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King Lear

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


Act 2 Scene 3


I heard myself proclaimed,
And by the happy hollow of a tree
Escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place
That guard, and most unusual vigilance
Does not attend my taking. While I may ‘scape,
I will preserve myself, and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast. My face I’ll grime with filth,
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots,
And with presented nakedness out-face
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who with roaring voices
Strike in their numbed and mortified [bare] arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
And with this horrible object, from low farms [service],
Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity. Poor TurlygodPoor Tom!
That’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am.



proclaimed : public announcement for his arrest

happy : fortunate hiding place

bethought : resolved, have decided

penury : poverty

contempt of man : poverty, out of contempt for man, brings him to the level of an animal

elf : tangle up in “elf-locks”

out-face : brave

Bedlam : the insane asylum at Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital

mortified : unfeeling, as if dead

object : spectacle

pelting : paltry

bans : curses

Turlygod : the meaning of this name is unknown, not found elsewhere

poor Tom:  beggars were often called by this name which Edgar adopts for a disguise

Edgar I nothing am : either “I am no longer Edgar” or “as Edgar I am nothing now”

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