King Lear : Act 5, Scene 3

           Enter, in conquest, with Drum and
           Colours, EDMUND, LEAR and
           CORDELIA as prisoners, SOLDIERS,

Good guard i.e., keep careful guard over them Until . . . them i.e., until we know the pleasures of the great ones who are to pass judgment on them
  1   Some officers take them away. Good guard,
  2   Until their greater pleasures first be known
  3   That are to censure them.

  3                                             We are not the first
with best meaning with the best of intentions For thee ... cast down only for your sake am I unhappy Myself ... frown i.e., For my part, I could be defiant in the face of bad fortune these daughters and these sisters i.e., Goneril and Regan
  4   Who, with best meaning, have incurr'd the worst.
  5   For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
  6   Myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown.
  7   Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?

  8   No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison:
  9   We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage:
 10   When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
 11   And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
 12   And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
gilded butterflies gaudy and ephemeral courtiers; trivial matters
 13   At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
 14   Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
 15   Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
 16   And take upon's the mystery of things,
God's spies beings sent from heaven to watch men's doings; i.e., detached observers with special insight wear out outlast packs ... moon followers and factions of important people whose position at court varies as the tides
 17   As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out,
 18   In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones,
 19   That ebb and flow by the moon.

 19                                                       Take them away.

sacrifices offerings to the gods
 20   Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
 21   The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He ... foxes. i.e., it would take a torch from heaven to smoke us out of our prison refuge (as foxes were smoked out of their dens)
The good-years i.e., the passage of time
flesh and fell meat and skin; entirely
Ere before
 22   He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
 23   And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
 24   The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
 25   Ere they shall make us weep: we'll see 'em starve first.
 26   Come.

           Exit [KING LEAR and CORDELIA, guarded].

 26               Come hither, captain; hark.
 27   Take thou this note;

           [Giving a paper.]

 27                                       go follow them to prison:
One step I have advanced thee i.e., I have already given you one promotion
 28   One step I have advanced thee; if thou dost
 29   As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
men / Are as the time is i.e., men must adapt themselves to the times
 30   To noble fortunes: know thou this, that men
 31   Are as the time is: to be tender-minded
become a sword suit a warrior
question discussion
thrive by other means i.e., get a different job
 32   Does not become a sword: thy great employment
 33   Will not bear question; either say thou'lt do 't,
 34   Or thrive by other means.

 34                                               I'll do 't, my lord.

About it get going! | write happy consider youself lucky (to have been assigned this task)
carry ... down i.e., follow my written instructions to the letter
 35   About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
 36   Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it so
 37   As I have set it down.

I ... oats. i.e., I cannot do a horse's work.
 38   I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
 39   If it be man's work, I'll do 't.

           Exit Captain.

           Flourish. Enter ALBANY, GONERIL,
           REGAN, [another Captain,] Soldiers.

your valiant strain the valiant part of your character fortune led you well i.e., you have had very good luck opposites opponents
use treat
 40   Sir, you have shown today your valiant strain,
 41   And fortune led you well: you have the captives
 42   That were the opposites of this day's strife:
 43   We do require them of you, so to use them
 44   As we shall find their merits and our safety
 45   May equally determine.

 45                                             Sir, I thought it fit
 46   To send the old and miserable king
retention confinement
 47   To some retention and appointed guard;
Whose (Lear's)
 48   Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
common bosom sympathy of the populace
 49   To pluck the common bosom on his side,
turn our impress'd lances in our eyes turn our draftee soldiers against us the queen i.e., Cordelia
 50   And turn our impress'd lances in our eyes
 51   Which do command them. With him I sent the queen;
 52   My reason all the same; and they are ready
at further space at a future point
session court of judgment
 53   Tomorrow, or at further space, to appear
 54   Where you shall hold your session. At this time
 55   We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;
quarrels causes
 56   And the best quarrels, in the heat, are cursed
 57   By those that feel their sharpness:
The ... place. i.e., the issue of what to do with Cordelia and King Lear must be decided someplace else besides the battlefield
 58   The question of Cordelia and her father
 59   Requires a fitter place.

by your patience if you please
subject i.e., one who carries out orders
brother i.e., my equal
 59                                         Sir, by your patience,
 60   I hold you but a subject of this war,
 61   Not as a brother.

list like
 61                               That's as we list to grace him.
our pleasure my wishes demanded ascertained Ere before | powers armies
 62   Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded,
 63   Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers;
 64   Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy ... brother i.e., the trust I place in him entitles him to be your equal
 65   The which immediacy may well stand up,
 66   And call itself your brother.

Not so hot Not so fast
In his own grace by his own merit
your addition the honors you have conferred on him
 66                                                   Not so hot:
 67   In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
 68   More than in your addition.

In my rights ... compeers the best i.e., by my rights (as the Duchess of Cornwall), by me invested, he is the equal of the best (of all the land)
 68                                                   In my rights,
 69   By me invested, he compeers the best.

That were ... you. Your investiture of him would be complete if he happened to marry you.
Jesters do oft prove prophets Jokers often turn out to be prophets; i.e., you're joking, but he and I could be married soon
 70   That were the most, if he should husband you.

 71   Jesters do oft prove prophets.

 71                                                   Holla, holla!
a-squint —Squinting was a proverbial effect of jealousy, because of the tendency to look suspiciously on potential rivals.
 72   That eye that told you so look'd but a-squint.

 73   Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
stomach anger
 74   From a full-flowing stomach.

           [To EDMUND.]

General i.e., Edmund
patrimony property inherited from one's father the walls i.e., the fortress of my heart Witness ... master. Let the (whole) world be witness to my making you my lord and master (from this moment forward).
 74                                                   General,
 75   Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
 76   Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine:
 77   Witness the world, that I create thee here
 78   My lord and master.

Mean you to enjoy him? Mean you to enjoy him (right here and now)?
 78                                     Mean you to enjoy him?

let-alone veto; power of preventing it
 79   The let-alone lies not in your good will.

 80   Nor in thine, lord.

Half-blooded fellow bastard
 80                                 Half-blooded fellow, yes.

      REGAN [To EDMUND.]
Let the drum strike —Regan is urging Edmund to prove his rights in trial by combat against anyone who dares challenge him.
 81   Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.

 82   Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
in thine attaint as accessory to your treason
gilded i.e., masked by gold
 83   On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
 84   This gilded serpent

           [Pointing to Goneril.]

sister sister-in-law (Regan)
 84                                   For your claim, fair sister,
 85   I bar it in the interest of my wife:
 86   'Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
banes banns (announcement) of marriage
 87   And I, her husband, contradict your banes.
make your loves to me, / My lady is bespoke. Albany is being sarcastic: a husband cannot marry nor can a wife become engaged
 88   If you will marry, make your loves to me,
 89   My lady is bespoke.

enterlude farce; interlude
 89                                     An enterlude!

 90   Thou art arm'd, Gloucester: let the trumpet sound:
 91   If none appear to prove upon thy head
 92   Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
 93   There is my pledge;

           [Throwing down a gauntlet.]

make prove
Ere Before | in nothing less in no way less (guilty)
 93                                     I'll make it on thy heart,
 94   Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
 95   Than I have here proclaim'd thee.

 95                                                             Sick, O, sick!

      GONERIL [Aside.]
If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine i.e., If she is not sick, I will never again trust poison to do its work
 96   If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine.

exchange counter pledge
 97   There's my exchange:

           [Throwing down a gauntlet.]

What Whoever
 97                                       What in the world he is
 98   That names me traitor, villain-like he lies:
 99   Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
who not? whoever
100   On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
101   My truth and honour firmly.

102   A herald, ho!

102                           A herald, ho, a herald!

thy single virtue your unassisted power
103   Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,
104   All levied in my name, have in my name
105   Took their discharge.

105                                       My sickness grows upon me.

106   She is not well; convey her to my tent.

           [Exit Regan, led.]

           Enter a HERALD.

107   Come hither, herald,—Let the trumpet sound,
108   And read out this.

109   Sound, trumpet!

           A trumpet sounds.

      Herald [Reads.]
110   'If any man of quality or degree within
111   the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund,
112   supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold
113   traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the
114   trumpet: he is bold in his defence.'

115   Sound!

           First trumpet.

116   Again!

           Second trumpet.

117   Again!

           Third trumpet.

           Trumpet answers within.

           Enter EDGAR, armed.

118   Ask him his purposes, why he appears
119   Upon this call o' the trumpet.

What Who
quality degree; rank
119                                                   What are you?
120   Your name, your quality? and why you answer
121   This present summons?

121                                           Know, my name is lost;
canker-bit worm-eaten
122   By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
123   Yet am I noble as the adversary
cope encounter
124   I come to cope.

124                             Which is that adversary?

125   What's he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?

126   Himself: what say'st thou to him?

126                                                           Draw thy sword,
That So that
127   That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
128   Thy arm may do thee justice: here is mine:
129   Behold, it is my privilege,
The privilege of mine honours my privilege as a knight | profession i.e., knighthood protest solemnly declare Maugre Despite
fire-new newly minted
heart courage
130   The privilege of mine honours,
131   My oath, and my profession: I protest,
132   Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
133   Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
134   Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor;
135   False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
136   Conspirant 'gainst this high-illustrious prince;
upward top
descent sole
137   And, from the extremest upward of thy head
138   To the descent and dust below thy foot,
toad-spotted i.e., stained with infamy
bent ready
139   A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'No,'
140   This sword, this arm, and my best spirits, are bent
141   To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
142   Thou liest.

142                       In wisdom I should ask thy name;
143   But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
that ... breathes i.e., since your manner of speech has some trace of good breeding
What ... spurn. What I have a right to know and what would be prudent and correct to ask, I disdain to inquire about.
hell-hated hated as much as hell
for yet they ... for ever because your accusations of treason (which I throw back at you) now bounce off you without bruising you, this sword of mine will instantly make a way through your armor so that they will live with you (not me) forever
144   And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
145   What safe and nicely I might well delay
146   By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn:
147   Back do I toss these treasons to thy head;
148   With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart;
149   Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
150   This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
151   Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!

           Alarums. [Fight. EDMUND falls.]

152   Save him, save him!

practise trickery
152                                   This is practise, Gloucester:
153   By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
opposite opponent
cozen'd and beguil'd cheated and deceived
154   An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish'd,
155   But cozen'd and beguil'd.

155                                               Shut your mouth, dame,
stopple plug
156   Or with this paper shall I stopple it. Hold, sir.—
157   Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.

letter —The letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting her husband's murder which the dying messenger Oswald entrusted to Edgar (Act 4, Scene 6 Lines 262-270)
           [Shows the letter to EDMUND.
           Goneril snatches at it.]

158   No tearing, lady: I perceive you know it.

159   Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine:
arraign prosecute
160   Who can arraign me for't?

160                                               Most monstrous! oh!
161   Know'st thou this paper?

161                                           Ask me not what I know.


govern restrain
162   Go after her: she's desperate; govern her.

163   What you have charged me with, that have I done;
164   And more, much more; the time will bring it out:
so am I i.e., I'm good as dead.
fortune on victory over
165   'Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
166   That hast this fortune on me? If thou'rt noble,
167   I do forgive thee.

charity forgiveness
167                                 Let's exchange charity.
168   I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
169   If more, the more thou hast wrong'd me.
170   My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
pleasant pleasurable
171   The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
172   Make instruments to plague us:
where thee he got where he begot you
173   The dark and vicious place where thee he got
174   Cost him his eyes.

174                               Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true;
wheel wheel of fortune here i.e., at the bottom of the wheel of fortune
The wheel belongs to the goddess Fortuna, who spins it at random, changing the positions of those on the wheel—some suffer great misfortune, others gain windfalls.
175   The wheel is come full circle: I am here.

      ALBANY [To EDGAR.]
176   Methought thy very gait did prophesy
177   A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee:
178   Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
179   Did hate thee or thy father!

179                                               Worthy prince, I know't.

180   Where have you hid yourself?
181   How have you known the miseries of your father?

List Listen to
182   By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale;
183   And when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
bloody proclamation death sentence
184   The bloody proclamation to escape,
our ... once how sweet must life be that we prefer the constant pain of dying to death itself
185   That follow'd me so near,—O, our lives' sweetness!
186   That we the pain of death would hourly die
187   Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
188   Into a madman's rags; to assume a semblance
very even
rings sockets
stones eyes
189   That very dogs disdain'd: and in this habit
190   Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
191   Their precious stones new lost: became his guide,
192   Led him, begg'd for him, saved him from despair;
193   Never,—O fault!—reveal'd myself unto him,
194   Until some half-hour past, when I was arm'd:
this good success i.e., this successful outcome of my plan to prove Edmund's treachery flaw'd heart cracked heart
195   Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
196   I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last
197   Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw'd heart,
198   Alack, too weak the conflict to support!
199   'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
200   Burst smilingly.

200                         This speech of yours hath moved me,
201   And shall perchance do good: but speak you on;
202   You look as you had something more to say.

203   If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;
dissolve melt into tears
204   For I am almost ready to dissolve,
205   Hearing of this.

This ... love not sorrow i.e., what I have just told you would seem as much as could be borne by anyone not in love with sorrow
but another ... extremity. just one more sorrow, on top of what was already too much, would make it pass all limits big in clamour loud in lamentation my worse estate i.e., when I was disguised as Poor Tom, the madman
205                             This would have seem'd a period
206   To such as love not sorrow; but another,
207   To amplify too much, would make much more,
208   And top extremity.
209   Whilst I was big in clamour came there in a man,
210   Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
211   Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
212   Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms
213   He fastened on my neck, and bellow'd out
214   As he'ld burst heaven; threw him on my father;
215   Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
216   That ever ear received: which in recounting
puissant extremely strong strings of life heart-strings
217   His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
218   Began to crack: twice then the trumpets sounded,
tranc'd unconscious
219   And there I left him tranc'd.

219                                                 But who was this?

220   Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in disguise
enemy hostile
Improper too menial
221   Follow'd his enemy king, and did him service
222   Improper for a slave.

           Enter a Gentleman [with a bloody knife].

223   Help, help! O, help!

223                                   What kind of help?

223                                                                 Speak, man.

224   What means that bloody knife?

224                                                   'Tis hot, it smokes;
225   It came even from the heart of—O, she's dead!

226   Who dead? speak, man.

227   Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister
228   By her is poisoned; she hath confess'd it.

229   I was contracted to them both: all three
marry unite (in death)
230   Now marry in an instant.

230                                           Here comes Kent.

231   Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead:
232   This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
233   Touches us not with pity.

           [Exit Gentleman.]

           Enter KENT.

233                                           O, is this he?
the compliment / Which very manners urges the ceremony that barest custom demands
234   The time will not allow the compliment
235   Which very manners urges.

235                                               I am come
aye forever
236   To bid my king and master aye good night:
237   Is he not here?

of us by us
237                           Great thing of us forgot!
238   Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cordelia?

           Goneril's and Regan's bodies brought out.

object spectacle
239   See'st thou this object, Kent?

240   Alack, why thus?

Yet Despite all
240                               Yet Edmund was belov'd:
241   The one the other poison'd for my sake,
242   And after slew herself.

243   Even so. Cover their faces.

244   I pant for life: some good I mean to do,
245   Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,
brief speedy | writ order of execution
246   Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
247   Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia:
248   Nay, send in time.

248                                 Run, run, O, run!

office commission
249   To who, my lord? Who hath the office? send
250   Thy token of reprieve.

251   Well thought on: take my sword,
252   Give it the captain.

252                                     Haste thee, for thy life.

           [Exit EDGAR.]

253   He hath commission from thy wife and me
254   To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
255   To lay the blame upon her own despair,
fordid killed
256   That she fordid herself.

257   The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.

           [EDMUND is borne off.]

           Enter LEAR, with Cordelia in his arms;
           [EDGAR, Captain, and others following.]

258   Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
259   Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so
heaven's vault the sky
260   That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
261   I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
262   She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
stone mirror of polished stone
263   If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
264   Why, then she lives.

promised end Doomsday—end of the world
264                                     Is this the promised end

265   Or image of that horror?

Fall, and cease! Let the world collapse and end!
265                                           Fall, and cease!

266   This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
267   It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
268   That ever I have felt.

      KENT [Kneeling]
268                                       O my good master!

269   Prithee, away.

269                             'Tis noble Kent, your friend.

270   A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
271   I might have saved her; now she's gone for ever!
272   Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
273   What is't thou say'st? Her voice was ever soft,
274   Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
275   I kill'd the slave that was a-hanging thee.

276   'Tis true, my lords, he did.

276                                             Did I not, fellow?
falchion light sword
277   I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
278   I would have made them skip: I am old now,
crosses adversities | spoil me wear me down tell you straight recognize you soon
279   And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
280   Mine eyes are not o' the best: I'll tell you straight.

281   If fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
282   One of them we behold.

This is a dull sight this is a sad sight; my vision is failing
283   This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?

283                                                                 The same,
Caius (Kent's pseudonym)
284   Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius?

285   He's a good fellow, I can tell you that;
286   He'll strike, and quickly too: he's dead and rotten.

287   No, my good lord; I am the very man,—

I'll see that straight I'll see to that matter shortly
288   I'll see that straight.

That, from your first of difference and decay Who from the beginning of your alteration and deterioration
289   That, from your first of difference and decay,
290   Have follow'd your sad steps—

290                                                     You are welcome hither.

Nor no man else No, neither I nor anyone else is welcome because this is not a welcoming sight | deadly deathly fordone destroyed desperately in despair
291   Nor no man else: all's cheerless, dark, and deadly.
292   Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
293   And desperately are dead.

293                                               Ay, so I think.

vain in vain
294   He knows not what he says: and vain is it
295   That we present us to him.

bootless futile
295                                               Very bootless.

           Enter a Messenger

296   Edmund is dead, my lord.

296                                           That's but a trifle here.
297   You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
decay destruction, ruin
298   What comfort to this great decay may come
299   Shall be applied: for us we will resign,
300   During the life of this old majesty,
301   To him our absolute power.

           [To EDGAR and KENT.]

301                                           You, to your rights:
boot reward | addition distinction
302   With boot, and such addition as your honours
303   Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
304   The wages of their virtue, and all foes
305   The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!

fool a term of endearment; here used for Cordelia
306   And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life!
307   Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
308   And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
309   Never, never, never, never, never!
310   Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
311   Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
312   Look there, look there!

           He dies.

312                                           He faints! My lord, my lord!

313   Break, heart; I prithee, break!

313                                                       Look up, my lord.

Vex not his ghost Do not disturb his departing soul | rack instrument of torture
314   Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him much
315   That would upon the rack of this tough world
316   Stretch him out longer.

316                                           He is gone, indeed.

317   The wonder is, he hath endured so long:
He but usurp'd his life i.e., he only stole his life from death, which already had a claim on it
318   He but usurp'd his life.

319   Bear them from hence. Our present business
320   Is general woe.

           [To Kent and Edgar.]

320                             Friends of my soul, you twain
gored wounded; bloody
321   Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.

322   I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
323   My master calls me, I must not say no.

324   The weight of this sad time we must obey;
325   Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
326   The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
327   Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

           Exeunt with a dead march.