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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 4, Scene 3



           Enter KENT and a GENTLEMAN.
GENTLEMAN: This is the same gentleman who Kent sent to Dover with a message for Cordelia about the cruel treatment of King Lear. See Act 3, Scene 1.


      KENT
  
1   Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back
1. gone back: returned [to France].

  2   know you the reason?

      Gentleman
  
3   Something he left imperfect in the state, which since
3. imperfect: i.e., incomplete.

  4   his coming forth is thought of; which imports to the
  5   kingdom so much fear and danger, that his personal
  6   return was most required and necessary.

      KENT
  
7   Who hath he left behind him general?

      Gentleman
  
8   The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Far.

      KENT
  
9   Did your letters pierce the queen to any
9. pierce: i.e., bring. the queen: i.e., Cordelia, King Lear's daughter, now Queen of France.

 10   demonstration of grief?

      Gentleman
 
11   Ay, sir; she took them, read them in my presence;
 12   And now and then an ample tear trill'd down
12. trill'd: trickled.

 13   Her delicate cheek: it seem'd she was a queen
 14   Over her passion; who, most rebel-like,
 15   Sought to be king o'er her.
15. it seem'd . . . o'er her.: i.e., it seemed that she triumphed over her deepest feelings, which made a rebellious attempt to triumph over her.


      KENT
                                                  O, then it moved her.

      
Gentleman
 
16   Not to a rage: patience and sorrow strove
16. strove: struggled [against one other].

 17   Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
17. Who should express her goodliest: which approach — "patience" or "sorrow" would best express her feelings.

 18   Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears
 19   Were like a better way: those happy smilets,
19. like a better way: better than that, but similar.

 20   That play'd on her ripe lip, seem'd not to know
 21   What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence,
19-21. smilets . . . eyes: the smiles of her lips seemed oblivious to the tears in her eyes.

 22   As pearls from diamonds dropp'd. In brief,
 23   Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved,
 24   If all could so become it.
23-24. Sorrow . . . become it.: Sorrow would be a precious thing, like a jewel, if all were as attractive in sorrow as she.


      KENT
                                              Made she no verbal question?

      
Gentleman
 
25   'Faith, once or twice she heaved the name of 'father'
25. heaved: breathed out with difficulty.

 26   Pantingly forth, as if it press'd her heart:
 27   Cried 'Sisters! sisters! Shame of ladies! sisters!
 28   Kent! father! sisters! What, i' the storm? i' the night?
 29   Let pity not be believed!' There she shook
29. Let pity not be believed!: Let no show of pity be trusted [since so many prove to be false].

 30   The holy water from her heavenly eyes,
 31   And clamour moisten'd: then away she started
10. clamour moisten'd: outcry of grief assuaged by tears. started: went.

 32   To deal with grief alone.

      KENT
                                              It is the stars,
 
33   The stars above us, govern our conditions;
32-33. It . . . conditions: i.e., it is only the stars that determine our character.

 34   Else one self mate and mate could not beget
34. Else one self mate and mate: otherwise one couple [husband and wife]. issues: offspring. — Kent is reflecting on the stark difference between Cordelia and the other two daughters of King Lear.

 35   Such different issues. You spoke not with her since?

      Gentleman
 
36   No.

      KENT
 
37   Was this before the king return'd?
37. before the king return'd: before the King of France returned to France.


      Gentleman
                                                             No, since.

      
KENT
 
38   Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear's i' the town;
38. the town: Dover, where French forces have a foothold.

 39   Who sometime, in his better tune, remembers
39. better tune: i.e., more composed state of mind.

 40   What we are come about, and by no means
 41   Will yield to see his daughter.
41. yield: consent. his daughter: Cordelia.


      Gentleman
                                                       Why, good sir?

      
KENT
 
42   A sovereign shame so elbows him: his own unkindness,
42. sovereign: overruling. elbows him: gives him sharp pains.

 43   That stripp'd her from his benediction, turn'd her
 44   To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights
44. turn'd . . . casualties: turned her out and left her to take her chances in a foreign land. dear rights: rightful inheritance.

 45   To his dog-hearted daughters, these things sting
45. dog-hearted: Shakespeare usually mentions dogs as examples of fawning fakes.

 46   His mind so venomously, that burning shame
 47   Detains him from Cordelia.
47. Detains him from: keeps him from seeing.


      Gentleman
                                              Alack, poor gentleman!

      
KENT
 
48   Of Albany's and Cornwall's powers you heard not?
48. powers: troops, armies.


      Gentleman
49. afoot: on the march
 
49   'Tis so, they are afoot.

      KENT
 
50   Well, sir, I'll bring you to our master Lear,
 51   And leave you to attend him: some dear cause
51. dear cause: important mission.

 52   Will in concealment wrap me up awhile;
52. Will . . . awhile: i.e., will require that my true identity remain unknown for a while.

 53   When I am known aright, you shall not grieve
 54   Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you, go
53-54. not grieve / Lending me this acquaintance: not regret sharing this news [about the King of France and Cordelia].

 55   Along with me.

           Exeunt.