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King Lear

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The Tragedy of King Lear (a Later Tragedy). First written in the year 1606, first performed in 1608.

In Britain, King Lear, in old age, chooses to retire and divide up Britain between his three daughters. However, he declares that they must first be wed before being given the land. He asks his daughters the extent of their love for him. The two oldest, Goneril and Regan, both flatter him with praise and are rewarded generously with land and marriage to the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall, respectively. Lear's youngest and most beloved daughter, Cordelia, refuses to flatter her father, going only so far as to say that she loves him as much as a daughter should. Lear, unjustly enraged, gives her no land. The Earl of Kent tries to convince Lear to reconsider, but Lear refuses then banishes Kent for acting traitorously by supporting Cordelia. Gloucester then brings the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy in and Lear offers Cordelia to Burgundy, though without a dowry of land, contrary to a previous agreement. Burgundy declines, but the French King, impressed by Cordelia's steadfastness, takes her as Queen of France. Next, Lear passes all powers and governance of Britain down to Albany and Cornwall.

Edmund, bastard son of Gloucester, vows to himself to reclaim land his father has given to his "legitimate" son Edgar. Edmund does this by showing his father a letter he (Edmund) forged, which makes it seem that Edgar wants to take over his father's lands and revenues jointly with Edmund. Gloucester is enraged, but Edmund calms him. Later, Edmund warns Edward that he is in trouble with his father, pretending to help him.

Goneril instructs her steward, Oswald, to act coldly to King Lear and his knights, in efforts to chide him since he continues to grow more unruly. Kent arrives, disguised as a servant, and offers his services to Lear, who accepts. However, as a result of the servants' lack of respect for Lear, his own fool's derisions of him, and Goneril's ill respect toward him, Lear storms out of Goneril's home, never to look on her again. Lear goes next to Regan's house. While leaving, the fool again criticizes Lear for giving his lands to his daughters. Lear fears he (himself) is becoming insane.

At Gloucester's castle, Edmund convinces Edgar to flee, then wounds himself to make it look like Edgar attacked him. Gloucester, thankful for Edmund's support of him, vows to capture Edgar and reward Edmund. Regan and Cornwall arrive to discuss with Albany their ensuing war against Lear. Kent arrives at Gloucester's with a message from Lear and meets Oswald (whom Kent dislikes and mistrusts) with a message from Goneril. Kent attacks Oswald, but Cornwall and Regan break up the fight, afterwhich Kent is put in the stocks for 24 hours. Edgar, still running, tells himself he must disguise himself as a beggar. King Lear arrives, finding Kent in the stocks. At first, Regan and Cornwall refuse to see Lear, further enraging him, but then they allow him to enter. Oswald and Goneril arrive, and Lear becomes further enraged. After Regan and Goneril chide Lear to the brink, he leaves Gloucester's castle, entering a storm. The daughters and Cornwall are glad he leaves, though Gloucester is privately concerned for his health.

In the storm, Kent sends a man to Dover to get Cordelia and her French forces to rescue Lear and help him fight Albany and Cornwall. Lear stands in the storm swearing at it and his daughters, but Kent convinces him to hide in a cave. Gloucester tells Edmund of the French forces and departs for Lear, but Edmund plans to betray his father and inform Cornwall of the proceedings. Kent finds Lear, nearly delirious, in the storm, and tries to take him into the cave. Just then, Edgar emerges from the cave, pretending to be a madman. Lear likes him and refuses to go into the cave. Gloucester arrives (not recognizing Edgar), and convinces them all to go to a farmhouse of his. Edmund, as promised, informs Cornwall of Gloucester's dealings with the French army. Cornwall vows to arrest Gloucester and name Edmund the new Duke of Gloucester.

At the farmhouse, Lear, growing more insane, pretends his two eldest daughters are on trial for betraying him. Edgar laments that the King's predicament makes it difficult to keep up his (Edgar's) charade, out of sympathy for the King's madness. Gloucester returns and convinces Lear, Kent, and the fool to flee because Cornwall plans to kill him. Cornwall captures Gloucester and with Regan cheering him on, plucks out Gloucester's eyeballs with his bare fingers. During the torture, Gloucester's servant rescues his master from Cornwall and they flee to Dover to meet the French. On the way there, Gloucester and the servant meet Edgar (still a madman, named Poor Tom), who leads his father (Gloucester) the rest of the way.

At Albany's palace, Goneril promises her love to Edmund, since her husband (Albany) refuses to fight the French. Albany believes that the daughters mistreated their father (Lear). A messenger brings news that Cornwall is dead, from a fatal jab he received when a servant attacked him while he was plucking out Gloucester's eyeballs. Albany, feeling sorry for Gloucester and learning of Edmund's treachery with his wife, vows revenge.

At Dover, Cordelia sends a sentry out to find her estranged father. Regan instructs Oswald (Goneril's servant) to tell Edmund that she (Regan wants to marry him, since Cornwall is dead. Edgar pretends to let Gloucester jump off a cliff (Gloucester believes it truly happened), then Edgar pretends to be a different man and continues to help his father. Lear, fully mad now, approaches and speaks to them. Cordelia's men arrive and take Lear to her. Oswald comes across Edgar and Gloucester, threatening to kill them. Edgar, though, kills Oswald, and discovers by letter that Goneril plant to murder Albany and marry Edmund. At Cordelia's camp, King Lear awakes, more sane than before, and recognizes Cordelia.

At her camp, Goneril, while arguing with Albany, states to herself that she would rather lose the battle than let Regan marry Edmund. Edgar, disguised, brings warning of ill plots (by Goneril) to Albany. Lear and Cordelia are captured in battle by Edmund. Edmund sends them to jail and instructs a Captain to kill them. Edgar arrives and fights and wounds Edmund, who admits his treacheries to all. Goneril mortally poisons Regan, then stabs herself. Edmund reveals that he and Regan ordered the Captain to hang Cordelia and kill Lear. Lear then emerges with dead Cordelia, and tells all he killed the Captain that hung her. Edmund dies and King Lear, in grief over Cordelia, dies.

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A prideful king. 3 daughters, 2 bad, 1 good. READ!--Submitted by BamBam.

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King Lear is a legend.--Submitted by Anonymous.

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Act 1. Scene I
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER, and EDMUND KENT I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall. GLOUCESTER It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most; for equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety. KENT Is not this your son, my lord? GLOUCESTER His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it. KENT I cannot conceive you. GLOUCESTER Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault? KENT I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper. GLOUCESTER But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund? EDMUND No, my lord. GLOUCESTER My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend. EDMUND My services to your lordship. KENT I must love you, and sue to know you better. EDMUND Sir, I shall study deserving. GLOUCESTER He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming. Sennet. Enter KING LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants KING LEAR Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester. GLOUCESTER I shall, my liege. Exeunt GLOUCESTER and EDMUND KING LEAR Meantime we shall express our darker purpose. Give me the map there. Know that we have divided In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age; Conferring them on younger strengths, while we Unburthen'd crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall, And you, our no less loving son of Albany, We have this hour a constant will to publish Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy, Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love, Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn, And here are to be answer'd. Tell me, my daughters,-- Since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state,-- Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril, Our eldest-born, speak first. GONERIL Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e'er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable; Beyond all manner of so much I love you. CORDELIA [Aside] What shall Cordelia do? Love, and be silent. LEAR Of all these bounds, even from this line to this, With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd, With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, We make thee lady: to thine and Albany's issue Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter, Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak. REGAN Sir, I am made Of the self-same metal that my sister is, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short: that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys, Which the most precious square of sense possesses; And find I am alone felicitate In your dear highness' love. CORDELIA [Aside] Then poor Cordelia! And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's More richer than my tongue. KING LEAR To thee and thine hereditary ever Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom; No less in space, validity, and pleasure, Than that conferr'd on Goneril. Now, our joy, Although the last, not least; to whose young love The vines of France and milk of Burgundy Strive to be interess'd; what can you say to draw A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak. CORDELIA Nothing, my lord. KING LEAR Nothing! CORDELIA Nothing. KING LEAR Nothing will come of nothing: speak again. CORDELIA Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty According to my bond; nor more nor less. KING LEAR How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little, Lest it may mar your fortunes. CORDELIA Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I Return those duties back as are right fit, Obey you, love you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty: Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all. KING LEAR But goes thy heart with this? CORDELIA Ay, good my lord. KING LEAR So young, and so untender? CORDELIA So young, my lord, and true. KING LEAR Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower: For, by the sacred radiance of the sun, The mysteries of Hecate, and the night; By all the operation of the orbs From whom we do exist, and cease to be; Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian, Or he that makes his generation messes To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and relieved, As thou my sometime daughter. KENT Good my liege,-- KING LEAR Peace, Kent! Come not between the dragon and his wrath. I loved her most, and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight! So be my grave my peace, as here I give Her father's heart from her! Call France; who stirs? Call Burgundy. Cornwall and Albany, With my two daughters' dowers digest this third: Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her. I do invest you jointly with my power, Pre-eminence, and all the large effects That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course, With reservation of an hundred knights, By you to be sustain'd, shall our abode Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain The name, and all the additions to a king; The sway, revenue, execution of the rest, Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm, This coronet part betwixt you. Giving the crown KENT Royal Lear, Whom I have ever honour'd as my king, Loved as my father, as my master follow'd, As my great patron thought on in my prayers,-- KING LEAR The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft. KENT Let it fall rather, though the fork invade The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly, When Lear is mad. What wilt thou do, old man? Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak, When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound, When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom; And, in thy best consideration, cheque This hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment, Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least; Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound Reverbs no hollowness. KING LEAR Kent, on thy life, no more. KENT My life I never held but as a pawn To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it, Thy safety being the motive. KING LEAR Out of my sight! KENT See better, Lear; and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye. KING LEAR Now, by Apollo,-- KENT Now, by Apollo, king, Thou swear'st thy gods in vain. KING LEAR O, vassal! miscreant! Laying his hand on his sword ALBANY CORNWALL Dear sir, forbear. KENT Do: Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow Upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom; Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat, I'll tell thee thou dost evil. KING LEAR Hear me, recreant! On thine allegiance, hear me! Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow, Which we durst never yet, and with strain'd pride To come between our sentence and our power, Which nor our nature nor our place can bear, Our potency made good, take thy reward. Five days we do allot thee, for provision To shield thee from diseases of the world; And on the sixth to turn thy hated back Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following, Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions, The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter, This shall not be revoked. KENT Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear, Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here. To CORDELIA The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid, That justly think'st, and hast most rightly said! To REGAN and GONERIL And your large speeches may your deeds approve, That good effects may spring from words of love. Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu; He'll shape his old course in a country new. Exit Flourish. Re-enter GLOUCESTER, with KING OF FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and Attendants GLOUCESTER Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord. KING LEAR My lord of Burgundy. We first address towards you, who with this king Hath rivall'd for our daughter: what, in the least, Will you require in present dower with her, Or cease your quest of love? BURGUNDY Most royal majesty, I crave no more than what your highness offer'd, Nor will you tender less. KING LEAR Right noble Burgundy, When she was dear to us, we did hold her so; But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands: If aught within that little seeming substance, Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced, And nothing more, may fitly like your grace, She's there, and she is yours. BURGUNDY I know no answer. KING LEAR Will you, with those infirmities she owes, Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate, Dower'd with our curse, and stranger'd with our oath, Take her, or leave her? BURGUNDY Pardon me, royal sir; Election makes not up on such conditions. KING LEAR Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me, I tell you all her wealth. To KING OF FRANCE For you, great king, I would not from your love make such a stray, To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you To avert your liking a more worthier way Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed Almost to acknowledge hers. KING OF FRANCE This is most strange, That she, that even but now was your best object, The argument of your praise, balm of your age, Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle So many folds of favour. Sure, her offence Must be of such unnatural degree, That monsters it, or your fore-vouch'd affection Fall'n into taint: which to believe of her, Must be a faith that reason without miracle Could never plant in me. CORDELIA I yet beseech your majesty,-- If for I want that glib and oily art, To speak and purpose not; since what I well intend, I'll do't before I speak,--that you make known It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness, No unchaste action, or dishonour'd step, That hath deprived me of your grace and favour; But even for want of that for which I am richer, A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue As I am glad I have not, though not to have it Hath lost me in your liking. KING LEAR Better thou Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better. KING OF FRANCE Is it but this,--a tardiness in nature Which often leaves the history unspoke That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy, What say you to the lady? Love's not love When it is mingled with regards that stand Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her? She is herself a dowry. BURGUNDY Royal Lear, Give but that portion which yourself proposed, And here I take Cordelia by the hand, Duchess of Burgundy. KING LEAR Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm. BURGUNDY I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father That you must lose a husband. CORDELIA Peace be with Burgundy! Since that respects of fortune are his love, I shall not be his wife. KING OF FRANCE Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor; Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised! Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon: Be it lawful I take up what's cast away. Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect My love should k****e to inflamed respect. Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance, Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France: Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy Can buy this unprized precious maid of me. Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind: Thou losest here, a better where to find. KING LEAR Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see That face of hers again. Therefore be gone Without our grace, our love, our benison. Come, noble Burgundy. Flourish. Exeunt all but KING OF FRANCE, GONERIL, REGAN, and CORDELIA KING OF FRANCE Bid farewell to your sisters. CORDELIA The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are; And like a sister am most loath to call Your faults as they are named. Use well our father: To your professed bosoms I commit him But yet, alas, stood I within his grace, I would prefer him to a better place. So, farewell to you both. REGAN Prescribe not us our duties. GONERIL Let your study Be to content your lord, who hath received you At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted, And well are worth the want that you have wanted. CORDELIA Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides: Who cover faults, at last shame them derides. Well may you prosper! KING OF FRANCE Come, my fair Cordelia. Exeunt KING OF FRANCE and CORDELIA GONERIL Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night. REGAN That's most certain, and with you; next month with us. GONERIL You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly. REGAN 'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself. GONERIL The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them. REGAN Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment. GONERIL There is further compliment of leavetaking between France and him. Pray you, let's hit together: if our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us. REGAN We shall further think on't. GONERIL We must do something, and i' the heat. Exeunt

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