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(Line differences from Q1 are in brackets, lines in F1 only
are in italics)

Act 1 Scene 5
Courtyard outside Albany’s residence

KING LEAR
Go you before to Gloucester with these letters.
Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you
know than comes from her demand out of the letter.
If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.

KENT
I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered
your letter.

Exit

FOOL
If a man’s brains were in’s heels, were’t not in
danger of kibes?

KING LEAR
Ay, boy.

FOOL
Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall ne’er go¬†slip-shod.

KING LEAR
Ha, ha, ha.

FOOL
Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly;
for though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an
apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.

KING LEAR
What canst tell, boy?

FOOL
She will taste as like this as a crab does to a
crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’
the middle on’s face?

KING LEAR
No.

FOOL
Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose, that
what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

KING LEAR
I did her wrong.

FOOL
Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?

KING LEAR
No.

FOOL
Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.

KING LEAR
Why?

FOOL
Why, to put his head in, not to give it away to his
daughters, and leave his horns without a case.

KING LEAR
I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my
horses ready?

FOOL
Thy asses are gone about ’em. The reason why the
seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

KING LEAR
Because they are not eight?

FOOL
Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

KING LEAR
To take ‘t again perforce! Monster ingratitude!

FOOL
If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten
for being old before thy time.

KING LEAR
How’s that?

FOOL
Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst
been wise.

KING LEAR
O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven,
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad.
How now, are the horses ready?

GENTLEMAN
Ready, my lord.

KING LEAR
Come, boy.

FOOL
She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
Shall not be a maid long, unless [except] things
be cut shorter.

Exit

Footnotes

daughter: Regan; this is an oversight on Shakespeare’s part, as how could Lear know that Regan will be at Gloucester’s castle, when she says they purposely left their own home to avoid Lear (II.i)?

kibes: an inflammation followed by itchy irritation on the hands, feet, or ears, resulting from exposure to moist cold, known today as chilblains.

prithee: pray thee

slip-shod: You needn’t wear slippers to protect you from chilblains, implying that he hasn’t any brains in his heels or elsewhere, if he intends to go to Regan for help.

kindly: double meaning: affectionately (ironic) or in kind, according to her nature

this: this one, he compares her to Goneril

crab: crab apple; although the two sisters don’t look alike, they will “taste” alike.

her: Cordelia; already Lear’s conscience bothers him.

case: covering

nature: paternal instincts

asses: followers (for only asses follow a fool like you)

seven stars: the constellation of Pleiades

perforce: perhaps Lear contemplates taking back his kingdom by force if necessary

temper: mentally balanced, sane

maid: virgin

things: male genitals; a foolish maid will not remain a virgin for long, unless surrounded by impotent men such as Lear.

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