King Lear : Act 1, Scene 4



           Enter KENT [disguised as Caius].

      KENT
  1   If but as well I other accents borrow,
If ... defuse i.e., if I can disguise my voice as well as I have disguised my appearance
issue result
raz'd my likeness erased my true identity serve ... condemn'd i.e., serve King Lear, who condemned you to exile | may it come may it come to pass | full of labours excellent in performing services | Horns within —The king and his have been out hunting, and we hear the hunting horns just before we see the king. The "within" means within the backstage area, out of sight.

stay wait

  2   That can my speech defuse, my good intent
  3   May carry through itself to that full issue
  4   For which I raz'd my likeness. Now, banish'd Kent,
  5   If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,
  6   So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest,
  7   Shall find thee full of labours.

           Horns within. Enter LEAR, [Knights,] and
           Attendants.

      KING LEAR
  8   Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get it ready.
           [Exit an Attendant.]
           [Kent approaches King Lear.]
what art thou? who are you?
  9   How now! what art thou?

      KENT
 10   A man, sir.

      KING LEAR
What dost thou profess? What's your profession?
 11   What dost thou profess? what wouldst thou
 12   with us?

      KENT
profess claim
 13   I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve
put me in trust believe me to be trustworthy | honest honorable | converse associate | to fear judgment i.e., God's judgment | when I cannot choose when I must
 14   him truly that will put me in trust: to love him
 15   that is honest; to converse with him that is wise,
 16   and says little; to fear judgment; to fight when I
 17   cannot choose; and to eat no fish.

      KING LEAR
 18   What art thou?

      KENT
 19   A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as
 20   the king.

      KING LEAR
 21   If thou be'st as poor for a subject as he's for a
 22   king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?

      KENT
 23   Service.

      KING LEAR
 24   Who wouldst thou serve?

      KENT
 25   You.

      KING LEAR
 26   Dost thou know me, fellow?

      KENT
 27   No, sir; but you have that in your countenance
fain gladly
 28   which I would fain call master.

      KING LEAR
 29   What's that?

      KENT
 30   Authority.

      KING LEAR
 31   What services canst thou do?

      KENT
keep honest counsel keep confidences | curious elaborate, complicated
 32   I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious
 33   tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message
 34   bluntly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am
 35   qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.

      KING LEAR
 36   How old art thou?

      KENT
 37   Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor
 38   so old to dote on her for any thing: I have years
 39   on my back forty eight.

      KING LEAR
 40   Follow me. Thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no
 41   worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.
 42   Dinner, ho, dinner! Where's my knave? my fool?
 43   Go you, and call my fool hither.

           [Exit an Attendant.]

           Enter Steward [OSWALD].

 44   You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?

      OSWALD
So please you i.e., sorry, I'm busy —This is a deliberately insulting non-apology.
 45   So please you,—            Exit.

      KING LEAR
clotpoll blockhead
 46   What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll
 47   back.
           [Exit a Knight.]
 48   Where's my fool, ho? I think the world's asleep.
           [Re-enter Knight.]
 49   How now! where's that mongrel?

      Knight
 50   He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.

      KING LEAR
 51   Why came not the slave back to me when I called
 52   him?

      Knight
roundest bluntest
 53   Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he
 54   would not.

      KING LEAR
 55   He would not!

      Knight
 56   My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my
 57   judgment, your highness is not entertained with that
wont accustomed to
 58   ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a
kindness natural respect
 59   great abatement of kindness appears as well in the
dependants servants
 60   general dependants as in the duke himself also and
 61   your daughter.

      KING LEAR
 62   Ha! sayest thou so?

      Knight
 63   I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken;
 64   for my duty cannot be silent when I think your
 65   highness wronged.

      KING LEAR
rememberest remind | conception perception | faint indolent
 66   Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception: I
 67   have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I
jealous curiosity i.e., suspicious inquisitiveness | very pretense deliberate intention
 68   have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity
 69   than as a very pretense and purpose of unkindness:
 70   I will look further into't. But where's my fool? I
 71   have not seen him this two days.

      Knight
young lady's Cordelia
 72   Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the
 73   fool hath much pined away.

      KING LEAR
 74   No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you, and
 75   tell my daughter I would speak with her.
           [Exit an Attendant.]
 76   Go you, call hither my fool.
           [Exit another Attendant.]

           Enter Steward [OSWALD].

 77   O, you sir, you, come you hither, sir: who
 78   am I, sir?

      OSWALD
 79   My lady's father.

      KING LEAR
 80   'My lady's father'! my lord's knave: you
 81   whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!

      OSWALD
 82   I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your
 83   pardon.

      KING LEAR
 84   Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
           [Striking him.]

      OSWALD
 85   I'll not be struck, my lord.

      KENT
football i.e., mob football
 86   Nor tripped neither, you base football player.
           [Tripping up his heels.]

      KING LEAR
 87   I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I'll
 88   love thee.

      KENT
differences distinctions of rank | measure your lubber's length again i.e., have your loutish body again lying on the ground
 89   Come sir, arise, away! I'll teach you differences.
 90   Away, away! if you will measure your lubber's
 91   length again, tarry; but away! Go to; have you
 92   wisdom? so.
           [Pushes OSWALD out.]

      KING LEAR
 93   Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee; there's
earnest of down payment on
 94   earnest of thy service.
           [Giving KENT money.]

           Enter Fool.

      Fool
 95   Let me hire him too: here's my coxcomb.
           [Offering KENT his cap.]

      KING LEAR
 96   How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?

      Fool
 97   Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.

      KENT
 98   Why, fool?

      Fool
 99   Why, for taking one's part that's out of favour.
an if | smile as the wind sits i.e., suck up to whoever has power | catch cold i.e., find yourself out in the cold
100   Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits,
101   thou'lt catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb.
102   Why, this fellow has banished two on's daughters,
103   and did the third a blessing against his will; if thou
104   follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.
nuncle mine uncle —This was a common form of address from a Fool to his lord. Of course, no other person could address a king as "nuncle," or refer to him as a "fellow," as the Fool did a minute before.
105   How now, nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and
106   two daughters!

      KING LEAR
107   Why, my boy?

      Fool
all my living i.e., all the property which produces the income that I live on
108   If I gave them all my living, I'ld keep my coxcombs
109   myself. There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.

      KING LEAR
110   Take heed, sirrah; the whip.

      Fool
must to must go to | whipped out i.e., driven out of the house with a whip | brach hound bitch
111   Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped
112   out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire
113   and stink.

      KING LEAR
gall source of irritation
114   A pestilent gall to me!

      Fool
115   Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.

      KING LEAR
116   Do.

      Fool
Mark it i.e., pay close attention
117    Mark it, nuncle:
118      Have more than thou showest,
119      Speak less than thou knowest,
owest own
120      Lend less than thou owest,
goest walk
121      Ride more than thou goest,
Learn hear | trowest believe
122      Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest bet less than your all on one throw of the dice.
123      Set less than thou throwest;
124      Leave thy drink and thy whore,
in-a-door indoors
125      And keep in-a-door,
thou shalt have more / Than two tens to a score i.e., you will prosper
126      And thou shalt have more
127      Than two tens to a score.

      KENT
128   This is nothing, fool.

      Fool
breath speech | unfee'd unpaid
129   Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer;
130   you gave me nothing for't. Can you make no
131   use of nothing, nuncle?

      KING LEAR
132   Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of
133   nothing.

      Fool  [To KENT.]
Prithee ... / land comes to Remind him that no land means no rent; with a pun on "rent" meaning "torn, divided"
134   Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of his
135   land comes to: he will not believe a fool.

      KING LEAR
bitter vexatious
136   A bitter fool!

      Fool
137   Dost thou know the difference, my boy,
138   between a bitter fool and a sweet one?

      KING LEAR
139   No, lad; teach me.

      Fool
140   That lord that counsell'd thee
That lord that counsell'd thee / To give away thy land—There was no "lord" that advised Lear to give away his land. It was all his own idea: the point of the Fool's little ditty is that it is Lear who is the "bitter fool."

141      To give away thy land,
142   Come place him here by me,
143      Do thou for him stand:
144   The sweet and bitter fool
145      Will presently appear;
146   The one in motley here,
147      The other found out there.

      KING LEAR
148   Dost thou call me fool, boy?

      Fool
that thou wast born with i.e., you were born with the title of "fool"
149   All thy other titles thou hast given away; that
150   thou wast born with.

      KENT
This is not altogether fool what the Fool is saying is not totally foolish
151   This is not altogether fool, my lord.

      Fool
152   No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if
monopoly out an officially granted monopoly
153   I had a monopoly out, they would have part on't:
154   and ladies too, they will not let me have all fool
155   to myself; they'll be snatching. Give me an egg,
156   nuncle, and I'll give thee two crowns.

      KING LEAR
157   What two crowns shall they be?

      Fool
158   Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle, and eat
159   up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
160   clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away
161   both parts, thou bor'st thy ass on thy back o'er
162   the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown,
163   when thou gav'st thy golden one away. If I speak
164   like myself in this, let him be whipt that first
165   finds it so.            [Sings.]
Fools ... foppish i.e., fools are no longer in demand since wise men now do their work
166     "Fools had ne'er less grace in a year;
167         For wise men are grown foppish,
168      And know not how their wits to wear,
apish stupid, imitative
169         Their manners are so apish."

      KING LEAR
wont accustomed
170   When were you wont to be so full of songs,
171   sirrah?

      Fool
used it made it my practice
172   I have used it, nuncle, e'er since thou madest thy
173   daughters thy mothers: for when thou gavest them
174   the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,            
                      [Sings.]
175     "Then they for sudden joy did weep,
176         And I for sorrow sung,
bo-peep a game played with very young children, also known as "peek-a-boo."
177      That such a king should play bo-peep,
178         And go the fools among."
179   Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
180   thy fool to lie—I would fain learn to lie.

      KING LEAR
An if
181   An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.

      Fool
kin how alike
182   I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They'll
183   have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have
184   me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped
185   for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o'
186   thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle;
pared sliced off
187   thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides, and left nothing
188   i' the middle: here comes one o' the parings.

           Enter GONERIL.

      KING LEAR
frontlet band worn on the forehead —This is King Lear's jesting metaphor for Goneril's frown.
189   How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on?
190   Methinks you are too much of late i' the frown.

      Fool
191   Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to
an O without a figure a zero without another digit in front of it: i.e., amounting to nothing.
192   care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a
193   figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool,
194   thou art nothing.
           [To GONERIL.]
195   Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face
196   bids me, though you say nothing.
197         Mum, mum,
He ... some i.e., he who gives everything away because he's tired of it all, will later find himself in need of some of what he gave away
sheal'd peascod shelled (empty) pea pod; nothing
198         He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
199         Weary of all, shall want some.
           [Pointing to KING LEAR.]
200   That's a sheal'd peascod.

      GONERIL
all-licens'd i.e., allowed to say anything he wants
201   Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd fool,
202   But other of your insolent retinue
203   Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth
rank foul, stinking, blatant
204   In rank and not-to-be endur'd riots. Sir,
205   I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
safe sure
206   To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
too late all too recently
207   By what yourself too late have spoke and done.
put it on / ... allowance encourage it by allowing it to happen
208   That you protect this course, and put it on
209   By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
210   Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
tender of care for | weal commonwealth
211   Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
212   Might in their working do you that offence,
Which ... proceeding. which under other circumstances would be shameful (to you), (but) that in this instance would by necessity be called a prudent proceeding
213   Which else were shame, that then necessity
214   Will call discreet proceeding.

      Fool
214                                       For, you know, nuncle,
215     "The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
216      That it had it head bit off by it young."
darkling in the dark
217   So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.

      KING LEAR
218   Are you our daughter?

      GONERIL
219   Come sir,
220   I would you would make use of that good wisdom,
fraught freighted with; i.e., amply provided with | these dispositions i.e., the capricious moods you have lately shown
221   Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away
222   These dispositions, that of late transport you
223   From what you rightly are.

      Fool
224   May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?
           [Sings.]
225   "Whoop, Jug! I love thee."

      KING LEAR
226   Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:
227   Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
notion intellect | discernings senses waking? am I awake?
228   Either his notion weakens, his discernings
229   Are lethargied—Ha! waking? 'tis not so.
230   Who is it that can tell me who I am?

      Fool
231   Lear's shadow.

      KING LEAR
by the marks of / ... and reason i.e., by the evidence supplied by my kingly nature, my memory, and my common sense
232   I would learn that; for, by the marks of
233   sovereignty, knowledge, and reason,
234   I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

      Fool
Which whom
235   Which they will make an obedient father.

      KING LEAR
236   Your name, fair gentlewoman?

      GONERIL
admiration (pretended) wonderment
237   This admiration, sir, is much o' the savour
238   Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
239   To understand my purposes aright:
should you should
240   As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
241   Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;
disorder'd disorderly | debosh'd debauched
242   Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold,
243   That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows Appears

a grac'd an honored | doth speak / For instant remedy shows the urgent need of an immediate remedy
her i.e., Goneril
disquantity your train reduce the size of your retinue | still depend continue to be retained
besort befit
Which know themselves and you i.e., who know their place and yours. — Goneril is forcibly reminding King Lear that he is no longer a king, but only an old man who should be grateful for anything he gets.
244   Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
245   Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
246   Than a grac'd palace. The shame itself doth speak
247   For instant remedy: be then desired
248   By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
249   A little to disquantity your train;
250   And the remainders, that shall still depend,
251   To be such men as may besort your age,
252   Which know themselves and you.

      KING LEAR
252                                                Darkness and devils!
253   Saddle my horses; call my train together:
254   Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee.
Yet have I left a daughter. I still have a (true) daughter (Regan).
255   Yet have I left a daughter.

      GONERIL
255                                                You strike my people
256   And your disorder'd rabble make servants of their betters.

           Enter ALBANY.

      KING LEAR
Woe, that too late repents woe to him who repents (of his decisions) too late. —King Lear probably means that, by leaving Goneril for Regan, he is avoiding the woe of a man who doesn't change his mind until it is too late.
257   Woe, that too late repents,—
           [To ALBANY.]
257                                               O, sir, are you come?
258   Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
259   Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
260   More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child
261   Than the sea-monster!

      ALBANY
patient calm
261                                           Pray, sir, be patient.

      KING LEAR [To GONERIL.]
Kite parts qualities, accomplishments
262   Detested kite! thou liest.
263   My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
264   That all particulars of duty know,
265   And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name Their honorable reputations
266   The worships of their name. O most small fault,
267   How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
engine i.e., the rack

this gate i.e., Lear's head
268   Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
269   From the fix'd place; drew from heart all love,
270   And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
271   Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
           [Striking his head.]
dear precious
272   And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.

      ALBANY
273   My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
moved angered
274   Of what hath moved you.

      KING LEAR
274                                               It may be so, my lord.
275   Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
276   Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
277   To make this creature fruitful!
278   Into her womb convey sterility!
279   Dry up in her the organs of increase;
derogate debased
280   And from her derogate body never spring
teem breed
281   A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
spleen malice, spitefulness
282   Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
thwart perverse | disnatur'd unnatural, unfilial
283   And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
284   Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
cadent falling
285   With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
mother's pains and benefits maternal care and nurturing | laughter mockery
286   Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
287   To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
288   How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
289   To have a thankless child!— Away, away!

           Exit.

      ALBANY
290   Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

      GONERIL
291   Never afflict yourself to know more of it;
let his disposition have that scope / That dotage gives it i.e., let him be the foolish old man that he is
292   But let his disposition have that scope
293   That dotage gives it.

           Enter [KING] LEAR.

      KING LEAR
294   What, fifty of my followers at a clap!
295   Within a fortnight!

      ALBANY
295                                     What's the matter, sir?

      KING LEAR
296   I'll tell thee:
           [To GONERIL.]
296                             Life and death! I am asham'd
297   That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus;
perforce against my will
298   That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them i.e., reveal that I care enough about you to shed tears | untented incurable
fond foolish
Beweep this cause again if you weep again for the same reason
299   Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs
                      upon thee!
300   The untented woundings of a father's curse
301   Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
302   Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out,
303   And cast you, with the waters that you loose,
temper clay i.e., mix with dirt
304   To temper clay. Yea, is't come to this?
305   Ha? Let it be so: I have another daughter,
comfortable ready to offer comfort
306   Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable.
307   When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
308   She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
309   That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think
310   I have cast off for ever.

           Exit [King Lear and all of his followers
           except the Fool].

      GONERIL
310                                         Do you mark that, my lord?

      ALBANY
partial biased
311   I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To Because of
312   To the great love I bear you,—

      GONERIL
Pray you, content i.e. please don't worry about a thing and please shut up
313   Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
           [To the Fool.]
314   You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.

      Fool
315   Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool
316   with thee.
317   A fox, when one has caught her,
318      And such a daughter,
sure surely be sent
319      Should sure to the slaughter,
halter collar; noose
320      If my cap would buy a halter:
321      So the fool follows after.
           Exit.

      GONERIL
322   This man hath had good counsel—a hundred knights!
politic prudent
323   'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point armed
324   At point a hundred knights: yes, that, on every
                      dream,
buzz rumor
325   Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
enguard his dotage protect himself in his old age | in mercy at his mercy
326   He may enguard his dotage with their pow'rs,
327   And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!

      ALBANY
328   Well, you may fear too far.

      GONERIL
328                                      Safer than trust too far:
still always
329   Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not rather than | be taken be overcome by a harm
330   Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
331   What he hath utter'd I have writ my sister
332   If she sustain him and his hundred knights
unfitness unwillingness
333   When I have show'd the unfitness,—
           Enter Steward [Oswald].
333                                                       How now, Oswald?
334   What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

      OSWALD
335   Ay, madam.

      GONERIL
336   Take you some company, and away to horse:
particular specific
337   Inform her full of my particular fear;
338   And thereto add such reasons of your own
compact compound
339   As may compact it more. Get you gone;
340   And hasten your return.
           [Exit Oswald.]
340                                                 No, no, my lord,
milky gentleness and course mildly gentle course of action | under pardon if you will allow me to say so | attask'd to be censured | harmful mildness mildness that may well have harmful consequences
341   This milky gentleness and course of yours
342   Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
343   You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
344   Than praised for harmful mildness.

      ALBANY
345   How far your eyes may pierce I can not tell:
346   Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

      GONERIL
347   Nay, then—

      ALBANY
th' event i.e., we'll see what the outcome is
348   Well, well; th' event.
           Exeunt.