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King Lear

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


Act 3 Scene 6

A  farmhouse near GLOUCESTER’s home

Here is better than the open air; take it
thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what
addition I can. I will not be long from you.

All the power of his wits have given way to his
impatience. The gods reward [deserve] your kindness!


Frateretto calls me and tells me
Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness.
Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.

Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a
gentleman or a yeoman?

A king, a king!

No, he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son;
for he’s a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman
before him.

To have a thousand with red burning spits
Come hissing in upon ’em!

The foul fiend bites my back.

He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a
horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.

It shall be done; I will arraign them straight.
Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer;
Thou, sapient sir, sit here. Now, you she-foxes!

Look, where he stands and glares!
Wantest thou eyes at trial, madam?
Come o’er the bourn, Bessy, to me–

Her boat hath a leak,
And she must not speak
Why she dares not come over to thee.

The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a
nightingaleHoppedance cries in Tom’s belly for two
white herring. Croak not, black angel; I have no
food for thee.

How do you, sir? Stand you not so amazed.
Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?

I’ll see their trial first. Bring in the evidence.
Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;
And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,
Bench by his side. You are o’ the commission,
Sit you too.

Let us deal justly.
Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
Thy sheep be in the corn;
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm.
Purr! the cat is gray.

Arraign her first; ’tis Goneril. I here take my
oath before this honourable assembly, she kicked the
poor king her father.

Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?

She cannot deny it.

Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.

And here’s another, whose warped looks proclaim
What store her heart is made on. Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place!
False justicer, why hast thou let her ‘scape?]

Bless thy five wits!

O pity! Sir, where is the patience now,
That thou so oft have boasted to retain?

(aside) My tears begin to take his part so much,
They’ll mar my counterfeiting.

The little dogs and all, Trey, Blanch, and
Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me.

Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt, you curs!
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
Mastiff, grey-hound, mongrel grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail,
Tom will make them weep and wail:
For, with throwing thus my head,
Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.
Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and
fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.

Then let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds
about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that
makes these hard hearts [this hardness]?
You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I
do not like the fashion of your garments. You will
say they are Persian attire, but let them be changed.

Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.

Make no noise, make no noise; draw the curtains:
so, so, so. We’ll go to supper i’ he morning. So, so, so.

And I’ll go to bed at noon.


Come hither, friend. Where is the king my master?

Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are gone.

Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms.
I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him.
There is a litter ready; lay him in ‘t,
And drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master.
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life
With thine and all that offer to defend him
Stand in assured loss. Take up, take up,
And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.

[Oppressed nature sleeps.
This rest might yet have balmed thy broken senses,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.
Come, help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.]

Come, come, away.

Exit all but EDGAR

When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers, suffers most i’ the mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind.
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’er skip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king bow.
He childed as I fathered. Tom, away!
Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray,
When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles thee,
In thy just proof, repeals and reconciles thee.
What will hap more to-night, safe ‘scape the king!
Lurk, lurk.]



impatience: rage, unable to endure more

The gods reward your kindness: a very ironic statement considering that Gloucester will be “rewarded” with blindness

Frateretto: a demon

Nero: in Chaucer’s “Monk’s Tale” the Roman emperor Nero is depicted as fishing in the Tiber (more nonsense by Tom)

yeoman: property owner below the rank of gentleman (the fool’s next line suggests that the yeoman has indulged his son, to raise him to higher status than himself). In some productions the Fool indicates with this line that he refers to Edgar and sees through his disguise.

thousand: Lear imagines an army (of demons?) tormenting his daughters with firebrands

arraign: bring his daughters to trial

straight: immediately

justicer: in his madness Lear thinks the fool is a judge, and Poor Tom a wise man, as he puts his daughters on trial (F cuts this entire business)

he: Lear? or one of the demons?

eyes: witnesses?

Come … to me: popular song

leak: suggesting she’s in her period

nightingale: the fool’s singing

Hoppedance: another demon

yoke-fellow of equity: partner in justice

minikin: shrill, possibly referring to his pipe with which he calls the sheep.

gray: devils took the shape of gray cats

joint-stool: a stage prop that Lear thinks is his daughter

another: Lear next imagines Regan stands before him on trial

store: stuff

Corruption: bribery

‘scape: in Lawrence Olivier’s performance, he thinks Regan a chicken who flies away

five wits: common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory (Edgar can’t help but take pity on the mad king)

mar my counterfeiting: ruin my disguise as a madman

Avaunt: away!

brach: bitch

lym: bloodhound

wakes: funerals

horn: madmen usually carried horns for begging; Edgar implies that he tires of his role and cannot maintain it much longer.

anatomize: dissect

Persian: exotic (speaking ironically of Tom’s rags)

curtains: supposedly on his bed

noon: the fool’s last line, he is not seen again (no explanation given).

litter: stretcher

dally: delay

provision: means of providing for safety

balmed: soothed

stand in hard cure: will be hard to cure

our woes: woes similar to ours

free: carefree

o’er skip: it’s easier to overlook our own suffering when we see that we do not suffer alone.

portable: bearable

childed as I fathered: he suffers from his children as I do my father.

Mark the high noises: take heed of the rumors of strife between those in power?

bewray: reveal yourself

repeals: when I am proved innocent of these false charges and reconcile with my father

What will hap: whatever happens

Lurk: hide

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