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King Lear

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


Act 3 Scene 1

Storm continues. Enter KENT and a GENTLEMAN, meeting

Who’s there [what’s here], besides foul weather?

One minded like the weather, most unquietly.

I know you. Where’s the king?

Contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled water ‘bove the main,
That things might change or cease; [tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out-scorn
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.
This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.]

But who is with him?

None but the fool, who labours to out-jest
His heart-struck injuries.

Sir, I do know you,
And dare upon the warrant of my note [art]
Commend a dear thing to you. There is division,
Although as yet the face of it is covered
With mutual cunning, ‘twixt Albany and Cornwall;
Who have — as who have not, that their great stars
Throned and set high — servants, who seem no less,
Which are to France the spies and speculations
Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen,
Either in snuffs and packings of the dukes,
Or the hard rein which both of them have borne
Against the old kind king; or something deeper,
Whereof perchance these are but furnishings.

[But, true it is, from France there comes a power
Into this scattered kingdom, who already,
Wise in our negligence, have secret feet
In some of our best ports, and are at point
To show their open banner. Now to you:
If on my credit you dare build so far
To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
Some that will thank you, making just report
Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow
The king hath cause to ‘plain.
I am a gentleman of blood and breeding,
And, from some knowledge and assurance, offer
This office to you.]

I will talk further with you.

No, do not.
For confirmation that I am much more
Than my out-wall, open this purse, and take
What it contains. If you shall see Cordelia,
As fear not but you shall, show her this ring,
And she will tell you who your fellow is
That yet you do not know. Fie on this storm!
I will go seek the king.

Give me your hand: have you no more to say?

Few words, but, to effect, more than all yet;
That, when we have found the king — in which your pain
That way, I’ll this 
— he that first lights on him
Holla the other.




heath: A large tract of uncultivated open land covered with low shrubs

unquietly: in a disturbed mood

contending: quarreling

main: mainland

eyeless: blind to his sufferings

little world of man: the microcosm which mirrors the larger world. A storm rages within Lear as well as without.

belly-pinched: starving; not even hungry animals would be out hunting on a night like this.

unbonneted: without a hat for protection

take all: Lear is staking everything, as in a game of chance

warrant of my note: based on my knowledge of you

intelligent: information gained by spying

snuffs and packings: quarrels and plots

furnishings: outward shows

scattered: divided

at point: ready

on my credit: if you trust me

bemadding: maddening

plain: complain

blood: good family

office: service to the king

out-wall: appearance

lights: sees him

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