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King Lear

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

Act 2 Scene 1

GLOUCESTER’s residence
Enter EDMUND, and CURAN meets him

Save thee, Curan.

And you, sir. I have been with your father, and
given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan
his duchess will be here with him this night.

How comes that?

Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad?
I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but
ear-kissing arguments.

Not I, pray you, what are they?

Have you heard of no likely wars toward, ‘twixt the
Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?

Not a word.

You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.


The duke be here tonight? The better! best!
This weaves itself perforce into my business.
My father hath set guard to take my brother;
And I have one thing of a queasy question
Which I must act [ask]: briefness and fortune, work [help].
Brother, a word; descend: brother, I say!


My father watches: O sir, fly this place.
Intelligence is given where you are hid.
You have now the good advantage of the night.
Have you not spoken ‘gainst the Duke of Cornwall?
He’s coming hither, now, i’ the night, i’ the haste,
And Regan with him. Have you nothing said
Upon his party ‘gainst the Duke of Albany?
Advise yourself.

I am sure on’t, not a word.

I hear my father coming — pardon me:
In cunning [craving] I must draw my sword upon you.
Draw; seem to defend yourself; now quit you well —
Yield, come before my father! Light, ho, here! —
Fly, brother. –Torches, torches! — So, farewell.


Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion
Of my more fierce endeavour. I have seen drunkards
Do more than this in sport. Father, father!
Stop, stop! No help?

Enter GLOUCESTER, and Servants with torches

Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?

Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling [warbling] of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress —

But where is he?

Look, sir, I bleed.

Where is the villain, Edmund?

Fled this way, sir, when by no means he could —

(to servants) Pursue him, ho! Go after.
By no means what?

Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;
But that I told him, the revenging gods
‘Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;
Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to the father. Sir, in fine,
Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion,
With his prepared sword, he charges home
My unprovided body, latched mine arm;
But when he saw my best alarumed spirits,
Bold in the quarrel’s right, roused to the encounter,
Or whether gasted by the noise I made,
Full suddenly he fled.

Let him fly far:
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught,
And found, dispatch. The noble duke my master,
My worthy arch and patron, comes tonight.
By his authority I will proclaim it,
That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,
Bringing the murderous coward [caitiff] to the stake;
He that conceals him, death.

When I dissuaded him from his intent,
And found him pight to do it, with curst speech
I threatened to discover him. He replied,
‘Thou unpossessing bastard! Dost thou think,
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee
Make thy words faithed? No, what I should deny,
As this I would, [ay,] though thou didst produce
My very character, I’d turn it all
To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice [pretence];
And thou must make a dullard of the world,
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spirits [spurs]
To make thee seek it.’

O strange [strong] and fastened villain!
Would he deny his letter, said he? [I never got him.]
Hark, the duke’s trumpets! I know not where [why] he comes.
All ports I’ll bar; the villain shall not ‘scape;
The duke must grant me that. Besides, his picture
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have due note of him; and of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means
To make thee capable.

Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, and Attendants

How now, my noble friend! Since I came hither,
Which I can call but now, I have heard strange news.

If it be true, all vengeance comes too short
Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?

O, madam, my old heart is cracked, it’s cracked!

What, did my father’s godson seek your life?
He whom my father named, your Edgar?

O, [Aye] lady, lady, shame would have it hid.

Was he not companion with the riotous knights
That tended upon my father?

I know not, madam; ’tis too bad, too bad.

Yes, madam, he was of that consort.

No marvel, then, though he were ill affected.
‘Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,
To have the expense [waste] and waste [spoil] of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well informed of them, and with such cautions
That if they come to sojourn at my house,
I’ll not be there.

Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
child-like office.

‘Twas my duty, sir.

He did bewray [betray] his practice, and received
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.

Is he pursued?

Ay, my good lord.

If he be taken, he shall never more
Be feared of doing harm, make your own purpose
How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
So much commend itself, you shall be ours.
Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;
You we first seize on.

I shall serve you, sir,
Truly, however else.

For him I thank your grace.

You know not why we came to visit you?

Thus out of season, threading [threatening] dark-eyed night?
Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some prize [poise],
Wherein we must have use of your advice.
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best [least] thought it fit
To answer from our home. The several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow
Your needful counsel to our business,
Which craves the instant use.

I serve you, madam.
Your graces are right welcome.



Save : God save thee (a standard greeting)

ear-kissing arguments : rumors

toward : impending; this rumor of rivalry between Albany and Cornwall is not developed in the play, possibly because the two houses join together against the invasion from France.

perforce : necessarily

queasy question : of indefinite outcome, unless handled carefully

briefness and fortune : speed and good luck

descend : from his hiding place, perhaps from the inner balcony of the stage

Intelligence : information

upon his party ‘gainst : about his feud with Albany

Yield : these lines alternate between direct whispers to his brother and yelling to convince others that they are fighting.

beget opinion : he cuts himself to create the impression that they were fighting

stand auspicious mistress : act as his protector

parricides : those who kill their fathers

manifold : many

in fine : finally

fell motion : deadly thrust

unprovided : unprotected

latched : lanced, wounded

alarumed : fully aroused (as by a trumpet call)

gasted : frightened (aghast)

dispatch : put to death

arch : ruler

pight : determined

unpossessing : landless, unable to inherit from his father

reposal : placing

faithed : believed (who would believe the bastard over the legitimate son?)

character : evidence in my own handwriting

dullard : you must think the world stupid not to see that you would gain by my death, and thus would have good reason to plot against me

fastened : confirmed

got : begot

capable : legally the heir

though : if

ill affected : disposed to evil

expense and waste : squandering

child-like : obedient like a good son

bewray : expose Edgar’s plot

purpose : use all my resources in forming your plans to punish him

out of season : untimely, unexpected

prize : significance

from : away from

attend dispatch : await to be sent back with responses

instant use : immediate attention

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