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"The story of King Lear and his three daughters, is found in Holinshed's Chronicle; and was originally told by Geoffry of Monmouth, who says that Lear was the eldest son of Bladud, and nobly governed his country for sixty years. According to that his torian, he died about 800 years before Christ. Shakspeare has taken the hint for the behavior of the steward, and the reply of Cordelia to her father concerning her future marriage, from the Mirror of Magistrates, 1587. According to Steevens, the episode of Gloster and his sons is borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia."
Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, and Lear, are placed by general consent as first in the list of Shakspeare's inspired creations, but to the character of Lear, is yielded the pre-eminence.
It is perhaps the most wonderfu. dramatic conception on record. We have endeavored to incorporate into our selections, the entire development of this extraordinary creation.
LEAR, King of Britain.
KING OF FRANCE.
DUKE OF BURGUNDY.
DUKE OF CORNWALL.
DUKE OF ALBANY.
EARL OF KENT.
EARL OF GLOSTER.
EDGAR, son to Gloster.
EDMUND, illegitimate son to Gloster.
CURAN, a courtier.
Old Man, tenant to Gloster.
OSWALD, steward to Goneril.
An Officer employed by Edmund.
Gentleman, attendant on Cordelia.
A Herald. Servants to Cornwall.
GONERIL, REGAN, CORDELIA, daughters to Lear.
Knights attending on the King, Officers, Messengers, Soldiers and
SCENE I.—A Room of State in King Lear's Palace. Enter LEAR, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants.
Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloster. Glo. I shall, my liege. [Exit GLOSTER & EDMUND. Lear. Mean-time 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 Unburden'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 merit doth most challenge it.-Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.
Do 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, honor:
As much as child e'er lov'd, or father found.
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
Cor. 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.
Reg. I am made of that self metal as my sister,
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.
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's
More richer than my tongue.
Lear. To thee, and thine, hereditary ever,
Remains this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that confirm'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.
Cor. Nothing, my lord.
Lear. Nothing can come of nothing: speak again.
Cor. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more, nor less.
Lear. How, how, Cordelia? mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.
Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honor 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.
Lear. But goes this with thy heart?
Lear. So young, and so untender?
Cor. So young, my lord, and true.
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 operations 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.
Lear. Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath:
I lov'd 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.
do invest you jointly wi 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 between you.
Whom I have ever honor'd as my king,
Lov'd as my father, as my master follow'd,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,-
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 would'st thou do, old man ?
Think'st thou, that duty shall have dared to speak,
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor's bound,
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
And, in thy best consideration, check
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.
Kent, on thy life, no more.
Kent. My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,
Thy safety being the motive.
Out of my sight!
Kent. See better, Lear; and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.
Lear. Now, by Apollo,—
Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.
Alb. Corn. Dear sir, forbear.
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift;
O, vassal! miscreant!
[Laying his hand on his sword.
Or, whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,
I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
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 betwixt our sentence and our power;
(Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,)
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days do we 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 revok'd.
Kent. Fare thee well, king; since thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.—
The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
That justly think'st, and hast most rightly said!—
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.
Re-enter GLOSTER: with FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and Attendants.
Glo. Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
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?
Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offer'd,
Nor will you tender less.
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 piec'd,
And nothing more may fitly like your grace,
She's there, and she is yours.
I know no answer.
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?