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 2, Scene 4

           Enter KING LEAR, Fool, and Gentleman.
           [KENT (disguised as Caius) is in the stocks.]

  1   'Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
1. they: Regan, King Lear's second daughter, and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall.

  2   And not send back my messenger.
2. my messenger: Caius [Kent in disguise].

                                                                  As I learn'd,
  3   The night before there was no purpose in them
  4   Of this remove.
3-4. there was no . . . this remove: i.e., they had no intention of leaving their residence and coming to stay with Gloucester.

                                    Hail to thee, noble master!

  5   Ha!?
  6   Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime?
6. Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime?: Are you undergoing this humiliation for a joke?

                                                                        No, my lord.

  7   Ha, ha! he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied
7. cruel garters: i.e., the stocks.Kent in stocks greeting King Lear >>>

  8   by the heads, dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys
  9   by the loins, and men by the legs when a man's
 10   over-lusty at legs, then he wears wooden
 11   nether-stocks.

 12   What's he that hath so much thy place mistook
12. What's: Who is. place: [important] position [as the King's messenger].

 13   To set thee here?

                                      It is both he and she;
 14   Your son and daughter.
14. son: i.e., your son-in-law, the Duke of Cornwall.  daughter: Regan, Lear's daughter and wife of the Duke of Cornwall.

 15   No.

 16   Yes.

 17   No, I say.

 18   I say, yea.

 19   No, no, they would not.

 20   Yes, they have.

 21   By Jupiter, I swear, no.

 22   By Juno, I swear, ay.

                                            They durst not do 't;
 23   They could not, would not do 't; 'tis worse than murder,
 24   To do upon respect such violent outrage:
24. upon respect: against the respect due a king.

 25   Resolve me, with all modest haste, which way
25. Resolve me, with all modest haste: inform me with all reasonable haste.

 26   Thou mightst deserve, or they impose, this usage,
 27   Coming from us.
27. Coming from us: i.e., seeing that they knew you to be the king's messenger.

                                  My lord, when at their home
 28   I did commend your highness' letters to them,
28. commend: deliver; recommend [as coming from the king].

 29   Ere I was risen from the place that show'd
 30   My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
30. reeking post: stinking deliverer of messages.

 31   Stew'd in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
31. Stew'd: bathed in his own sweat.

 32   From Goneril his mistress salutations;
 33   Deliver'd letters, spite of intermission,
33. spite of intermission: careless of interrupting me.

 34   Which presently they read: on whose contents,
34. presently: immediately. on whose contents: in consequence of the contents.

 35   They summon'd up their meiny, straight took horse;
35. meiny: household servants; retinue. straight: straightaway.

 36   Commanded me to follow, and attend
 37   The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks:
 38   And meeting here the other messenger,
38. the other messenger: Oswald.

 39   Whose welcome, I perceived, had poison'd mine,—
 40   Being the very fellow that of late
 41   Display'd so saucily against your highness,—
41. Display'd so saucily: showed himself [to be] so insolent.

 42   Having more man than wit about me, drew:
42. Having more man than wit: i.e., having more indignation than prudence.

 43   He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
 44   Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
 45   The shame which here it suffers.

 46   Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that
46. Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way: i.e., if Regan and Cornwall are taking sides with Oswald, Goneril's steward, your troubles are not over.

 47   way.
 48           Fathers that wear rags
 49             Do make their children blind;
49. blind: i.e., blind to their fathers' needs.

 50           But fathers that bear bags
50. bags: money bags.

 51             Shall see their children kind.
 52           Fortune, that arrant whore,
52. turns the key: unlocks the door.
 53           Ne'er turns the key to the poor.
 54   But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours
54. dolours: sorrows (with a pun on "dollars").

 55   for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
55. for: because of.  tell: count.

 56   O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
56. mother: hysteria.

 57   Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow,
57. Hysterica passio: an eruption of hysteria.

 58   Thy element's below! — Where is this daughter?
58. Thy element's below!: your natural place in the body is lower down. >>>

 59   With the earl, sir, here within.

 59                                                         Follow me not;
 60   Stay here.


 61   Made you no more offence but what you speak of?

 62   None.
 63   How chance the king comes with so small a train?
63. How chance the king comes with so small a train?: how does it happen that the king comes with so few followers?

 64   An thou hadst been set i' the stocks for that
64. An: If.

 65   question, thou hadst well deserved it.

 66   Why, Fool?

 67   We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee
 68   there's no labouring i' the winter. All that follow
67-68. We'll set . . . winter: i.e., you're ignoring the obvious. >>>

 69   their noses are led by their eyes but blind men;
 70   and there's not a nose among twenty but can
 71   smell him that's stinking. Let go thy hold when
68-71. All that follow . . . smell him that's stinking: i.e., if they couldn't see that Lear was out of Fortune's favor, they would be able to smell him as his fortunes decay.

 72   a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy
 73   neck with following; but the great one that goes
 74   up the hill, let him draw thee after. When a wise
 75   man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again:
 76   I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool
76. knaves: rascals, cheats.

 77   gives it.
 78           That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
 79             And follows but for form,
 80           Will pack when it begins to rain,
80. pack: pack up and be off.

 81             And leave thee in the storm,
 82           But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
 83             And let the wise man fly:
 84           The knave turns fool that runs away;
84. The knave turns fool that runs away: —I think the Fool is saying knaves who run have got their values all wrong.

 85             The fool no knave, perdy.
85. perdy: by God, from the French, "par Dieu."

 86   Where learned you this, Fool?

 87   Not i' the stocks, fool.

           Enter KING LEAR and GLOUCESTER.

 88   Deny to speak with me? They are sick? they are weary?
88. They: i.e., Cornwall and Regan.

 89   They have travell'd all the night? Mere fetches;
89. fetches: far-fetched excuses.

 90   The images of revolt and flying off.
90. images: signs of. flying off: desertion.

 91   Fetch me a better answer.

                                                    My dear lord,
 92   You know the fiery quality of the duke;
92. quality: nature.

 93   How unremoveable and fix'd he is
 94   In his own course.

 95   Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!
95. confusion: destruction, chaos.

 96   Fiery? what quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
 97   I'ld speak with the Earl of Cornwall and his wife.

 98   Well, my good lord, I have inform'd them so.

 99   Inform'd them! Dost thou understand me, man?

100   Ay, my good lord.

101   The king would speak with Cornwall; the dear father
102   Would with his daughter speak, commands her service:
103   Are they inform'd of this? My breath and blood!
104   Fiery? the fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that—
105   No, but not yet: may be he is not well:
106   Infirmity doth still neglect all office
106. all office: all duties.

107   Whereto our health is bound; we are not ourselves
107. bound: involved.

108   When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind
109   To suffer with the body: I'll forbear —
110   And am fall'n out with my more headier will —
110. am fall'n out with my more headier will: have become an enemy of my impetuous disposition.

111   To take the indisposed and sickly fit
111. take: i.e., mistake.

112   For the sound man.

           [Looking on KENT.]

                                    Death on my state! wherefore
112. my state: i.e., my state of mind, my emotional state.

113   Should he sit here? This act persuades me
114   That this remotion of the duke and her
114. remotion: i.e., staying out of sight by leaving their home, and by claiming to be to tired to see Lear,

115   Is practise only. Give me my servant forth.
115. practise: trickery.

116   Go tell the duke and 's wife I'ld speak with them,
117   Now, presently: bid them come forth and hear me,
117. presently: immediately.

118   Or at their chamber-door I'll beat the drum
119   Till it cry sleep to death.
119. Till it cry sleep to death: i.e., until the din of the drum makes sleep impossible.

120   I would have all well betwixt you.


121   O me, my heart, my rising heart! But, down!

122   Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels
122. it: i.e., your heart. cockney: squeamish person.

123   when she put 'em i' the paste alive; she knapped 'em
123. paste: an empty pie crust. >>>

124   o' th' coxcombs with a stick, and cried 'Down,
123-124. knapped o' th' coxcombs: knocked on their fools' heads.

125   wantons, down!' 'Twas her brother that, in pure
124-125. 'Down . . . down!': 'down with you, you skittish critters!'

126   kindness to his horse, butter'd his hay.

126. butter'd his hay': — Horses are lactose intolerant; butter will make them sick.
           and Servants.

127   Good morrow to you both.

127                                                   Hail to your grace!

           Kent here set at liberty.

128   I am glad to see your highness.

129   Regan, I think you are; I know what reason
130   I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
131   I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb,
132   Sepulchring an adultress.
130-132. if thou . . . adultress: i.e., if you were not glad to see me, I would refuse to be buried next to your mother on the grounds that she must have been an adultress, which would mean that you would be a bastard, who would naturally not be glad to see me.

           [To Kent.]
132                                                   O, are you free?
133   Some other time for that.

           [Exit Kent.]
133                                           Beloved Regan,
134   Thy sister's naught: O Regan, she hath tied
134. naught: worthless, wicked.

135   Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here:

           [Points to his heart.]

136   I can scarce speak to thee; thou'lt not believe
137   With how depraved a quality—O Regan!

138   I pray you, sir, take patience: I have hope.
138. take patience: control yourself.

139   You less know how to value her desert
139. desert: deservingness; good qualities.

140   Than she to scant her duty.
140. scant: neglect

                                                      Say, how is that?
Say, how is that?: i.e., What are you saying? — Lear is taken by surprise; he had expected Regan to be on his side.

141   I cannot think my sister in the least
142   Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
143   She have restrain'd the riots of your followers,
144   'Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end,
145   As clears her from all blame.

146   My curses on her!

146                                   O, sir, you are old.
147   Nature in you stands on the very verge
147. nature: life.

148   Of her confine. You should be rul'd and led
148. of her confine: nature's extreme limit.

149   By some discretion that discerns your state
150   Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,
151   That to our sister you do make return;
152   Say you have wrong'd her, sir.

                                                    Ask her forgiveness?
153   Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
153. how this becomes the house: befits family honor.

154   'Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
155   Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
155. Age is unnecessary: old people are useless.

156   That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.'

157   Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks:
158   Return you to my sister.

      KING LEAR [Rising.]
158                                       Never, Regan:
159   She hath abated me of half my train;
160   Look'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
160. Look'd black . . . tongue: i.e., gave me an evil look and a tongue-lashing.

161   Most serpent-like, upon the very heart:
162   All the stor'd vengeances of heaven fall
163   On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
163. her ingrateful top: ungrateful head.

164   You taking airs, with lameness!
164. taking airs: infectious winds.

164                                                           Fie, sir, fie!

165   You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
166   Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
167   You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn by the pow'rful sun,
168   To fall and blister!
166-168. Infect  . . .  blister!: you swamp-born toxic fogs, which are drawn up by the sun, fall upon Goneril, and ruin her beauty with blisters.

                                        O the blest gods! so
169   Will you wish on me, when the rash mood is on.

170   No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse:
171   Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
171. tender-hefted: moved by a tender nature, lovingly inclined.

172   Thee o'er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but thine
173   Do comfort and not burn. 'Tis not in thee
174   To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
175   To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
175. to scant my sizes: reduce my allowances.

176   And in conclusion to oppose the bolt
176. oppose the bolt: lock the door.

177   Against my coming in. Thou better know'st
178   The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
178. offices of nature: natural duties.  bond of childhood: the bond of love between a child and parent.

179   Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude;
179. Effects . . . gratitude: the results of being treated with courtesy, and the obligations created by gratitude.

180   Thy half o' th' kingdom hast thou not forgot,
181   Wherein I thee endow'd.

                                              Good sir, to the purpose.
181. to the purpose: get to the point.

182   Who put my man i' the stocks?

           Tucket within.
Tucket within: trumpet flourish offstage.

                                                      What trumpet's that?

183   I know't, my sister's: this approves her letter,
183. approves: confirms.

184   That she would soon be here.

           Enter Steward [OSWALD].

                                                        Is your lady come?

185   This is a slave, whose easy-borrow'd pride
185. easy-borrowed pride: i.e., cheap pride, borrowed by a servant from his powerful boss.

186   Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
187   Out, varlet, from my sight!
187. varlet: wretch.

                                                    What means your grace?

188   Who stock'd my servant? Regan, I have good hope
189   Thou didst not know on't. Who comes here? O heavens,
189. on't: of it.

           Enter GONERIL.

190   If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
190. sway: controlling influence.

191   Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
191. Allow obedience: i.e., approve of obedience in children.

192   Make it your cause; send down, and take my part!
192. send down: i.e., hurl a lightening bolt [?].

Regan tales Goneril by the hand.
Illustrator: H.C. Selous

           [To GONERIL.]

193   Art not ashamed to look upon this beard?
194   O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?

195   Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended?
196   All's not offence that indiscretion finds
197   And dotage terms so.
196-197. All's . . . so: i.e., just because your rashness and feeble-minded old age have taken offense at me does not mean I have done anything wrong.

                                              O sides, you are too tough;
197. O sides, you are too tough: i.e., I feel that I am about to explode, and only my sides are holding me together.

198   Will you yet hold? How came my man i' the stocks?

199   I set him there, sir: but his own disorders
199. disorders: disorderly behavior.

200   Deserved much less advancement.
200. Deserved much less advancement: i.e., deserved far worse treatment.

200                                                                 You! did you?

201   I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
201. seem so: do not pretend to be otherwise.

202   If, till the expiration of your month,
203   You will return and sojourn with my sister,
204   Dismissing half your train, come then to me:
205   I am now from home, and out of that provision
205. from: away from.  provision: store of supplies.

206   Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
206. Which shall be needful for your entertainment: which I will need to host you.

207   Return to her, and fifty men dismiss'd?
208   No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
208. abjure: renounce.

209   To wage against the enmity o' th' air,
209. wage: contend.

210   To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,—
211   Necessity's sharp pinch! Return with her?
212   Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
212. dowerless: without a dowery.

213   Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
214   To knee his throne, and, squire-like; pension beg
214. knee: kneel to.

215   To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
216   Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
216. sumpter: drudge, pack-horse.

217   To this detested groom.

           [Pointing at Oswald.]

217                                                 At your choice, sir.

218   I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad:
219   I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell:
220   We'll no more meet, no more see one another:
221   But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter —

222   Or rather a disease that's in my flesh,
223   Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
224   A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,
224. embossed: swollen, risen to a head. carbuncle: a group of coalescing boils.

225   In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;
226   Let shame come when it will, I do not call it:
227   I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
227. thunder-bearer: Jove.

228   Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove:
228. high-judging: judging from on high.

229   Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure:
229. Mend: Make amends.

230   I can be patient; I can stay with Regan,
231   I and my hundred knights.

                                                        Not altogether so:
232   I look'd not for you yet, nor am provided
232. look'd not for you: did not expect you.

233   For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister;
234   For those that mingle reason with your passion
234. mingle reason with your passion: bring reason to the consideration of your passion.

235   Must be content to think you old, and so—
236   But she knows what she does.

                                                              Is this well spoken?
236. well spoken: earnestly spoken, thought through.

237   I dare avouch it, sir: what, fifty followers?
237. avouch: vouch for; acknowledge.

238   Is it not well? What should you need of more?
239   Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
239. sith: since. charge: the expense.

240   Speak 'gainst so great a number? How, in one house,
241   Should many people, under two commands,
242   Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.
242. Hold amity: maintain friendship.

243   Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
244   From those that she calls servants or from mine?

245   Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack ye,
245. to slack ye: to be careless in their attendance on you.

246   We could control them. If you will come to me,—
247   For now I spy a danger,—I entreat you
248   To bring but five and twenty: to no more
249   Will I give place or notice.
249. give place or notice: countenance; acknowledge.

250   I gave you all—

                                  And in good time you gave it.
250. in good time: i.e., it was about time.

251   Made you my guardians, my depositaries;
251. Made . . . depositaries: made you [Regan and Goneril] my protectors and the trustees of my kingdom.

252   But kept a reservation to be follow'd
253   With such a number. What, must I come to you
253. kept  . . .  number: reserved the right to maintain a retinue of such a number [one hundred].

254   With five and twenty, Regan? said you so?

255   And speak't again, my lord; no more with me.

256   Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd,
257   When others are more wicked: not being the worst
256-257. Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd, / When others are more wicked: i.e., Those creatures I already know are wicked [like Goneril] look attractive when others [like Regan] are more wicked.

258   Stands in some rank of praise.

           [To Goneril.]

258                                                             I'll go with thee:
259   Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,
Goneril and Regan telling Lear that cannot have any knights.
Illustrator: Sir John Gilbert

260   And thou art twice her love.

260                                                       Hear me, my lord;
261   What need you five and twenty, ten, or five,
262   To follow in a house where twice so many
263   Have a command to tend you?

263                                                         What need one?

264   O, reason not the need! our basest beggars
265   Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
265. basest beggars . . . superfluous: i.e., even the poorest beggar has some little thing that he doesn't need to stay alive.

266   Allow not nature more than nature needs,
267   Man's life's as cheap as beast's. Thou art a lady;
266-267. Allow  . . . beast's: i.e., if you don't allow more than nature needs [to maintain the body], man's life becomes as cheap as a beast's.

268   If only to go warm were gorgeous,
269   Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,
270   Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,—
271   You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
271. patience: endurance, fortitude, self-control.

272   You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
273   As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
274   If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts
275   Against their father, fool me not so much
276   To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
275-276. fool me not so much / To bear it tamely: i.e., do not make me such a fool as to bear it without protest.

277   And let not women's weapons, water-drops,
278   Stain my man's cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
279   I will have such revenges on you both
280   That all the world shall—I will do such things,—
281   What they are, yet I know not, but they shall be
282   The terrors of the earth! You think I'll weep:
283   No, I'll not weep.
284   I have full cause of weeping; but this heart

           Storm and tempest.

285   Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
285. flaws: fragments.

286   Or ere I'll weep. O Fool, I shall go mad!
286. Or ere: before.

           Exeunt [Lear, Gloucester, Gentleman, and Fool].

287   Let us withdraw; 'twill be a storm.

288   This house is little: the old man and 's people
289   Cannot be well bestow'd.
289. bestow'd: lodged.

290   'Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,
290. hath put himself from rest: has deprived himself of rest.

291   And must needs taste his folly.
291. And must needs taste his folly: and he needs to experience the consequences of his folly

292   For his particular, I'll receive him gladly,
292. For his particular: for his single self.

293   But not one follower.

293                                           So am I purposed.
294   Where is my lord of Gloucester?

295   Follow'd the old man forth.

           Enter GLOUCESTER.

                                                        He is return'd.

296   The king is in high rage.

                                                    Whither is he going?

297   He calls to horse, but will I know not whither.

298   'Tis best to give him way; he leads himself.

299   My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.

300   Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
301   Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
301. ruffle: bluster; blow.

302   There's scarce a bush.

302                                           O, sir, to wilful men,
303   The injuries that they themselves procure
304   Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors:
305   He is attended with a desperate train;
305. desperate train: violent followers.

306   And what they may incense him to, being apt
307   To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
307. abused: deceived.

308   Shut up your doors, my lord; 'tis a wild night:
309   My Regan counsels well; come out o' th' storm.