Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

King Lear : Act 1, Scene 5

           Enter LEAR, KENT [disguised as Caius],
           and Fool.

  1   Go you before to Gloucester with these letters.
1. before ahead of me. >>>  these letters: i.e., this letter.

  2   Acquaint my daughter no further with any thing
  3   you know than comes from her demand out of
  4   the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall
4. her demand out of the letter: her questions arising from reading the letter.

  5   be there afore you.

  6   I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered
  7   your letter.


  8   If a man's brains were in's heels, were't not in
  9   danger of kibes?
9. Chilblainskibes: chilblains, inflammation of the extremities resulting from exposure.

      KING LEAR:
 10   Ay, boy.

 11   Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall ne'er go
 12   slip-shod.
12. thy wit shall ne'er go slip-shod: i.e., your wits won't wear slippers to protect against chilblains, because your wits aren't really in your heels. — I believe the Fool's implication is that Lear's journey to Regan is such a stupid idea that it seems as if all of Lear's thinking is being done by his heels.

      KING LEAR:
 13   Ha, ha, ha!

 14   Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly;
14. Shalt see: you will see that.

 15   for though she's as like this as a crab's like an
15. this: i.e., this daughter here, Goneril.  crab: crabapple.

 16   apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.

      KING LEAR:
 17   Why, what canst thou tell, my boy?

 18   She will taste as like this as a crab does to a
 19   crab. Thou canst tell why one's nose stands i'
 20   the middle on's face?
20. on's face: of his face.

      KING LEAR:
 21   No.

 22   Why, to keep one's eyes of either side's nose; that
22. of either side's nose: on either side of his nose. that: so that.

 23   what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

      KING LEAR:
 24   I did her wrong.
24. her: Goneril? Cordelia?

 25   Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?

      KING LEAR:
 26   No.

 27   Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a
 28   house.

      KING LEAR:
 29   Why?

 30   Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his
 31   daughters, and leave his horns without a case.

      KING LEAR:
 32   I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my
32. forget my nature: forget my natural fatherly feelings.

 33   horses ready?

 34   Thy asses are gone about 'em. The reason why
34. asses: i.e, Lear's followers.

 35   the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty
35. seven stars: the Pleiades. >>>

the Pleiades

 36   reason.

      KING LEAR:
 37   Because they are not eight?

 38   Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good Fool.

      KING LEAR:
 39   To take 't again perforce! Monster ingratitude!
39. To take 't again perforce!: to take it back again by force! —King Lear may be thinking of the fact that Goneril deprived him of fifty of his knights, and fantasizing that with those knights he could take back his kingdom by force.

 40   If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'ld have thee beaten
 41   for being old before thy time.

      KING LEAR:
 42   How's that?

 43   Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst
 44   been wise.

      KING LEAR:
 45   O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven
 46   Keep me in temper: I would not be mad!
46. temper: mental balance.

           [Enter Gentleman.]

 47   How now! are the horses ready?

 48   Ready, my lord.

      KING LEAR:
 49   Come, boy.

           [Exeunt Lear and Gentleman.]

 50   She that's a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
50. maid: virgin.

 51   Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut
51. She . . . shorter: Maybe this is a warning that the scene is no laughing matter. Maybe this is a dirty joke. Maybe this was not written by Shakespeare: check the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare to read more.