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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 3, Scene 6




           Enter KENT [disguised as Caius]
           and GLOUCESTER.

      GLOUCESTER
  1   Here is better than the open air; take it
1. Here: i.e., the hovel that Kent and Gloucester were trying to get Lear to enter. In this scene the stage becomes the interior of that hovel.

  2   thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what
  3   addition I can: I will not be long from you.

      KENT
  4   All the power of his wits have given way to his
  5   impatience: the gods reward your kindness!
5. impatience: inability to bear great suffering.  the gods reward you: may the gods reward you.


           Exit [GLOUCESTER].

           Enter LEAR, EDGAR [disguised as
           "Poor Tom"], and Fool.

      EDGAR
  6   Frateretto calls me; and tells me Nero
6. Frateretto: a devil.  Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness: In Chaucer's A Monk's Tale the infamously cruel Roman Emperor Nero is found fishing in hell.

  7   is an angler in the lake of darkness.
           [To the Fool.]
  8   Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.

      Fool
  9   Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman
 10   be a gentleman or a yeoman?
10. yeoman: a free landowner, but not a member of the gentry—the gentlemen's class.


      KING LEAR
 11   A king, a king!

      Fool
 12   No, he's a yeoman that has a gentleman
 13   to his son; for he's a mad yeoman that
 14   sees his son a gentleman before him.
14. sees his son a gentleman before him: i.e., allows or enables his son to be a gentleman before he himself is a gentleman.


      KING LEAR
 15   To have a thousand with red burning spits
 16   Come hizzing in upon 'em,
16. 'em: them. Perhaps Lear is imagining the torture of Goneril and Regan.


      EDGAR
 17   The foul fiend bites my back.

      Fool
 18   He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf,
 19   a horse's health, a boy's love, or a whore's oath.

      KING LEAR
 20   It shall be done; I will arraign them straight.
20. arraign them straight: immediately charge them with a crime. Lear now imagines a trial of his daughters Goneril and Regan.


           [To EDGAR.]

 21   Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer;
21. justicer: judge.


           [To the Fool.]

 22   Thou, sapient sir, sit here. Now, you she foxes!
22. sapient: wise.


      EDGAR
 23   Look, where he stands and glares!
23. he: Perhaps Edgar pretends to see a fiend.

 24   Want'st thou eyes at trial, madam?
24. eyes at trial: spectators at your trial [?].  madam: Perhaps "poor Tom" is falling in with Lear's delusion and is speaking to one of the "she foxes."


           [Sings.]

 25   "Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me"
25. "Come . . . me" : A line from an old song. bourn: brook.


      Fool [Sings.]
 26        Her boat hath a leak,
 27        And she must not speak
 28   Why she dares not come over to thee.

      EDGAR
 29   The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice
 30   of a nightingale. Hopdance cries in Tom's belly
 31   for two white herring. Croak not, black angel;
31. Hopdance: a devil whose cries are the rumbling of Tom's empty stomach. two white herring: i.e., a cheap snack.

 32   I have no food for thee.

      KENT
 33   How do you, sir? Stand you not so amazed:
33. amazed: bewildered.

 34   Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?

      KING LEAR
 35   I'll see their trial first. Bring in their evidence.
35. their evidence: the witnesses against them.


           [To EDGAR.]

 36   Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;
36. robed man of justice: i.e., judge  — His tattered blanket is the only robe of "poor Tom."


           [To the Fool.]

 37   And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,
37. yoke-fellow: partner.

 38   Bench by his side:

           [To KENT.]

                              You are o' the commission,
38. o' the commission: appointed one of the judges.

 39   Sit you too.

      EDGAR
 40             Let us deal justly.
 41        Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
 42             Thy sheep be in the corn;
 43        And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
 44             Thy sheep shall take no harm.
43-44. for one blast . . . harm: i.e., to keep your sheep from harm you only need to blow your horn with your sweet mouth.

 45        Purr the cat is gray.
45. Purr the cat: the imagined familiar of the imagined Goneril? >>>


Illustrator: Sir John Gilbert


      KING LEAR
 46   Arraign her first; 'tis Goneril. I here take
 47   my oath before this honourable assembly,
 48   she kicked the poor king her father.

      Fool
 49   Come hither, mistress. Is your name
 50   Goneril?

      KING LEAR
 51   She cannot deny it.

      Fool
 52   Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.
52. Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool: This was a joking way of apologizing for not noticing the presence of another person.


      KING LEAR
 53   And here's another, whose warp'd looks proclaim
53. here's another: here's Regan.

 54   What store her heart is made on. Stop her there!
54. What store her heart is made on: What material her heart is made of.

 55   Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place!
55. Corruption in the place!: Bribery in the court!

 56   False justicer, why hast thou let her 'scape?
56. justicer: judge.


      EDGAR
 57   Bless thy five wits!

      KENT
 58   O pity! Sir, where is the patience now,
 59   That thou so oft have boasted to retain?

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 60   My tears begin to take his part so much,
 61   They'll mar my counterfeiting.

      KING LEAR
 62   The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and
62. The little dogs and all: Even the little dogs.

 63   Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me.

      EDGAR
 64   Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt,
64. throw his head at them: threaten them. Avaunt: Begone.

 65   you curs!
 66        Be thy mouth or black or white,
66. or black or white: either black or white.

 67        Tooth that poisons if it bite;
67. Tooth that poisons: i.e., rabid.

 68        Mastiff, grey-hound, mongrel grim,
 69        Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
69. brach: female hound. lym: hunting dog kept on a leash?

 70        Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail,
70. bobtail tike: short-tailed mongrel. trundle-tail: long-tail.

 71        Tom will make them weep and wail:
 72        For, with throwing thus my head,
 73        Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.
73. hatch: the lower half of a divided door.

 74   Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and
74. wakes: parish festivals.

 75   fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
75. thy horn is dry: i.e., my begging-bowl is empty.


      KING LEAR
100. anatomize: dissect
 76   Then let them anatomize Regan; see what breeds
 77   about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that
 78   makes these hard hearts?

           [To EDGAR.]

 79   You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I
79. entertain: retain.

 80   do not like the fashion of your garments: you will
 81   say they are Persian attire: but let them be changed.
81. Persian: Lear madly mistakes Edgar's wretched blanket for rich, ornamental fabric.


      KENT
 82   Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.

      KING LEAR
 83   Make no noise, make no noise, draw the curtains.
83. draw the curtains: close the bed curtains.

 84   So, so. We'll go to supper i' th' morning. So, so, so.
84. supper: the evening meal.


      Fool
 85   And I'll go to bed at noon.

           Enter GLOUCESTER.

      GLOUCESTER
 86   Come hither, friend: where is the king my master?

      KENT
 87   Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are gone.

      GLOUCESTER
 88   Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms;
 89   I have o'erheard a plot of death upon him:
89. upon: against.

 90   There is a litter ready; lay him in 't,
 91   And drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
 92   Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master:
 93   If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
 94   With thine, and all that offer to defend him,
 95   Stand in assured loss: take up, take up;
93-95. his life . . . loss: his life, and yours, and the lives of all who try to defend him will surely be taken.

 96   And follow me, that will to some provision
 97   Give thee quick conduct.
96-97. me . . . conduct: me, who will quickly guide you to a place where there are provisions [such as food and clothes].


      KENT
                                               Oppressed nature sleeps:
 98   This rest might yet have balm'd thy broken sinews,
98. balm'd: soothed. sinews: nerves.

 99   Which, if convenience will not allow,
99. convenience: circumstances.

100   Stand in hard cure.
100. Stand in hard cure: will be very difficult to cure.


King Lear being carried away by Gloucester, Kent, and the Fool
Illustrator: H.C. Selous
           [To the Fool.]

                                    Come, help to bear thy master;
101   Thou must not stay behind.

      GLOUCESTER
                                                Come, come, away.

           Exeunt [all but EDGAR].

      EDGAR
102   When we our betters see bearing our woes,
102. bearing our woes: suffering the same woes we suffer.

103   We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
104   Who alone suffers suffers most i' the mind,
105   Leaving free things and happy shows behind:
106   But then the mind much sufferance doth o'er skip,
107   When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
106-107. But . . . mates: i.e., only when grief is shared is the mind able rise above its suffering.

108   How light and portable my pain seems now,
108. portable: bearable.

109   When that which makes me bend makes the king bow,
110   He childed as I father'd! Tom, away!
110. He childed as I father'd!: i.e., his children are as bad as my father.

111   Mark the high noises; and thyself bewray,
111. high noises: rumors of great events. thyself bewray: reveal your true identity.

112   When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles thee,
113   In thy just proof, repeals and reconciles thee.
114   What will hap more tonight, safe 'scape the king!
112-114. When . . . thee: i.e., when public opinion, which now mistakenly defiles you, finds you proved guiltless and recalls you to your rightful place in society. What . . . king!: i.e., No matter what else chances tonight, I hope that the king will safely escape.

115   Lurk, lurk.

           Exit.