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I would prefer1 him to a better place.
Goneril. Prescribe not us our duty.
Regan. Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath receiv'd you
Cordelia. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning3 hides;
France. Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt France and Cordelia.
Gon. Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think, our father will hence to-night.
Reg. That 's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
Gon. 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.
Reg. 'T is the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
Gon. 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-engrafted condition,4 but, therewithal, the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Reg. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.
Gon. There is farther compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit5 together: if our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
Reg. We shall farther think of it.
Gon. We must do something, and i' the heat.6 [Exeunt:
1. To prefer, to advance, to exalt.
2. You have been failing in obedience, and well deserve to feel the want of that love in which you have been wanting.
3. Plighted cunning, complicated, involved cunning. •
4. i. e. of qualities of mind confirmed by long habit.
5. i. e. let us agree.
6. i. e. while it is yet warm. We must strike while the iron's hot.
Enter EDMUND, with a Letter.
Edmund. Thou, nature, art my goddess;1 to thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom,2 and permit The curiosity of nations3 to deprive me,4 For that5 I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines6 Lag1 of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base, When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous, and my shape as true, As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base? Who in the lusty stealth of nature take More composition and fierce quality, Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed, Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops, Got 'tween asleep and wake? — Well then, Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land: Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund, As to the legitimate. Fine word, — legitimate! Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed, And my invention thrive, Edmund the base Shall top8 the legitimate. I grow; I prosper: — J Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
Gloster. Kent banish'd thus! And France in choler parted And the king gone to-night! subscrib'd his power!9 Confin'd to exhibition!10 All this done Upon the gad!" — Edmund, How now! what news?
1. Edmund calls nature'his goddess for the same reason that we call a hastard a natural son.
2. Why should l submit to the vexatious laws laid down by custom.
3. i. e. the idle, Dice distinctions of the world.
4. To deprive was, in our author's time, synonimous to disinherit.
5. For that, because.
6. Moonshine, a burlesque expression for month.
7. Lag, falling short. The verb only is now in use: to lag, to loiter.
8. To top, to rise above.
9. To subscribe, in Shakspeare, is to yield, or surrender.
I 10. Exhibition, allowance. The word, j in this sense, is still employed in our universities.
I 11. Upon the gad, suddenly, at the i instant; or, while the iron is hot: a I gad is an iron bar.
Edmund. So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter.
Glos. No! What needed, then, that terrible despatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let 's see; come; if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
Edm. I beseech you, Sir, pardon me: it is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o'er-read; and for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o'er-looking.
Glos. Give me the letter, Sir.
Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it.
Glos. Let 's see, let 's see.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's justificr/.ion, he wrote this but as an essay or taste1 of my virtue.
Glos. [Beads.] "This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond2 bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, raid live the beloved of your brother, Edgar." — Humph! — Conspiracy! — "Sleep till I waked him, — you should enjoy half his revenue." — My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it in? — When came this to you? Who brought it?
Edm. It was not ;brought me, my lord; there 's the cunning of it: I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
Glos. You know the character to be your brother's?
Edm. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
1. Essay was commonly used in old | 2. Idle and fund, weak and foolish, language lor assay, as taste not unfrequently was for test. I
Gloster. It is his.
Edmund. It is his hand, my lord; but, I hope, his heart 'is not in the contents.
Glos. Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?
Edm. Never, my lord: but I have often heard him maintain it to be fit, that sons at perfect age, and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.
Glos. O villain, villain! — His very opinion in the letter! — Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish! — Go, sirrah, seek him; I 'll apprehend him. Abominable villain! — Where is he?
Edm. I do not well know, my lord.' If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother, till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course;1 where,2 if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I 'dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour,3 and to no other pretence of danger.4
Glos. Think you so?
Edm. If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and that without any farther delay than this very evening.
Glos. He cannot be such a monster.
Edm. Nor is not, sure.
Glos. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. — Heaven and earth! — Edmund, seek him out; wind ,..me into him,5 I pray you: frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.6
1. t. e. you would be certain of being right in the course which you should pursue.
2. Where, for whereas:
3. Your honour was the usual mode of address to a lord inSbakspeare'stime.
4. i. e. and with no other dangerous design.
5. i. e. insinuate yourself into his most secret thoughts: me is the pleonastic dative, used to give increased energy.
6. I would give all I possess to be certain of the truth.
Edmund. I will seek him, Sir, presently,1 convey2 the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.3
Gloster. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects.4 Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord-; in palaces, treason, and the bond cracked between son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there 's son against father: the king falls from bias of nature;5 there 's father against child. We have seen the best of our time:6 machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves} Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing: do it carefully. — And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his offence, honesty! — 'T is strange. . [Exit.
Edm. This is the excellent foppery1 of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,8 (often the surfeit of our own behaviour)9 we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools, by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers,10 by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of stars! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail, and my nativity was under ursa major; so that, it follows, I am rough and lecherous. — Tut!111 should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar —
1. Presently instantly.
2. To convey, to manage, to carry through.
3. Withal, therewith.
4. Though natural plilosophy. can give account of eclipses, yet we feel their consequences.
5. The king departs from, acts in opposition to, his natural inclination (which is, to love his youngest daughter).
6. Our happiest days are passed.
7. Foppery, folly, impertinence.
8. i. e. when fortune is adverse to us.
9. t. e. often a sickness caused by the too liberal iudulgence of our own will.
10. Treachers, for treacherous.
11. Tut, a particle denoting contempt.