King Lear

Abridged King Lear/#1/Rejection/Act 1, Scene 1.1

The play opens with the Earl of Gloucester, the Earl of
Kent and Gloucester’s son, Edmund, on stage, talking.  The time and place is 845 BC Britain.  Kent asks Gloucester, “Is not this your son,
my lord?”  Gloucester replies “Sir, this
young fellow’s mother had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle before she had a
husband for her bed.”  He goes to say to
Kent “But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who
yet is no dearer in my account.”  He
turns to his son, saying “Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?”  Edmund says “No, my lord.”  Gloucester says “Remember him hereafter as my
honorable friend.”  King Lear, his three
daughters and his two sons-in-law enter.
Lear looks at a map and says “Know that we have divided in three our
kingdom, and ‘tis firm intent to shake all cares and business from our
age.”  We learn that two Frenchmen,
France and Burgundy, are “rivals in our youngest daughter’s love.”  France is France’s King.  Lear turns to his daughters and says “Tell me,
my daughters, which of you shall say you doth love us most.  Goneril, our eldest born, speak first.”  She and Regan, “our second daughter,” both
tell him that he has all their love.
King Lear then turns to Cordelia, saying “Now, our joy, although our
last and least, what can you say to draw a third more opulent than your
sisters?”  Cordelia replies “Nothing, my
lord.”  Angrily he says “Nothing will
come of nothing. Speak again.”  She says
“You have begot me, bred me, and loved me.
I return those duties; obey you, love you, and most honor you.  The lord I marry shall carry half my love
with him.”  Lear angrily responds “Let it
be so.  I disclaim all my paternal care
and property of blood.  Consider thee a
stranger from this moment on, thou my sometime daughter.”   Kent cries “Good my liege.”  Lear snaps “Peace, Kent.”  Lear then turns to the sons-in-law, saying
“Cornwell and Albany, with my two daughters’ dowers digest the third.  Let Pride, which she calls plainness, marry
her.”  Kent cries out “Keep your power,
and in thy best consideration check this hideous rashness.  Thy youngest daughter does not love thee
least.”  Lear cries “Kent, on thy life,
no more.”  They yell at each other. An
infuriated Lear says to Kent “Five days we do allot thee for provision to
shield thee from disasters of the world, and on the sixth to turn thy hated
back upon our kingdom.  This shall not be
revoked.”  Kent replies “Fare thee well, King.  Freedom lives hence, and banishment is
here.”  He exits.

Abridged King Lear/#2/Separation/Act 1, Scene 1.2

Burgundy and the King of France enter.  Lear offers the Duke of Burgundy his
daughter, Cordelia, but notes she is “unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
dowered with our curse and strangered with our oath, take her or leave
her.”  Burgundy says I can’t choose with
those terms.  Lear replies “Then leave
her, sir.”  He turns to the King of
France.  France says “This is most
strange, that she who was the dearest object of your love, the argument of your
praise, should turn to your disfavor.”
Cordelia jumps in, saying to her father “I beseech your Majesty that you
make known it is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness that hath deprived me of
your grace and favor.”  Lear dismisses
her comment.  He turns to Burgundy,
saying “What say you to the lady?”
Burgundy turns to Cordelia, saying “I am sorry, then, you have so lost a
father that you must lose a husband.”
The King of France steps up, saying “She is queen of us, or ours, and
our fair France.”  Lear says “Thou hast
her, France.  Let her be thine, for we
have no such daughter, nor shall ever see that face of hers again.  Come, noble Burgundy.”  All but France, Cordelia, Goneril and Regan
exit.  Cordelia turns to her sisters,
saying “The jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you.  Love well our father.”  Regan says “Prescribe not us our duty.”  Goneril says “Let your study be to content
your lord.”  Cordelia turns the other
cheek, saying “Well may you prosper.”
France says “Come, my fair Cordelia.”
The two of them exit.  Goneril
turns to Regan and says “He always loved our sister most, and with what poor
judgment he hath now cast her off appears too obviously.”  Regan says “’Tis the infirmity of his
age.  Such abrupt outbursts are we like
to have from him, as this of Kent’s banishment.”  Goneril says “Pray you, let us counsel
together.  His surrender of his kingdom
will but offend us.”  Regan says “We
shall further think of it.”  They exit.

Abridged King Lear/#3/Treachery/Act 1, Scene 2

Edmund, Gloucester’s second son and his illegitimate son,
is on stage.  He says “thou, Nature, that
which is natural, art my goddess.”  He
says he shouldn’t be deprived of anything, saying “my mind as generous and my
shape as true as honest madam’s issue.
Well then, Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.  Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund as
to th’ legitimate.”  Gloucester enters,
saying “Kent banished thus?  And France
in anger parted? And the King gone tonight.
What news?”  Edmund says “So,
please your Lordship, none.”  He puts a
paper in his pocket.  Gloucester asks
“What paper were you reading?”  Edmund
says “It is a letter from my brother.  I
find it not fit for your o’erlooking.”
Gloucester demands the letter, saying “Give me the letter.”  Edmund gives it to him. The letter in part
reads “If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his
revenue.”  Gloucester exclaims
“Conspiracy?  My son Edgar?”  Edmund says “I found it thrown in my room.  It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart
is not in the contents.”  Gloucester
shouts “Abominable villain!  Where is
he?”  Edmund says “I do not know well,
but I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this.”  Gloucester says “Edmund, seek him out; I pray
you.  Do it carefully.”  He exits.
Edgar enters.  Edmund says to
himself “He comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy.  My cue is villainous melancholy.”  Edmund asks him “When saw you my father
last?”  Edgar says “The night gone by.”  Edmund says “Bethink yourself wherein you may
have offended him; forbear his presence until time hath reduced the heat of his
displeasure.”  Edgar says “Some villain
hath done me wrong.”  Edmund responds
“That’s my fear.  Retire with me to my
lodging, where I will when convenient bring you to hear my lord speak. Pray you
go.  There’s my key.”  Speaking of their father, Edmund says “Brother,
I am no honest man if there be any good meaning toward you.”  Edgar says “Shall I hear from you soon?”  Edmund says you shall.  Edgar exits.
Edmund says to himself, “Let me, if not by birth, have lands by
wit.”

Abridged King Lear/#4/Reality/Act 1, Scenes 3-4.1

King Lear and his entourage have gone to live with
Goneril.  Goneril asks her steward,
Oswald, if “my father did strike my gentleman for chiding of his Fool?”  Oswald replies “Ay, madam.”  Goneril says ‘By day and night he wrongs
me.  He flashes into one offense or other
that sets us all at odds.  I’ll not
endure it.”  Oswald says “He’s
coming.”  She says “I will not speak to
him. Say I am sick.  If he doesn’t like
it, let him go to my sister, whose mind and mine I know are one.  I’ll write straight to my sister to hold my
course.”  The banished Kent enters in
disguise, hoping to serve Lear.  Lear
enters.  The disguised Kent tells Lear,
speaking of himself, that “he is a very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as
the King.”  Lear asks “What wouldst thou?”  Kent says “Service.”  Lear asks him “how old art thou?”  Kent replies “Not so young, sir, to love a
woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for anything.  I have years on my back forty-eight.”  Lear hires him.  A Knight enters telling Lear that “your daughter
is not well.”  Lear replies “I have
perceived a most faint neglect of late.
Go tell my daughter I would speak with her.”  Oswald enters, Lear saying “Who am I,
sir?”  Oswald says “My lady’s father,” which
infuriates Lear.  Lear strikes him.  Kent steps in, telling the angry steward
“Come, sir, away.  Have you wisdom?”  Fool enters.
He and Lear have a lively banter, the Fool getting the better of it.  Lear says “Dost thou call me ‘fool’
boy?”  Fool, generally calling Lear
‘Nuncle,’ replies “All the other titles thou hast given away. Thou hadst little
wit in thy bald crown when thou gav’st thy golden one away.”  Lear says “An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you
whipped.”  The Fool says “Thy daughters
will have me whipped for speaking true; thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and
sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace.”

Abridged King Lear/#5/Vindictive/Act 1, Scene 4.2

Goneril enters.
Lear says “Daughter, methinks you are too much of late i’ th’
frown.”  She lets her father know she is
upset, saying “Not only, sir, this your all-licensed Fool, but other insolent
retinue do hourly carp and quarrel.”
Lear replies “Are you our daughter?
Does any here know me?  Does Lear
walk thus, speak thus?  Who is it that
can tell me who I am?” The Fool replies “Lear’s shadow.”  Goneril says “Here do you keep a hundred
knights and squires, men so disordered, that this court shows like a riotous
inn.”  Lear responds “Saddle my horses.  I’ll not trouble thee.  Yet have I left a daughter.”  Albany, Goneril’s husband, enters, saying
“Pray, sir, be patient. My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant.”  He tells Albany how poorly he hopes life
treats his wife.  Albany says “Whereof
comes this?”  Lear exits and then
re-enters, saying to Goneril “I’ll tell thee, I am ashamed that thou hast power
to shake my manhood thus.  I have another
daughter who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable.  When she shall hear this of thee, with her
nails, she’ll flay thy wolvish face.”  He
exits.  Goneril says “Do you mark
that?”  She turns to the Fool, saying
“You, sir, more knave than Fool, after your master.”  The Fool cries “Nuncle Lear, Nuncle Lear,
tarry.  Take the Fool with thee.”  Fool exits.
Goneril says “This man hath had good counsel. A hundred knights!”  Albany says “Well, you may fear too
far.”  She says “Safer than trust too
far.  What he hath uttered I have writ my
sister.”  Oswald enters.  She asks him “Have you writ that letter to my
sister?”  Oswald says “Ay, madam.”  She says “Take you some company and away to
horse. Inform her full of my particular fear. Get you gone, and hasten your
return.”  He exits.  She turns to Albany, saying to him that he
should be tougher.

Abridged King Lear/#6/Traveling/Act 1, Scene 5

Banished Kent, in disguise, recently re-hired by Lear, is
on stage with Lear and the Fool.  Lear
has also written a letter to Regan, and has asked Kent to deliver it to her.  Kent says “I will not sleep, my lord, till I
have delivered your letter.  He
exits.  Lear plans to soon leave for
Regan’s estate. The Fool says “I can tell why a snail has a house.”  Lear responds, “Why?”  The Fool answers “Why, to put his head in,
not to give it away to his daughters.”
Lear and the Fool trade banter, and, as always, the Fool gets the better
of it.  Lear asks “Are the horses
ready?”  An aide says “Ready, my
lord.”  He and the Fool exit.

Abridged King Lear/#7/Treachery/Act 2, Scene 1

Edmund learns that Regan and her husband, Cornwall, plan
to visit Gloucester “this night,” and that “likely war ‘twixt Cornwall and
Albany is about to happen.”  Edmund is
there at his father’s castle.  Earlier in
the play, Edmund had, in an unbrotherly way, caused their father to become very
upset with Edgar.  He had told Edgar that
he must hide himself from their father.
Edgar enters.  Edmund says “I hear
my father coming.  In cunning, I must
draw my sword upon you.  Draw.  Seem to defend yourself.”  He then cries “Fly, brother.  Torches.
So, farewell.”  Edgar flees.  Edmund cuts his arm to give the impression
that he was wounded in a skirmish with Edgar.
Gloucester enters, asking “Where’s the villain?”  Edmund says “Look, sir, I bleed.”  Gloucester again asks “Where is the
villain.”  Edmund says “Fled this way,
sir.”  Gloucester shouts “Pursue him,
ho.”  Servants exit. Edmund tells his
father how dishonorable and unnatural Edgar is.
Gloucester cries “Not in this land shall he remain uncaught. He which
finds him shall deserve our thanks; he that conceals him, death.”  Edmund continues with his character assignation
of his brother.  Gloucester again cries
out, saying “The villain shall not ‘scape.
And of my land, loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means to make you
legally capable of inheriting.”  Cornwell
and Regan enter.  They both try to
comfort Gloucester, having overheard Edmund’s comments.  Gloucester says to Regan “O madam, my old
heart is cracked.”  Regan tells him “I
have this present evening from my sister been well informed that my father come
to sojourn at my house.  I’ll not be
there.”  Cornwall talks of Edgar, saying
“If he be taken, he shall never more be feared of doing harm.  For you, Edmund, you shall be ours.”  Edmund says “I shall serve you, sir.”  Regan turns to Gloucester, saying “We must
have use of your advice.  Our father he
hath writ, so hath our sister, of differences, of which I best thought it fit
to answer away from our home.”  She tells
him that we need a place to stay.
Gloucester says “Your Graces are right welcome.”

Abridged King Lear/#8/Quarrel/Act 2, Scene 2

The scene is Gloucester’s castle.  Kent and Oswald are both on stage, each
waiting for a response to the letters they separately delivered to Regan.  They quickly let each other know that they
don’t care for each other, hurling insults freely.  It gets to the point where Kent draws his
sword, saying “draw, you rogue, for though it be night, yet the moon
shines.”  Kent beats up Oswald.  Oswald cries “Help, ho! Murder! Help!”  Edmund, Regan, Cornwall and Gloucester
enter.  Gloucester cries “What’s the
matter here?”  Cornwall asks ‘What is
your difference? Speak.”  Oswald replies
“I am scarce in breath, my lord.”
Cornwall yells “Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?”  Oswald says “I have spared this ancient
ruffian, this gray beard.”  Kent comes
back with “Spare my gray beard, you wagtail.”
Cornwall cries “Peace, sirrah!”
He asks Kent “Why art thou angry?”
Kent replies “That such a slave as this should wear a sword, who wears
no honesty.”  Cornwall says to Oswald
“What was th’ offense you gave him?”
Oswald replies “I never gave him any.”
Directing his comments to Kent, Cornwall says “Fetch forth the
stocks.  There shall he sit till
noon.”  Regan snaps “Till noon?  Till night, my lord, and all night,
too.”  The stocks are brought in.  Gloucester says “Let me beseech your Grace
not to do so.  The King must take it ill
that he, so slightly valued in his messenger, should have him thus
restrained.”  Regan cries “Put in his
legs.”  Kent is put in the stocks.  All but Gloucester and Kent exit.  Gloucester says “I am sorry for thee,
friend.”  Kent says “Pray, do not, sir.
Some time I shall sleep out; the rest I’ll whistle.”  Gloucester says “’Twill be ill taken,” and
exits.  Kent takes out a letter, saying
“I know ‘tis from Cordelia, who hath most fortunately been informed of my
obscured course, and shall find time to give losses their remedies.  Fortune, good night.”

Abridged King Lear/#9/Anger/Act 2, Scene 4.1

Separately, Fearing for his life, saying “I heard myself
proclaimed, and by the happy hollow of a tree escaped the hunt,” Edgar decides
to disguise himself as a beggar, calling himself “Poor Tom.”  He says “Edgar, I am nothing.”  Meanwhile, Lear, the Fool and a Gentleman
arrive at Gloucester’s castle.  Seeing
Kent, Lear says “What’s he that set thee here?”
Kent says “It is both he and she, your son and daughter.”  Lear cries “They would not do ‘t.  ‘Tis worse than murder.”  Kent says “I did commend your Highness’
letters to them, which presently they read, and gave me cold looks.  On meeting the other messenger, I drew, perceiving
he had poisoned mine.  Your son and
daughter found this trespass worth this shame.”
Lear exits to find his daughter.
Lear and Gloucester enter. Pointing to Kent, Lear says “Should he sit
here?  Go tell the Duke and ‘s wife I’d
speak with them.”  Gloucester exits,
saying “I would have all well betwixt you.”
Regan, Cornwall and Gloucester enter.
Kent is set free.  Lear says
“Beloved Regan, thy sister’s naught.  O
Regan, she hath tied sharp-toothed unkindness.”   She replies, “I pray you, sir, take patience.”  She says maybe “the restraining of the riots
of your followers clears her name.  Say
you have wronged her.”  He says “Ask for
forgiveness?”  He says “I beg you provide
me with clothing, bed, and food.”  Regan
says “These are unsightly tricks.  Return
you to my sister.”  He says “Never,
Regan.  You nimble lightnings, dart your
blinding flames into her scornful eyes!”
She responds “So will you wish on me when the rash mood is on.”  He says “No, Regan, thou shalt never have my
curse.”  She says “Good sir, to th’
purpose.”  He says “Who put my man i’ th’
stocks?”

Abridged King Lear/#10/Tragedy/Act 2, Scene 4.2

Oswald enters at Gloucester’s castle.  Lear is there pleading with Regan for help with
his personal life.  He asks her “Who
stocked my servant?  Regan, I have good
hope thou didst not know on ‘t.”  Goneril
enters.  Regan takes her hand.  Lear says “O Regan, will you take her by the
hand?”  Goneril asks “How have I
offended?”  Again, Lear asks “How came my
man i’ th’ stocks?”  Cornwall says “I set
him there, sir.”  Lear replies “You? Did
you?”  Regan says “I pray you, father,
you will return and sojourn with my sister dismissing half your train, come
then to me.” Lear cries “Return to her? And fifty men dismissed? No, rather I
abjure all roofs. Return to her? Persuade me rather to be slave to this
detested groom.”  He points to
Oswald.  Goneril calmly replies “At your
choice, sir.”  He says to Goneril “I
prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.  I
will not trouble thee, my child. Farewell.
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another. I can stay with Regan, I
and my hundred knights.”  Regan says “Not
altogether so.  What, fifty followers?
What should you need of more?  If you
will come to me, I entreat you to bring but five-and-twenty.”  Lear says “Five-and-twenty?  Regan, said you so?”  He turns to Goneril and says “I’ll go with
thee.  Thy fifty yet doth double
five-and-twenty.  And thou art twice her
love.”  Goneril says “Hear me, my lord.
What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five?”
Regan jumps in, saying “What need one?”
Lear says “O, do not argue in terms of need.”  He lashes out at them, saying “You see me
here, you gods, a poor man as full of grief as age, wretched in both.  And let not women’s weapons, water drops,
stain my man’s cheeks.”  Lear, Kent and
Fool exit.  Cornwall says “Let us
withdraw. ‘Twill be a storm.”  Gloucester
enters, saying “The King is in high rage.”
Cornwall says “’Tis best to give him way.  He leads himself.”  The storm is coming. They go inside.  Cornwall says “Shut up your doors, my
lord.”