King Lear by William Shakespeare

King Lear

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

Description

King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most savage plays, tells the story of the foolish and Job-like Lear, who divides his kingdom, as he does his affections, according to vanity and whim. Lear’s failure as a father engulfs himself and his world in turmoil and tragedy.


110 pages, with a reading time of ~3.5 hours (27,572 words), and first published in 1606. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

King Lear’s palace.

[Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER, and EDMUND]

KENT

I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.

GLOUCESTER

It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most; for equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety.

KENT

Is not this your son, my lord?

GLOUCESTER

His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.

KENT

I cannot conceive you.

GLOUCESTER

Sir, this young fellow’s mother could: whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?

KENT

I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.

GLOUCESTER

But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?

EDMUND

No, my lord.

GLOUCESTER

My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.

EDMUND

My services to your lordship.

KENT

I must love you, and sue to know you better.

EDMUND

Sir, I shall study deserving.

GLOUCESTER

He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.

Sennet. Enter KING LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants

KING LEAR

Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.

GLOUCESTER

I shall, my liege.

[Exeunt GLOUCESTER and EDMUND]

KING LEAR

Meantime we shall express our darker purpose. Give me the map there. Know that we have divided In three our kingdom: and ‘tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age; Conferring them on younger strengths, while we Unburthen’d crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall, And you, our no less loving son of Albany, We have this hour a constant will to publish Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy, Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love, Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn, And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my daughters,– Since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state,– Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril, Our eldest-born, speak first.

GONERIL

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e’er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable; Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

CORDELIA

[Aside] What shall Cordelia do? Love, and be silent.

LEAR

Of all these bounds, even from this line to this, With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d, With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s issue Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter, Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.

REGAN

Sir, I am made Of the self-same metal that my sister is, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short: that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys, Which the most precious square of sense possesses; And find I am alone felicitate In your dear highness’ love.

CORDELIA

[Aside] Then poor Cordelia! And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s More richer than my tongue.

KING LEAR

To thee and thine hereditary ever Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom; No less in space, validity, and pleasure, Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy, Although the last, not least; to whose young love The vines of France and milk of Burgundy Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

CORDELIA

Nothing, my lord.

KING LEAR

Nothing!

CORDELIA

Nothing.

KING LEAR

Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

CORDELIA

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty According to my bond; nor more nor less.

KING LEAR

How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little, Lest it may mar your fortunes.

CORDELIA