trouble
spoil (v.) 3 devastate, ravage, impoverish

Mine eyes are not o'the best, I'll tell you straight.


If Fortune brag of two she loved and hated

One of them we behold.


This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
dull (adj.) 3 gloomy, melancholic, sullen


                         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.
see (v.) 2 see to, manage, attend to
straight (adv.) straightaway, immediately, at once See Topics: Frequency count


That from your first of difference and decay,
decay (n.) 2 decline, downturn, falling off
difference (n.) 3 change, variation, shifting
first (n.) 1 beginning, outset, start

Have followed your sad steps –
sad (adj.) 3 downcast, distressed, mournful, gloomy


                         You are welcome hither.


Nor no man else. All's cheerless, dark, and deadly.
deadly (adj.) deathly, death-like

Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
fordo (v.) 2 put an end to, kill, destroy

And desperately are dead.
desperately (adv.) 2 despairingly, in a state of hopelessness


                         Ay, so I think.


He knows not what he sees, and vain is it

That we present us to him.
bootless (adj.) useless, worthless, fruitless, unavailing


                         Very bootless.

Enter a Messenger


Edmund is dead, my lord.


                         That's but a trifle here.

You lords and noble friends, know our intent:
intent (n.) intention, purpose, aim See Topics: Frequency count

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)
power (n.) 3 authority, government

                         You, to your rights

With boot, and such addition as your honours
addition (n.) 2 attribute, mark of honour, distinction [as if added to a coat of arms]
boot (n.) 1 good, advantage, profit

Have more than merited. All friends shall taste

The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings. – O, see, see!
deserving (n.) 2 reward, recompense, desert


And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
fool (n.) 1 [term of endearment or pity] dear, darling, innocent creature

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 prithee break.


                         Look up, my lord.


Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass. He hates him
ghost (n.) 1 spirit, soul
vex (v.) afflict, trouble, torment

That would upon the rack of this tough world
rack (n.) 4 machine of torture which stretches the limbs

Stretch him out longer.


                         He is gone indeed.


The wonder is he hath endured so long.

He but usurped his life.
usurp (v.) 3 take wrongful possession of, misappropriate


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.
gored (adj.) deeply wounded, bleeding


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;
sad (adj.) 3 downcast, distressed, mournful, gloomy
weight (n.) burden of sorrow, sadness, affliction

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

  Previous scene