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 4, Scene 6

            Enter GLOUCESTER and
            EDGAR [dressed like a peasant].
dressed like a peasant : —Edgar has dropped his pretense of being "poor Tom," and is now wearing the "best 'parel" provided by Gloucester's old tenant.

  1   When shall we come to th' top of that same hill?
1. that same hill: i.e., that hill you promised to take me to —See Act 4, Scene 6, line 73 ff.

  2   You do climb up it now: look, how we labour.
2. labour: sweat and pant.

Edgar and Gloucester by H.C. Selous

  3   Methinks the ground is even.

                                                          Horrible steep.
  4   Hark, do you hear the sea?

                                                       No, truly.

  5   Why, then, your other senses grow imperfect
  6   By your eyes' anguish.

                                                 So may it be, indeed:
  7   Methinks thy voice is alter'd; and thou speak'st
  8   In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
8. better phrase and matter: — Edgar is no longer talking like "Poor Tom," or even like a commoner.

  9   Y' are much deceived: in nothing am I changed
 10   But in my garments.

 10                                       Methinks y' are better spoken.

 11   Come on, sir; here's the place: stand still. How fearful
 12   And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!
 13   The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
13.choughs: jackdaws.  gross: big.

 14   Show scarce so gross as beetles: half way down
 15   Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
15. samphire: an edible coastal succulent that grows on seaside cliffs.

 16   Methinks he seems no bigger than his head:
 17   The fishermen, that walk upon the beach,
 18   Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
 19   Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
19. tall anchoring bark, / Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy : tall anchored ship, diminished to [the size of] her dinghy; her dinghy diminished to [the size of] a buoy.

 20   Almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge,
 21   That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
 22   Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more;
 23   Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
23. the deficient sight: my deficient sight.

 24   Topple down headlong.
24. Topple down headlong: Topple me down headlong.

                                            Set me where you stand.

 25   Give me your hand: you are now within a foot
 26   Of the extreme verge: for all beneath the moon
 27   Would I not leap upright.
27. Would I not leap upright.: I would not jump up and down, much less forward.

                                                 Let go my hand.
 28   Here, friend, 's another purse; in it a jewel
 29   Well worth a poor man's taking: fairies and gods
 30   Prosper it with thee! Go thou farther off;
30. Prosper it : make it increase — Fairies were thought to guard and multiply hidden treasures.

 31   Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.

 32   Now fare you well, good sir.

                                                      With all my heart.

      EDGAR [Aside.]
 33   Why I do trifle thus with his despair
 34   Is done to cure it.

                                    O you mighty gods!
 35   This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
 36   Shake patiently my great affliction off:
 37   If I could bear it longer, and not fall
 38   To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
 39   My snuff and loathed part of nature should
 40   Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
37-40.Snuffed out candle If I could . . . Burn itself out: i.e., If I could bear my life any longer without rebelling against your irresistible wills, the useless residue of my life—like the smoking wick of a snuffed candle—would burn itself out.

 41   Now, fellow, fare thee well.

           [He jumps forward, and falls to
           the ground.]

                                                    Gone, sir; farewell!
 42   And yet I know not how conceit may rob
42. conceit: imagination.

 43   The treasury of life, when life itself
 44   Yields to the theft: had he been where he thought,
44. Yields: Consents. where he thought: i.e., where he thought he would be: at the bottom of a high cliff.

 45   By this, had thought been past. Alive or dead?

           [In a new accent.]
a new accent: — Edgar changes accents, and pretends to be someone who has just found Gloucester at the bottom of the cliff.

 46   Ho, you sir! friend! Hear you, sir! speak!
 47   Thus might he pass indeed: yet he revives.
47. pass: die.

 48   What are you, sir?

                                    Away, and let me die.

 49   Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
49. aught: anything. gossamer: spider thread.

 50   (So many fathom down precipitating),
50. fathom: about six feet. precipitating: plunging.

 51   Thou'dst shiver'd like an egg: but thou dost breathe;
51. shiver'd : shattered.

 52   Hast heavy substance; bleed'st not; speak'st; art sound.
52. Hast: you have.  heavy substance: i.e., a physical body. art sound: are unbroken.

 53   Ten masts at each make not the altitude
53. at each : end to end.

 54   Which thou hast perpendicularly fell:
 55   Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again.

 56   But have I fall'n, or no?

 57   From the dread summit of this chalky bourn.
57. chalky cliffschalky bourn: i.e., chalky cliffs bounding a sea.

 58   Look up a-height; the shrill-gorged lark so far
58. a-height: on high. shrill-gorged lark: shrill-throated lark.

 59   Cannot be seen or heard: do but look up.

 60   Alack, I have no eyes.
 61   Is wretchedness deprived that benefit,
 62   To end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort,
 63   When misery could beguile the tyrant's rage,
63. beguile: cheat; outwit.

 64   And frustrate his proud will.

                                                      Give me your arm:
 65   Up: so. How is 't? Feel you your legs? You stand.

 66   Too well, too well.

                                      This is above all strangeness.
66. This is above all strangeness: This is stranger than strange.

 67   Upon the crown o' the cliff, what thing was that
 68   Which parted from you?

                                              A poor unfortunate beggar.
68. A poor unfortunate beggar: Gloucester is thinking of "poor Tom."

 69   As I stood here below, methought his eyes
 70   Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
 71   Horns whelk'd and waved like the enridged sea:
71. whelk'd: twisted. enridged: furrowed.

 72   It was some fiend; therefore, thou happy father,
72. happy father: fortunate old man.

 73   Think that the clearest gods, who make them honours
73. clearest: purest.

 74   Of men's impossibilities, have preserved thee.
73-74. who make them honours / Of men's impossibilities : who win our reverence by doing deeds impossible for humans.

 75   I do remember now: henceforth I'll bear
 76   Affliction till it do cry out itself
 77   "Enough, enough," and die. That thing you speak of,
 78   I took it for a man; often 'twould say
 79   "The fiend, the fiend": he led me to that place.

 80   Bear free and patient thoughts. But who comes here?
80. free: serene.
King Lear in flowers

           Enter LEAR [fantastically dressed with
           weeds and wild flowers].

 81   The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
 82   His master thus.
81-82. The safer sense will ne'er accommodate / His master thus: i.e., A sane mind would never allow its possessor to dress up this way.

 83   No, they cannot touch me for coining; I am the
83. they cannot touch me for coining: they cannot prosecute me for minting counterfeit coins.

 84   king himself.

 85   O thou side-piercing sight!

 86   Nature's above art in that respect. There's your
 87   press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a
87. press-money: money paid to a man impressed [drafted] into the army.

 88   crow-keeper: draw me a clothier's yard. Look,
88. crow-keeper: human scare-crow. draw . . . yard: i.e., show me that you can draw the bowstring back a full yard.

 89   look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted
 90   cheese will do 't. There's my gauntlet; I'll prove it
 91   on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown,
90-91. I'll  .  .  .  giant: i.e., I'll prove my case by fighting a giant. brown bills: i.e., soldiers carrying brown pikes.

 92   bird! i' the clout, i' the clout—hewgh! Give the word.
92. bird: arrow. clout: bull's eye. word: password.

 93   Sweet marjoram.
93. marjoram : herb used medicine for madness.

Mad Lear and blind Gloucester
Harry Groener and Robert Pine in a 2010 Antaeus production of "King Lear." Credit: Ed Krieger.

 94   Pass.

 95   I know that voice.

 96   Ha! Goneril, with a white beard! They flattered
 97   me like a dog; and told me I had white hairs in my
97. like a dog : i.e., like a dog would, fawningly.

 98   beard ere the black ones were there. To say 'ay'
97-98. told . . . there: i.e., from the time I was a child, told me I had wisdom.

 99   and 'no' to every thing that I said!—'Ay' and 'no'
100   too was no good divinity. When the rain came to
100. no good divinity : poor theology, [because insincere]; from James 5:12 "Let your yea be your yea; your nay nay."

101   wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when
102   the thunder would not peace at my bidding; there I
103   found 'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they are
103. found 'em: i.e, found out that they were flattering me.

104   not men o' their words: they told me I was every
105   thing; 'tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.
105. ague-proof: immune to illness.

106   The trick of that voice I do well remember:
106. trick: individual quality.

107   Is 't not the king?

                                      Ay, every inch a king:
108   When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
108. the subject: i.e., any one of my subjects.

109   I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
109. thy cause?: your crime?

110   Adultery?
111   Thou shalt not die: die for adultery! No:
112   The wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly
112. goes to 't: i.e., copulates.

113   Does lecher in my sight.
114   Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
115   Was kinder to his father than my daughters
116   Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
116. Got: begot. sheets: bed sheets.

117   To 't, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
117. To 't, luxury, pell-mell!: i.e., go ahead lechery, rage on!

118   Behold yond simpering dame,
119   Whose face between her forks presages snow;
119. face . . . forks: >>>  presages snow: i.e., implies cold chastity.

120   That minces virtue, and does shake the head
120. minces virtue: flirtatiously pretends to virtue.

121   To hear of pleasure's name;
121. pleasure's name: the very name of sexual pleasure.

122   The fitchew, nor the soiled horse, goes to 't
122. The fitchew, nor the soiled horse: [Neither] the polecat nor a high-spirited horse full of fresh grass.

123   With a more riotous appetite.
124   Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
124. Centaurs: lecherous mythological creatures which have a human body to the waist, but the legs and torso of a horse.

125   Though women all above:
126   But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
126-127. But to the girdle: Only to the belt. hell: traditional slang for the female genitals.

127   Beneath is all the fiends': there's hell, there's darkness,
128   There is the sulphurous pit, burning, scalding,
129   Stench, consumption. Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!
130   Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary,
130. civet: perfume derived from the sex glands of a civet cat.

131   Sweeten my imagination. There's money for thee.

132   O, let me kiss that hand!

133   Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.

134. piece : masterpiece. >>>
Vitruvian Man by da Vinci
134   O ruin'd piece of nature! This great world
135   Shall so wear out to nought. Dost thou know me?

136   I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou
137   squint at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid!
138   I'll not love. Read thou this challenge; mark but
139   the penning of it.

140   Were all the letters suns, I could not see one.

141   I would not take this from report; it is,
141. I would not take this from report: i.e., I wouldn't believe this if I hadn't seen it myself.

142   And my heart breaks at it.

143   Read.

144   What, with the case of eyes?
144. case: sockets.

145   O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your
145. are you there with me?: i.e., do you see things the same as I do?

146   head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in
147   a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how
147. heavy case: sad condition.

148   this world goes.

149   I see it feelingly.
149. feelingly: by touch; with emotion.

150   What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes
151   with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond
152   justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
153   thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
152-153. in thine ear: i.e., I'll let you in on a little secret.  handy-dandy: pick a hand [as in a child's game].

154   is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen
155   a farmer's dog bark at a beggar?

156   Ay, sir.

157   And the creature run from the cur? There thou
157. creature: human being.

158   mightst behold the great image of authority: a
159   dog's obeyed in office.
160   Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
160. beadle: the parish officer responsible for whippings.

161   Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
161. Strip: Lash.

162   Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind
162. that kind: that same way.

163   For which thou whipp'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
163. The usurer hangs the cozener: i.e., The corrupt judge sentences the petty cheat to be hanged.

164   Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
165   Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
166   And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
165-166. Plate sin . . . breaks: i.e., the lance of justice will harmlessly break against golden armor.

167   Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it.
168   None does offend, none, I say, none; I'll able 'em:
168. able 'em: authorize them, i.e., exempt everyone from legal guilt.

169   Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
169. Take that of me: Perhaps Lear offers Gloucester money.

170   To seal the accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes;
171   And like a scurvy politician, seem
171. scurvy politician: vile schemer.

172   To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now:
173   Pull off my boots: harder, harder: so.

      EDGAR [Aside.]
174   O, matter and impertinency mix'd!
174. matter and impertinency: sense and nonsense.

175   Reason in madness!

176   If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
177   I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester:
178   Thou must be patient; we came crying hither:
179   Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air,
180   We wawl and cry. I will preach to thee. Mark.
180. Mark: pay attention.

181   Alack, alack the day!

182   When we are born, we cry that we are come
183   To this great stage of fools. —This' a good block;
183.wooden hat block block: a wooden hat mold. — Perhaps Lear is pointing to his own head.

184   It were a delicate stratagem, to shoe
184. delicate stratagem: subtle strategy.

185   A troop of horse with felt: I'll put 't in proof;
186   And when I have stol'n upon these sons-in-law,
187   Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

           Enter a Gentleman [with Attendants].

188   O, here he is: lay hand upon him. —Sir,
189   Your most dear daughter—
189. daughter: i.e., Cordelia. — Cordelia has sent the gentleman to bring Lear to safety, but Lear thinks that the gentleman has been sent by his evil daughters to take him prisoner.

190   No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even
191   The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
190-191. I . . . fortune: I am the bastard plaything of fortune.

192   You shall have ransom. Let me have surgeons;
193   I am cut to the brains.
193. cut: wounded.

193                                       You shall have any thing.

194   No seconds? all myself?
194. No . . . myself?: No supporters? Am I all by myself?

195   Why, this would make a man a man of salt,
195. this . . . salt: i.e., being alone like this could reduce a man to nothing but salty tears.

196   To use his eyes for garden water-pots,
196. garden water-pots: watering cans.

197   Ay, and laying autumn's dust.
197. Ay, and laying autumn's dust: Yes, and [good for] keeping down the dust of autumn.

197                                                       Good sir,—

198   I will die bravely, like a smug bridegroom. What!
198. I will die bravely, like a smug bridegroom: — King Lear is punning: "Die" can also mean "have an orgasm," and "bravely" can mean "finely attired."

199   I will be jovial: come, come; I am a king,
200   My masters, know you that.

201   You are a royal one, and we obey you.

202   Then there's life in't. Nay, if you get it, you
202. there's life in't: i.e., there's hope left.

203   shall get it with running. Sa, sa, sa, sa.
203. Sa, sa, sa, sa: — This is a cry to encourage dogs in the hunt.

           Exit [running; Attendants follow].

204   A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
205   Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one daughter,
205. Thou: i.e., King Lear. one daughter: i.e., Cordelia.

206   Who redeems nature from the general curse
207   Which twain have brought her to.
207. twain: i.e., two daughters, Goneril and Regan.

208   Hail, gentle sir.
208. gentle: noble.

                                  Sir, speed you: what's your will?
speed you: God speed you.

209   Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?
209. toward: coming.

210   Most sure and vulgar: every one hears that,
210. vulgar: commonly known.

211   Which can distinguish sound.
211. Which can distinguish sound: Who is not deaf.

                                                        But, by your favour,
212   How near's the other army?

213   Near and on speedy foot; the main descry
214   Stands on the hourly thought.
213-214. the main descry / Stands on the hourly thought: the appearance of the main force is expected at any moment.

214                                                   I thank you, sir: that's all.

215   Though that the queen on special cause is here,
215. the queen: Cordelia, queen of France.  on special cause: for a special reason.

216   Her army is moved on.

216                                         I thank you, sir.

           Exit [Gentleman].

217   You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me:
218   Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
218. my worser spirit : wicked inclination; bad angel.

219   To die before you please!

                                                Well pray you, father.
219. Well pray you, father: You are praying well, father — Edgar is not revealing his identity as Gloucester's son; "father" is a term of respect for an elderly man.

220   Now, good sir, what are you?

221   A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows;
222   Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
222. feeling: profound.

223   Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand,
223. pregnant to: disposed to feel.

224   I'll lead you to some biding.
224. biding: resting place.

                                                    Hearty thanks:
225   The bounty and the benison of heaven
226   To boot, and boot!
225-226. The bounty . . . and boot!: i.e., in addition to my thanks, may heaven give you both a great blessing and a bountiful worldly reward.

           Enter Steward [OSWALD].

                                    A proclaim'd prize! Most happy!
226. A proclaim'd prize!: A man with a bounty on his life! happy: lucky.

227   That eyeless head of thine was first framed flesh
227. framed : made of.

228   To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
228. unhappy: unlucky.

229   Briefly thyself remember: the sword is out
229. Briefly thyself remember: i.e., say your prayers and prepare to die.

230   That must destroy thee.

                                            Now let thy friendly hand
231   Put strength enough to't.
230-231. Now . . . to't: i.e., Now let your friendly hand strike with enough force to kill me. — Gloucester considers Oswald's hand, which is about to kill him, to be "friendly" because Gloucester wants to die without committing suicide.

           [EDGAR steps between Oswald and Gloucester,            and holds Gloucester's arm to keep him safe                  from Oswald's sword.]

                                                  Wherefore, bold peasant,
232   Darest thou support a publish'd traitor? Hence;
233   Lest that the infection of his fortune take
234   Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
232-234. Hence . . . on thee: Go away, lest his bad luck infect you too.

235   Chill not let go, zir, without vurther cagion.
235. Chill: I will. — Edgar now pretends to be a peasant from England's West Country. vurther cagion: further occasion [i.e., more reason than just your say-so].

236   Let go, slave, or thou diest!

237   Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor voke
237. go your gait: walk away. voke: folk.

238   pass. An chud ha' bin zwagger'd out of my life,
238. An chud ha' bin: If I could have been. zwagger'd: swaggered, bullied.

239   'twould not ha' bin zo long as 'tis by a vortnight.
239. 'twould . . . vortnight: would have been two weeks shorter; i.e., This isn't the first time I've had to deal with a bully.

240   Nay, come not near th' old man; keep out, che vor'
241   ye, or Ice try whether your costard or my ballow be
242   the harder. Chill be plain with you.
240-242. keep . . . harder: keep away, I warn you, or I'll test whether your little apple [i.e., head] or my cudgel is harder. Chill be plain with you: I'll be truthful with you; i.e., you'd better believe me.

243   Out, dunghill!
243. Out, dunghill!: Out of my way, you pile of shit!

244   Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come; no matter vor
244. Chill: I'll. pick your teeth: i.e., knock your teeth out.

245   your foins.
245. foins: sword thrusts.

           [They fight, and Edgar gives Oswald
           a deadly wound.]

246   Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
247   If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
248   And give the letters which thou find'st about me
249   To Edmund Earl of Gloucester; seek him out
250   Upon the English party: O, untimely death!
250. Upon the English party: Within the ranks of the English army.

251   Death!


252   I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
253   As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
254   As badness would desire.

                                                What, is he dead?

255   Sit you down, father; rest you
256   Let's see these pockets: the letters that he speaks of
256. pockets: messenger bags.

257   May be my friends. He's dead; I am only sorry
258   He had no other deathsman. Let us see:
258. deathsman: executioner.

259   Leave, gentle wax;

           [Edgar breaks the wax seal and opens
           the letter.]

                                             and, manners, blame us not:
259. Leave: By your leave. wax: the wax seal on the letter.

260   To know our enemies' minds, we'ld rip their hearts;
261   Their papers, is more lawful.
261. Their papers: i.e., To rip open their papers.


262   'Let our reciprocal vows be rememb'red. You have
263   many opportunities to cut him off: if your will
263. him: Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany.
your will: i.e., your desire for me.

264   want not, time and place will be fruitfully offer'd.
264. want: lack. fruitfully: plentifully.

265   There is nothing done, if he return the conqueror:
265. done: accomplished.

266   then am I the prisoner, and his bed my jail; from
267   the loath'd warmth whereof deliver me, and supply
268   the place for your labour.
267-268. and supply . . . place: and take his place in my bed.

269        Your (wife, so I would say) affectionate servant,
270             Goneril.'

271   O indistinguish'd space of woman's will!
271. O . . . will: O limitless extent of woman's appetite.

272   A plot upon her virtuous husband's life;
273   And the exchange my brother! Here, in the sands,
273. exchange: substitute.

274   Thee I'll rake up, the post unsanctified
274. Thee I'll rake up: i.e., I'll bury you in a shallow grave. post unsanctified: unholy messenger.

275   Of murderous lechers: and in the mature time
275. in the mature time: when the time is ripe.

276   With this ungracious paper strike the sight
276. ungracious: wicked. strike the sight: i.e., astound.

277   Of the death-practic'd Duke: for him 'tis well
277. death-practic'd Duke: Duke whose death is plotted.

278   That of thy death and business I can tell.

279   The king is mad: how stiff is my vile sense,
280   That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling
281   Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract:
279-281. how stiff . . . sorrows: how obstinate is my unwanted rationality, so that I remain sane and have a keen sense of my overwhelming sorrows! distract: mad.

282   So should my thoughts be sever'd from my griefs,
283   And woes by wrong imaginations lose
283. wrong imaginations: delusions.

284   The knowledge of themselves.

                                                         Give me your hand:

           Drum afar off.

285   Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum:
286   Come, father, I'll bestow you with a friend.
286. bestow: lodge.