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King Lear

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ACT I SCENE II The Earl of Gloucester's castle. 
 Enter EDMUND, solus. 
EDMUND Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law 
 My services are bound. Wherefore should I 
 Stand in the plague of custom, and permit 
 The curiosity of nations to deprive me, 5
 For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines 
 Lag 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 10
 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, 15
 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, 20
 And my invention thrive, Edmund the base 
 Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper: 
 Now, gods, stand up for bastards! 
 Enter GLOUCESTER. [Edmund ostentatiously reading a letter.] 
GLOUCESTER Kent banish'd thus, and France in choler parted! 
 And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power! 25
 Confined to exhibition! All this done 
 Upon the gad! Edmund, how now! what news? 
EDMUND So please your lordship, none. 
 Putting up the letter 
GLOUCESTER Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter? 
EDMUND I know no news, my lord. 30
GLOUCESTER What paper were you reading? 
EDMUND Nothing, my lord. 
GLOUCESTER No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of 
 it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath 
 not such need to hide itself. Let's see: come, 35
 if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles. 
EDMUND 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. 40
GLOUCESTER Give me the letter, sir. 
EDMUND I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The 
 contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame. 
GLOUCESTER Let's see, let's see. 
EDMUND I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote 45
 this but as an essay or taste of my virtue. 
GLOUCESTER GLOUCESTER Reads the letter. 
 "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 fond bondage 
 in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not 50
 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 half his 
 revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your 
 brother, EDGAR." 55
 Hum--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? 60
EDMUND It was not brought me, my lord; there's the 
 cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the 
 casement of my closet. 
GLOUCESTER You know the character to be your brother's? 
EDMUND If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear 65
 it were his; but, in respect of that, I would 
 fain think it were not. 
GLOUCESTER It is his. 
EDMUND It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is 
 not in the contents. 70
GLOUCESTER Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business? 
EDMUND Never, my lord: but I have heard him oft 
 maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age, 
 and fathers declining, the father should be as 
 ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue. 75
GLOUCESTER 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? 80
EDMUND 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; where, if you violently proceed against 85
 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 wrote this to feel my 
 affection to your honour, and to no further 90
 pretence of danger. 
GLOUCESTER Think you so? 
EDMUND 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 95
 that without any further delay than this very evening. 
GLOUCESTER He cannot be such a monster-- 
EDMUND Nor is not, sure. 
GLOUCESTER To his father, that so tenderly and entirely 
 loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him 100
 out: wind me into him, I pray you: frame the 
 business after your own wisdom. I would unstate 
 myself, to be in a due resolution. 
EDMUND I will seek him, sir, presently: convey the 
 business as I shall find means and acquaint you withal. 105
GLOUCESTER 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: love cools, 
 friendship falls off, brothers divide: in 110
 cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in 
 palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son 
 and father. This villain of mine comes under the 
 prediction; there's son against father: the king 
 falls from bias of nature; there's father against 115
 child. We have seen the best of our time: 
 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 120
 noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his 
 offence, honesty! 'Tis strange. 
 Exit 
EDMUND This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, 
 when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit 
 of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our 125
 disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as 
 if we were villains by necessity; fools by 
 heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and 
 treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, 
 liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of 130
 planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, 
 by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion 
 of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish 
 disposition to the charge of a star! My 
 father compounded with my mother under the 135
 dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa 
 major; so that it follows, I am rough and 
 lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, 
 had the maidenliest star in the firmament 
 twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar-- 140
 Enter EDGAR. 
 And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old 
 comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a 
 sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do 
 portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi. 
EDGAR How now, brother Edmund! what serious 145
 contemplation are you in? 
EDMUND I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read 
 this other day, what should follow these eclipses. 
EDGAR Do you busy yourself about that? 
EDMUND I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed 150
 unhappily; as of unnaturalness between the child 
 and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of 
 ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and 
 maledictions against king and nobles; needless 
 diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation 155
 of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what. 
EDGAR How long have you been a sectary astronomical? 
EDMUND Come, come; when saw you my father last? 
EDGAR Why, the night gone by. 
EDMUND Spake you with him? 160
EDGAR Ay, two hours together. 
EDMUND Parted you in good terms? Found you no 
 displeasure in him by word or countenance? 
EDGAR None at all. 
EDMUND Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended 165
 him: and at my entreaty forbear his presence 
 till some little time hath qualified the heat of 
 his displeasure; which at this instant so rageth 
 in him, that with the mischief of your person it 
 would scarcely allay. 170
EDGAR Some villain hath done me wrong. 
EDMUND That's my fear. I pray you, have a continent 
 forbearance till the spied of his rage goes 
 slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my 
 lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to 175
 hear my lord speak: pray ye, go; there's my key: 
 if you do stir abroad, go armed. 
EDGAR Armed, brother! 
EDMUND Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed: I 
 am no honest man if there be any good meaning 180
 towards you: I have told you what I have seen 
 and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image 
 and horror of it: pray you, away. 
EDGAR Shall I hear from you anon? 
EDMUND I do serve you in this business. 185
 Exit EDGAR. 
 A credulous father! and a brother noble, 
 Whose nature is so far from doing harms, 
 That he suspects none: on whose foolish honesty 
 My practises ride easy! I see the business. 
 Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit: 190
 All with me's meet that I can fashion fit. 
 Exit 


King Lear, Act 1, Scene 3
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