King Lear : Act 4, Scene 1

           Enter EDGAR.

contemn'd condemned; despised
  1   Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd,
still contemn'd and flatter'd always despised (behind my back) and flattered (to my face)
Stands still in esperance i.e., always gives one reason to hope for better things
The worst returns to laughter i.e., experiencing the worst that fortune can do allows one to laugh at anything fortune may do
Owes nothing cannot be called upon to pay anything more (by fortune)
  2   Than still contemn'd and flatter'd. To be worst,
  3   The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune,
  4   Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear:
  5   The lamentable change is from the best;
  6   The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
  7   Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace!
  8   The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
  9   Owes nothing to thy blasts. But who comes here?

           Enter GLOUCESTER, [led by] an Old Man.

poorly led
But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, / Life would not yield to age i.e., if the strange changes of fortune did not make life hateful, we would never die of old age
 10   My father, poorly led? World, world, O world!
 11   But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee,
 12   Life would not yield to age.

      Old Man
 12                                               O, my good lord,
 13   I have been your tenant, and your father's tenant,
 14   These fourscore years.

 15   Away, get thee away; good friend, be gone:
comforts assistance
 16   Thy comforts can do me no good at all;
 17   Thee they may hurt.

      Old Man
 17                                    You cannot see your way.

 18   I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;
 19   I stumbled when I saw: full oft 'tis seen,
Our ... commodities. Our prosperity makes us overconfident, while sheer deprivation proves beneficial (by teaching us humility).
The food of thy abused father's wrath the object of anger on which your deceived father fed
to see thee in my touch i.e., to touch your face
 20   Our means secure us, and our mere defects
 21   Prove our commodities. O dear son Edgar,
 22   The food of thy abused father's wrath!
 23   Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
 24   I'ld say I had eyes again!

      Old Man
EdgarJohn Hamilton Mortimer as Edgar (1775-1776)
 24                                            How now! Who's there?

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 25   O gods! Who is't can say 'I am at the worst'?
 26   I am worse than e'er I was.

      Old Man
 26                                              'Tis poor mad Tom.

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 27   And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
 28   So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'

      Old Man
 29   Fellow, where goest?

 29                                      Is it a beggar-man?

      Old Man
 30   Madman and beggar too.

reason sanity
 31   He has some reason, else he could not beg.
 32   I' the last night's storm I such a fellow saw;
worm a lowly creature
 33   Which made me think a man a worm: my son
 34   Came then into my mind; and yet my mind
 35   Was then scarce friends with him: I have heard
           more since.
wanton playful; careless; thoughtless
 36   As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods.
 37   They kill us for their sport.

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 37                                               How should this be?
Bad ... sorrow It is bad business to have to play the fool in the face of sorrow
Ang'ring Distressing
 38   Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow,
 39   Ang'ring itself and others.—Bless thee, master!

 40   Is that the naked fellow?

      Old Man
 40                                           Ay, my lord.

 41   Then prithee get thee gone: if, for my sake,
hence a mile or twain a mile or two from here | do it for ancient love do it for the sake of our long and loyal relationship (as master and servant)
entreat plead earnestly with
 42   Thou wilt o'ertake us, hence a mile or twain,
 43   I' the way toward Dover, do it for ancient love;
 44   And bring some covering for this naked soul,
 45   Who I'll entreat to lead me.

      Old Man
 45                                            Alack, sir, he is mad.

'Tis the times' plague the times are truly sick
 46   'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind.
 47   Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure;
Do ... gone Do what I asked you to do, or do whatever you want, but above all, leave this place.
 48   Above the rest, be gone.

      Old Man
'parel apparel
Come on't what will no matter what the consequences
 49   I'll bring him the best 'parel that I have,
 50   Come on't what will.


 51   Sirrah, naked fellow,—

 52   Poor Tom's a-cold.

I cannot daub it further. I cannot continue the charade. daub mask, plaster
 52                                  I cannot daub it further.

 53   Come hither, fellow.

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 54   And yet I must.—Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed.

 55   Know'st thou the way to Dover?

 56   Both stile and gate, horse-way and foot-path. Poor
 57   Tom hath been scared out of his good wits: bless
good man's commoner's
 58   thee, good man's son, from the foul fiend! Five
 59   fiends have been in poor Tom at once; of lust, as
Obidicut ... Flibbertigibbet
 60   Obidicut; Hobbididence, prince of dumbness; Mahu,
 61   of stealing; Modo, of murder; Flibbertigibbet, of
mopping and mowing making faces
 62   mopping and mowing, who since possesses chamber-
 63   maids and waiting-women. So, bless thee, master!

 64   Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues
to all strokes to accept all blows (of Fortune) | happier less wretched | still always | Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man Let the overprosperous man who indulges his appetite | That slaves your ordinance Who makes your laws subservient to his own desires | distribution even distribution of goods
Dover's "bending head" overhanging head confined deep i.e., the sea held in by both sides like the Straits of Dover
repair alleviate
about me on my person
 65   Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched
 66   Makes thee the happier: heavens, deal so still!
 67   Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
 68   That slaves your ordinance, that will not see
 69   Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly;
 70   So distribution should undo excess,
 71   And each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?

 72   Ay, master.

 73   There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
 74   Looks fearfully in the confined deep:
 75   Bring me but to the very brim of it,
 76   And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear
 77   With something rich about me: from that place
 78   I shall no leading need.

 78                                          Give me thy arm:
 79   Poor Tom shall lead thee.