King Lear : Act 4, Scene 2

           Enter GONERIL and EDMUND.

  1   Welcome, my lord: I marvel our mild husband
Not Has not
  2   Not met us on the way.

           Enter OSWALD.

  2                                        Now, where's your master?
your master i.e., the Duke of Albany, Goneril's husband.

  3   Madam, within; but never man so changed.
  4   I told him of the army that was landed;
  5   He smiled at it: I told him you were coming:
  6   His answer was 'The worse': of Gloucester's treachery,
  7   And of the loyal service of his son,
sot fool
  8   When I inform'd him, then he call'd me sot,
turn'd the wrong side out reversed things: (since the "loyal service" was Gloucester's and the "treachery" Edmund's)
  9   And told me I had turn'd the wrong side out:
 10   What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him;
 11   What like, offensive.

 11                                     Then shall you go no further.
cowish cowardly
 12   It is the cowish terror of his spirit,
he'll ... answer He'll ignore insults which would require him to retaliate
Our wishes ... effects Our wishes to be lovers, expressed on the journey here, may soon be realized
brother brother-in-law (the Duke of Cornwall)
musters troop call-up | powers armies
change names exchange roles
distaff insignia for a woman's role
ere ... mistress's command before long you are likely to hear, if you if you trust your own worth enough to ask, commands from me as the Duchess of Cornwall, and as your lover
favour a love-token, such as a glove
 13   That dares not undertake: he'll not feel wrongs
 14   Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way
 15   May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother;
 16   Hasten his musters and conduct his powers:
 17   I must change names at home, and give the distaff
 18   Into my husband's hands. This trusty servant
 19   Shall pass between us: ere long you are like to hear,
 20   If you dare venture in your own behalf,
 21   A mistress's command. Wear this;

           [Giving a favour.]

spare speech don't speak
 21                                                   spare speech;
Decline your head Bend down (for a kiss)
 22   Decline your head: this kiss, if it durst speak,
 23   Would stretch thy spirits up into the air:
Conceive Understand (my meaning)
 24   Conceive, and fare thee well.

in even in
 25   Yours in the ranks of death.

 25                                                My most dear Gloucester!

           Exit [EDMUND].

 26   O, the difference of man and man!
 27   To thee a woman's services are due:
My fool usurps my body. i.e., My idiot husband presumes to possess me.
 28   My fool usurps my body.

 28                                            Madam, here comes my lord.

           Exit [Oswald].
           Enter ALBANY.

worth the whistle i.e., worth the attentions of men (alludes to the proverb, "It is a poor dog that is not worth the whistling.")
 29   I have been worth the whistle.

 29                                                    O Goneril!
 30   You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
disposition natural tendency or bent of the mind; nature | contemns treats or views with contempt | its origin i.e., Goneril's father, King Lear | bordered certain kept safely within bounds | sliver and disbranch cut off
material sap vital sustenance; the stock from which she grew
to deadly use to destruction
 31   Blows in your face. I fear your disposition:
 32   That nature, which contemns its origin,
 33   Cannot be bordered certain in itself;
 34   She that herself will sliver and disbranch
 35   From her material sap, perforce must wither
 36   And come to deadly use.

text Goneril implies that her husband has been preaching a dull sermon
 37   No more; the text is foolish.

 38   Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile:
Filths savour but themselves to the filthy everything seems filthy
 39   Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?
 40   Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform'd?
 41   A father, and a gracious aged man,
head-lugg'd dragged by the head
 42   Whose reverence even the head-lugg'd bear would lick,
have you madded you have driven mad
 43   Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded.
 44   Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
 45   A man, a prince, by him so benefited!
If that If | visible spirits i.e., spirits in visible form
 46   If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
 47   Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
 48   It will come,
must perforce must necessarily
 49   Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
 50   Like monsters of the deep.

Milk-liver'd White-liver'd, cowardly
 50                                              Milk-liver'd man!
 51   That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
discerning ... suffering i.e., able to tell the difference between honorable restraint and putting up with too much crap
Fools ... mischief i.e., Only fools like yourself pity villains (like Lear and Gloucester) who are apprehended and punished before they commit a crime. | noiseless peaceful, unprepared for war | moral moralizing
 52   Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
 53   Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know'st
 54   Fools do those villains pity who are punish'd
 55   Ere they have done their mischief. Where's thy drum?
 56   France spreads his banners in our noiseless land;
 57   With plumed helm thy state begins [to threat],
 58   Whiles thou, a moral fool, sits still, and cries,
Deformity Goneril and Regan
Proper deformity ... woman.
 59   'Alack, why does he so?'

 59                                           See thyself, devil!
 60   Proper deformity shows not in the fiend
 61   So horrid as in woman.

vain useless
 61                                          O vain fool!

Thou ... feature. i.e., Don't let your monstrousness show. [Extended Note]
 62   Thou changed and self-cover'd thing, for shame,
 63   Be-monster not thy feature. Were't my fitness
my blood i.e., my hot anger
 64   To let these hands obey my blood,
 65   They are apt enough to dislocate and tear
Howe'er ... shield thee however much of a fiend you are, your woman's shape protects you
 66   Thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend,
 67   A woman's shape doth shield thee.

mew mew up (keep under restraint) — Or maybe Goneril is mewing at her husband because she considers him a pussy.
 68   Marry, your manhood mew!

           Enter a Messenger.

 69   What news?

 70   O, my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall's dead:
 71   Slain by his servant, going to put out
 72   The other eye of Gloucester.

 72                                                         Gloucester's eyes?

thrill'd with remorse pierced with pity
 73   A servant that he bred, thrill'd with remorse,
the act i.e., the eye-gouging
 74   Oppos'd against the act, bending his sword
To Against | who, thereat enraged who, enraged by his servant's threat,
 75   To his great master; who, thereat enraged,
 76   Flew on him, and amongst them fell'd him dead;
that harmful stroke i.e., the wounding of the Duke of Cornwall
pluck'd him after: i.e., snatched him away to follow his servant into the realm of the dead
 77   But not without that harmful stroke, which since
 78   Hath pluck'd him after.

 78                                          This shows you are above,
You justicers You (heavenly) judges | nether crimes i.e., crimes committed down here on earth
 79   You justicers, that these our nether crimes
 80   So speedily can venge! But, O poor Gloucester,
 81   Lost he his other eye?

 81                                        Both, both, my lord.
 82   This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer;
 83   'Tis from your sister.

      GONERIL [Aside.]
I like thisWhy?
But ... life. On the other hand, the effect Regan's fresh widowhood might have on "my" (lover) Edmund (now newly the Earl of Gloucester) may demolish all the constructions of Goneril's private imaginings and make her life hateful (if Edmund does prefer her sister). Another way In another way | tart sharp, painful
 83                                        One way I like this well,
 84   But being widow, and my Gloucester with her,
 85   May all the building in my fancy pluck
 86   Upon my hateful life. Another way,
 87   The news is not so tart.—I'll read, and answer.


his son i.e., Gloucester's bastard son Edmund, the supposedly good son.
 88   Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

 89   Come with my lady hither.

 89                                               He is not here.

back on his way back (from Albany's palace)
 90   No, my good lord; I met him back again.

 91   Knows he the wickedness?

'twas he inform'd against him i.e., it was his son Edmund who divulged his father's allegiance to Lear | quit left
freer course i.e., a course of punishment unimpeded by the qualms a son might have
 92   Ay, my good lord; 'twas he inform'd against him,
 93   And quit the house on purpose that their punishment
 94   Might have the freer course.

Gloucester the old Earl of Gloucester
 94                                               Gloucester, I live
 95   To thank thee for the love thou show'dst the King,
 96   And to revenge thine eyes. Come hither, friend,
 97   Tell me what more thou know'st.