(Line differences from Q1 are in brackets, lines in F1 only are in italics)
Act 1 Scene 1
King Lear’s palace
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER, and EDMUND
I thought the king had more affected the Duke of
Albany than Cornwall.
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 qualities [equalities] are so
weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice
of either’s moiety.
Is not this your son, my lord?
I cannot conceive you.
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?
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?
No, my lord.
(to Edmund) My lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter as my
My services to your lordship.
I must love you, and sue to know you better.
Sir, I shall study deserving.
(to Kent) 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
Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.
I shall, my lord [liege]. (he exits)
Meantime we shall express our darker purpose[s].
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and ’tis our fast [first] intent
To shake all cares and business from our age [of our state];
Conferring [confirming] them on younger strengths [years], while we
Unburden’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 [two great] 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 answered. 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? [where merit doth most challenge it]
Goneril, our eldest born, speak first.
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 [friend];
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
(Aside) What shall Cordelia speak?
Love, and be silent.
(gesturing to the map)
Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
With shadowy [shady] forests and with champains riched,
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.]
[Sir,] I am made
Of that self [selfsame] mettle as my sister,
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.
(Aside) Then poor Cordelia!
And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s
More ponderous [richer] than my tongue.
To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
No less in space, validity, and pleasure
Than that conferred [confirmed] on Goneril. [But] Now, our joy,
Although our last and least [the last, not least in our dear love]; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interest; what can you say to draw [win]
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
Nothing, my lord.
Nothing will [can] come of nothing. Speak again.
How, how, [Go to, go to] Cordelia? mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.
Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty.
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
[To love my father all].
But goes thy heart with this?
Ay, my good lord.
So young, and so untender?
So young, my lord, and true.
[Well,] let it be so; thy truth then be thy dower:
For by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour’d, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.
Good my liege–
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved her most, and thought to set my rest
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father’s heart from her! Call France; who stirs?
Call Burgundy. Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters’ dowers digest this third.
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,
By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode
Make with you by due turn. Only we shall [still] retain
The name, and all the addition to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,
This coronet part betwixt you.
Whom I have ever honour’d as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master follow’d,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers–
The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour’s bound,
When majesty falls [stoops] to folly. Reserve thy state [Reverse thy doom],
And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
Reverb no hollowness.
Kent, on thy life, no more.
My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thy enemies, nor fear to lose it,
Thy safety being the motive.
Out of my sight!
See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.
Now, by Apollo —
Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
Laying his hand on his sword
Dear sir, forbear.
Hear me, recreant, on thine allegiance, hear me;
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strained [strayed] pride
To come between our sentence and our power,
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five [four] days we do allot thee, for provision
To shield thee from disasters [diseases] of the world;
And on the sixth [fifth] to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom. If on the tenth day following
Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.
Fare thee well, king: since thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom [friendship] lives hence, and banishment is here.
(to Cordelia) The gods to their dear shelter [protection] take thee, maid,
That justly [rightly] think’st and hast most rightly [justly] said.
(to Regan and Goneril) And your large speeches may your deeds approve,
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;
He’ll shape his old course in a country new. (exit)
Flourish. Re-enter GLOUCESTER, with KING OF FRANCE, BURGUNDY
Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
My lord of Burgundy,
We first address toward you, who with this king
Hath rivalled for our daughter. What, in the least,
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?
Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offer’d,
Nor will you tender less?
Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
But now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands:
If aught within that little seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced,
And nothing more [else], may fitly like your grace,
She’s there, and she is yours.
I know no answer.
Pardon me, royal sir;
Election makes not up on such conditions.
Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.
(to France) For you, great king,
I would not from your love make such a stray
To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed
Almost to acknowledge hers.
This is most strange,
That she, who even but now was your [best] object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
The [most] best, the [most] dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
So many folds of favour. Sure, her offence
Must be of such unnatural degree
That monsters it, or your fore-vouched affection
Fallen into taint: which to believe of her
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Could never plant in me.
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste [unclean] action or dishonour’d step,
That hath deprived me of your grace and favour;
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
[Go to, go to,] Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better.
Is it but [no more than] this, a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards [respects] that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.
Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.
Nothing. I have sworn. I am firm.
(to Cordelia) I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.
Peace be with Burgundy,
Since that respect and fortunes [respects of fortune] are his love,
I shall not be his wife.
Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor,
Most choice forsaken, and most loved despised!
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon.
Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
Gods, gods! ’tis strange that from their cold’st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect.
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.
Flourish. Exit all but FRANCE, GONERIL, REGAN, and CORDELIA
Bid farewell to your sisters.
The jewels of our father, with washed eyes
Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are,
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Love [Use] well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him.
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.
So, farewell to you both.
Prescribe not us our duties.
Time shall unfold what plighted [pleated] cunning hides.
Who covers faults, at last with shame [them] derides.
Well may you prosper.
Come, my fair Cordelia.
Exit FRANCE and CORDELIA
Sister, it is not little I have to say of what
most nearly appertains to us both. I think our
father will hence tonight.
That’s most certain, and with you; next month with us.
You see how full of changes his age is; the
observation we have made of it hath not been
little. He always loved our sister most, and
with what poor judgement he hath now cast her off
appears too grossly.
‘Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever
but slenderly known himself.
The best and soundest of his time hath been but
rash. Then must we look from his age to receive
not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted
condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness
that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Such unconstant starts are we like to have from
him as this of Kent’s banishment.
There is further compliment of leave-taking
between France and him. Pray you, let’s sit [hit]
together. If our father carry authority with
such dispositions as he bears, this last
surrender of his will but offend us.
We shall further think on’t.
We must do something, and i’ the heat.
darker purpose: secret intention for this meeting. In the opening lines Gloucester and Kent show that they are already aware of the king’s decision to divide the kingdom. His “darker purpose” must then concern his giving a third part to Cordelia and her new husband.
Unburden’d: Lear intends to give over the responsibilities of ruling to his three daughters so that he will no longer bear the burden of leadership in his few remaining years. “Crawl” is ironic, as Lear will in his old age become a child again, depending on his daughters to care for him.
nature … challenge: natural affection should be equal among the daughters but one may prove herself more worthy and receive a greater portion of the kingdom if she declares her love more profusely and flatters her father more
nursery: care. This raises an unanswered question: did Lear intend to go live with Cordelia and her new husband in another country, or did he hope that she would refuse to marry in order to stay with him and “love her father all”?
coronet: not Lear’s crown, but the one that he was planning to give Cordelia. In one performance Lear snatched the coronet off his daughter’s head and tossed it at Albany and Cornwall. In contrast, Lawrence Olivier as Lear removes his own crown and casts it on the map (see video). Note in Julius Caesar the distinction that Casca makes between the two types: “I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown, yet ’twas not a crown neither, ’twas one of these coronets” (I.ii)
reverb no hollowness: reverberate like a hollow drum; that is, Cordelia’s lowly (humble) speech does not indicate that her heart is empty of love; based on a proverb, “The empty vessel makes the greatest sound” (Henry V, 4.4.66).
nature: see comments for next scene