King Lear

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Kent in disguise


If but as well I other accents borrow

That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
diffuse (v.) disguise, obscure, make indistinct
intent (n.) intention, purpose, aim See Topics: Frequency count

May carry through itself to that full issue
full (adj.) 2 ideal, perfect, complete
issue (n.) 2 outcome, result, consequence(s) See Topics: Frequency count

For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
likeness (n.) appearance, look
raze (v.) alter, take away, get rid of

If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned,

So may it come thy master whom thou lovest
come (v.) 2 come to pass, happen, turn out

Shall find thee full of labours.
labour (n.) 1 service, effort, hard work

Horns within. Enter Lear and Knights


Let me not stay a jot for dinner! Go, get it ready!

Exit First Knight

How now? What art thou?


A man, sir.


What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with
profess (v.) 4 make profession of, do as an occupation



I do profess to be no less than I seem: to serve him

truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest,

to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear
converse (v.) associate, keep company

judgement, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no
judgement (n.) 7 judgement day



What art thou?


A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the



If thou be'st as poor for a subject as he's for a king

thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?




Who wouldst thou serve?




Dost thou know me, fellow?


No, sir; but you have that in your countenance
countenance (n.) 1 demeanour, bearing, manner

which I would fain call master.
fain (adv.) gladly, willingly See Topics: Frequency count


What's that?


authority (n.) 1 right to command, position of power


What services canst thou do?


I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious
curious (adj.) 1 finely made, skilfully wrought, elaborate

tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly.

That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in,

and the best of me is diligence.


How old art thou?


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.


Follow me; thou shalt serve me if I like thee no

worse after dinner. I will not part from thee yet. Dinner,

ho, dinner! Where's my knave, my Fool? Go you and
knave (n.) 2 servant, menial, lackey

call my Fool hither.

Exit Second Knight

Enter Oswald

You! You, sirrah! Where's my daughter?


So please you –



What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
clotpoll, clotpole, clatpole (n.) 1 blockhead, dolt, numskull

Exit Third Knight

Where's my Fool? Ho, I think the world's asleep.

Enter Third Knight

How now? Where's that mongrel?


He says, my lord, your daughter is not



Why came not the slave back to me when I called



Sir, he answered me in the roundest
round (adj.) 1 blunt, forthright, straight, plain-spoken

manner he would not.


He would not!


My lord, I know not what the matter is,

but to my judgement your highness is not entertained
entertain (v.) 11 treat, deal with, handle
judgement (n.) 1 opinion, estimation, assessment

with that ceremonious affection as you were wont.
wont (v.) be accustomed, used [to], be in the habit of See Topics: Frequency count

There's a great abatement of kindness appears as well
abatement (n.) 1 lessening, decrease, diminution

in the general dependants as in the Duke himself also
dependant (n.) attendant, servant, retainer

and your daughter.


Ha! Sayest thou so?


I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I

be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent when I think

your highness wronged.


Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception.
conception (n.) 3 thinking, impression, suspicion
remember (v.) 1 remind, bring to someone's mind

I have perceived a most faint neglect of late,
faint (adj.) 1 feeble, half-hearted

which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous
jealous (adj.) 1 suspicious, mistrustful, wary, watchful

curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose of
curiosity (n.) scrupulousness, fastidiousness, painstaking attention to detail
pretence (n.) 1 plan, design, intention, purpose
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

unkindness. I will look further into't. But where's my

Fool? I have not seen him this two days.


Since my young lady's going into

France, sir, the Fool hath much pined away.


No more of that! I have noted it well. Go you and

tell my daughter I would speak with her.

Exit Third Knight

Go you, call hither my Fool.

Exit another Knight

Enter Oswald

O, you, sir, you! Come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?


My lady's father.


‘ My lady's father,’ my lord's knave! You whoreson
knave (n.) 1 scoundrel, rascal, rogue See Topics: Frequency count
whoreson (adj.) [abusive intensifier, serious or jocular] bastard, wretched, vile See Topics: Swearing

dog! You slave! You cur!


I am none of these, my lord, I beseech your



Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
bandy (v.) 1 exchange, swap, send to and fro

He strikes him


I'll not be strucken, my lord.


Nor tripped neither, you base football-player.
base (adj.) 2 low-born, lowly, plebeian, of lower rank See Topics: Frequency count

He trips him


I thank thee, fellow. Thou servest me and I'll love



(to Oswald)

Come, sir, arise, away! I'll teach you

differences. Away, away! If you will measure your
difference (n.) 8 class difference, distinction of rank

lubber's length again, tarry; but away, go to! Have you
lubber (n.) clumsy dolt, blundering lout
tarry (v.) 1 stay, remain, linger


He pushes Oswald out



Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. There's
knave (n.) 2 servant, menial, lackey

earnest of thy service.
earnest (n.) pledge, instalment, deposit, payment in advance

He gives him money

Enter the Fool


Let me hire him too. Here's my coxcomb.
coxcomb (n.) 3 fool's cap [with a crest like a cock's crest] See Topics: Clothing


How now, my pretty knave! How dost thou?
knave (n.) 3 boy, lad, fellow
pretty (adj.) 3 [of men] fine, good-looking


Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.


Why, Fool?


Why? For taking one's part that's out of favour.

Nay, and thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou'lt

catch cold shortly. There, take my coxcomb! Why, this

fellow has banished two on's daughters, and did the

third a blessing against his will. If thou follow him, thou

must needs wear my coxcomb. How now, nuncle!
nuncle (n.) child-like shortening of ‘mine uncle’; guardian, master

Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!


Why, my boy?


If I gave them all my living, I'd keep my coxcombs
living (n.) possessions, means of support, livelihood

myself. There's mine. Beg another of thy daughters.


Take heed, sirrah, the whip!


Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped
kennel (v.) go outside to the dog-house

out when the Lady Brach may stand by the fire and
brach (n.) hound [which hunts by scent], bitch



A pestilent gall to me!
gall (n.) 4 irritation, annoyance


Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.




Mark it, nuncle:
mark (v.) 1 note, pay attention [to], take notice [of] See Topics: Frequency count

Have more than thou showest,

Speak less than thou knowest,

Lend less than thou owest,

Ride more than thou goest,
go (v.) 1 walk, travel on foot

Learn more than thou trowest,
trow (v.) 3 believe, give credence to, accept as true

Set less than thou throwest;
set (v.) 9 challenge, put down a stake against

Leave thy drink and thy whore

And keep in-a-door,

And thou shalt have more

Than two tens to a score.


This is nothing, Fool.
nothing (n.) 2 nonsense, emptiness, rubbish


Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer: you
unfee'd (adj.) not rewarded with a fee, unpaid

gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing,
use (n.) 7 profit, interest, premium



Why, no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.


(to Kent)

Prithee tell him; so much the rent of his

land comes to. He will not believe a fool.


A bitter fool!


Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a

bitter fool and a sweet fool?


No, lad; teach me.
lad (n.) serving-man, man of low birth [not necessarily young]


That lord that counselled thee

To give away thy land,

Come place him here by me;

Do thou for him stand.
stand (v.) 10 stand in, impersonate, represent

The sweet and bitter fool
presently (adv.) 1 immediately, instantly, at once See Topics: Frequency count

Will presently appear:

The one in motley here,
motley (n.) 1 distinctive dress of a fool

The other found out – there.


Dost thou call me fool, boy?


All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou

wast born with.


This is not altogether fool, my lord.


No, faith; lords and great men will not let me. If I

had a monopoly out they would have part on't; and
monopoly (n.) exclusive trading right granted by the sovereign

ladies too – they will not let me have all the fool to myself;

they'll be snatching. Nuncle, give me an egg and

I'll give thee two crowns.


What two crowns shall they be?


Why, after I have cut the egg i'the middle and eat

up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
meat (n.) 2 edible part

clovest thy crown i'the middle, and gavest away both

parts, thou borest thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt

Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou
wit (n.) 1 intelligence, wisdom, good sense, mental ability See Topics: Frequency count

gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in

this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.

Fools had ne'er less grace in a year,
grace (n.) 1 honour, favour, recognition, respect

For wise men are grown foppish
foppish (adj.) foolish, silly, stupid

And know not how their wits to wear,
wits, also five wits faculties of the mind (common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory) or body (the five senses)

Their manners are so apish.
apish (adj.) 2 ape-like in copying, stupidly imitative


When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
wont (v.) be accustomed, used [to], be in the habit of See Topics: Frequency count


I have used it, nuncle, e'er since thou madest thy
use (v.) 3 make use of, engage [in], practise [with]

daughters thy mothers; for when thou gavest them the

rod and puttest down thine own breeches,


Then they for sudden joy did weep,

And I for sorrow sung,

That such a king should play bo-peep
bo-peep (n.) peep-bo, peek-a-boo [a game played with babies]

And go the fools among.

Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy

fool to lie; I would fain learn to lie.
fain (adv.) gladly, willingly See Topics: Frequency count


And you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.
and, an (conj.) 1 if, even if


I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are.

They'll have me whipped for speaking true; thou'lt

have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am

whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind

o' thing than a fool. And yet I would not be thee, nuncle.

Thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides and left nothing
wit (n.) 1 intelligence, wisdom, good sense, mental ability See Topics: Frequency count

i'the middle. Here comes one o'the parings.

Enter Gonerill
frontlet (n.) forehead, ornamental headband [of frowns]


How now, daughter! What makes that frontlet on?

You are too much of late i'the frown.


Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need

to care for her frowning. Now thou art an 0 without a
O (n.) 2 cipher, zero, nought

figure. I am better than thou art now; I am a fool; thou

art nothing. (To Gonerill) Yes, forsooth, I will hold my

tongue. So your face bids me, though you say nothing.
forsooth (adv.) in truth, certainly, truly, indeed See Topics: Frequency count

Mum, mum!

He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,

Weary of all, shall want some.

He points to Lear
peascod (n.) pea-plant, pea-pod
shelled, shealed (adj.) deprived of a shell, without a shell

That's a shelled peascod.


Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool
all-licensed (adj.) allowed to do anything, given free range

But other of your insolent retinue

Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth

In rank and not-to-be endured riots. Sir,
rank (adj.) 4 gross, outlandish, coarse

I had thought by making this well known unto you

To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful
redress (n.) 2 remedy, amendment, improvement
safe (adj.) 2 sure, certain, assured

By what yourself too late have spoke and done
late (adv.) recently, a little while ago / before

That you protect this course and put it on
course (n.) 1 course of action, way of proceeding See Topics: Frequency count
put on (v.) 1 instigate, provoke, incite

By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
allowance (n.) 2 permission, approval, sanction

Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep;
censure (n.) 2 condemnation, blame, stricture
redress (n.) 2 remedy, amendment, improvement
scape, 'scape (v.) escape, avoid See Topics: Frequency count

Which in the tender of a wholesome weal
tender (n.) 3 care, concern, solicitude
weal 1 state, community, commonwealth
wholesome (adj.) 6 good for the health, health-giving, salubrious

Might in their working do you that offence
offence (n.) 1 damage, injury, harm

Which else were shame, that then necessity

Will call discreet proceeding.


For you know, nuncle,

The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long

That it's had it head bit off by it young.

So out went the candle and we were left darkling.
darkling (adv.) in the dark, in darkness


Are you our daughter?


I would you would make use of your good wisdom,

Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
fraught (adj.) filled, laden, packed

These dispositions which of late transform you
disposition (n.) 3 inclination, mood, frame of mind
transport (v.) 1 carry off, move along

From what you rightly are.


May not an ass know when the cart draws the


Whoop, Jug, I love thee!
Jug (n.) pet-name for Joan; sweetheart, mistress


Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.

Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?

Either his notion weakens, his discernings
notion (n.) understanding, awareness, intellect

Are lethargied – Ha! Waking? 'Tis not so!
lethargy (v.) affect with lethargy, dull, subdue

Who is it that can tell me who I am?


Lear's shadow.


I would learn that; for by the marks of sovereignty,

knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded I
false (adv.) 3 wrongly, erroneously, in error

had daughters.


Which they will make an obedient father.


Your name, fair gentlewoman?


This admiration, sir, is much o'the savour
admiration (n.) 1 amazement, astonishment, wonder
savour (n.) 3 flavour, nature, character

Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
prank (n.) 1 outrageous deed, excessive behaviour

To understand my purposes aright:
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

As you are old and reverend, should be wise.

Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
squire (n.) 1 gentleman below a knight in rank, attendant on a knight or nobleman

Men so disordered, so deboshed and bold,
bold (adj.) 2 overconfident, presumptuous, audacious, impudent
deboshed, deboyst (adj.) debauched, corrupted, depraved
disordered (adj.) disorderly, unruly, riotous

That this our court, infected with their manners,

Shows like a riotous inn; epicurism and lust
epicurism (n.) gluttony, gorging, sensual excess
show (v.) appear, look [like], present [as]

Make it more like a tavern or a brothel

Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
graced (adj.) 1 stately, dignified, gracious
speak for (v.) demand, call for, cry out for

For instant remedy. Be then desired,
desire (v.) 1 request, wish, ask [for]

By her that else will take the thing she begs,

A little to disquantity your train,
disquantity (v.) lessen in quantity, reduce, cut down
train (n.) 1 retinue, following, entourage

And the remainders that shall still depend
remainder (n.) 3 rest, remaining people
still (adv.) 2 ever, now [as before]

To be such men as may besort your age,
besort (v.) befit, suit, be suitable for

Which know themselves and you.


                         Darkness and devils!

Saddle my horses! Call my train together!
train (n.) 1 retinue, following, entourage

Degenerate bastard, I'll not trouble thee.

Yet have I left a daughter.


You strike my people, and your disordered rabble
disordered (adj.) disorderly, unruly, riotous

Make servants of their betters.

Enter Albany


Woe that too late repents! – O, sir, are you come?

Is it your will? Speak, sir! – Prepare my horses.

Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,

More hideous when thou showest thee in a child

Than the sea-monster!


                         Pray, sir, be patient.


(to Gonerill)
kite (n.) bird of prey; thieving bird [of ill omen; also, strong term of abuse]

Detested kite, thou liest!

My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
choice (adj.) 1 chosen, specially worthy, excellent
part (n.) 1 quality, attribute, gift, accomplishment [of mind or body]
rare (adj.) 2 unusual, striking, exceptional
train (n.) 1 retinue, following, entourage

That all particulars of duty know

And in the most exact regard support

The worships of their name. O most small fault,
name (n.) 1 reputation, fame, renown
worship (n.) 1 esteem, honour, renown

How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!

Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature
engine (n.) 4 mechanical device, lever, implement

From the fixed place, drew from heart all love,

And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
gall (n.) 2 bitterness, spitefulness, vindictiveness

Beat at this gate that let thy folly in

(he strikes his head)

And thy dear judgement out! Go, go, my people.

Exeunt Kent and Knights


My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant

Of what hath moved you.
move (v.) 1 arouse, affect, stir [by emotion]


                         It may be so, my lord.

He kneels
nature (n.) 6 natural order, ungoverned state, way of the world [often personified]

Hear, Nature, hear! Dear goddess, hear!

Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

To make this creature fruitful.

Into her womb convey sterility,

Dry up in her the organs of increase,

And from her derogate body never spring
derogate (adj.) degenerate, debased, degraded

A babe to honour her. If she must teem,
teem (v.) 3 give birth, have a child

Create her child of spleen, that it may live
spleen (n.) 2 irritability, malice, bad temper

And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.
disnatured (adj.) unnatural, aberrant, outlandish
thwart (adj.) perverse, obstinate, stubborn

Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
brow (n.) 4 forehead [often plural, referring to the two prominences of the forehead]

With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
cadent (adj.) falling, dropping, descending
fret (v.) 1 wear out, eat away, erode

Turn all her mother's pains and benefits

To laughter and contempt, that she may feel

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is

To have a thankless child! Away, away!



Now gods that we adore, whereof comes this?


Never afflict yourself to know more of it;

But let his disposition have that scope
disposition (n.) 3 inclination, mood, frame of mind

As dotage gives it.
dotage (n.) 2 feebleness of mind, senility

Enter Lear
clap, at a at one stroke, at once


What, fifty of my followers at a clap!

Within a fortnight?


                         What's the matter, sir?


I'll tell thee – (to Gonerill) life and death! I am ashamed

That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,

That these hot tears which break from me perforce
perforce (adv.) 2 of necessity, with no choice in the matter See Topics: Frequency count

Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!

Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
untented (adj.) too deep to be cleansed with lint [tent], undressed

Pierce every sense about thee! – Old fond eyes,
fond (adj.) 1 foolish, stupid, mad

Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out
beweep (v.) 1 weep over, wet with tears

And cast you with the waters that you loose

To temper clay. Yea, is't come to this?
temper (v.) 3 soften, moisten, mix [with]

Let it be so. I have another daughter,

Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable.
comfortable (adj.) 2 comforting, encouraging, reassuring

When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails

She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
visage (n.) 1 face, countenance See Topics: Frequency count

That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think

I have cast off for ever.



                         Do you mark that?
mark (v.) 1 note, pay attention [to], take notice [of] See Topics: Frequency count


I cannot be so partial, Gonerill,
partial (adj.) 2 biased, prejudiced, self-interested

To the great love I bear you –


Pray you, content – What, Oswald, ho!
content (adj.) 3 satisfied, calm, easy in mind
content (v.) 2 calm [down], settle, relax

(To the Fool)
knave (n.) 1 scoundrel, rascal, rogue See Topics: Frequency count

You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master!


Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry! Take the Fool

with thee.

A fox, when one has caught her,

And such a daughter

Should sure to the slaughter,

If my cap would buy a halter –
halter (n.) 1 rope with a noose [for hanging]

So the fool follows after.



This man hath had good counsel! A hundred knights!
counsel (n.) 1 advice, guidance, direction

'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
politic (adj.) 1 prudent, cautious, discreet, shrewd

At point a hundred knights! Yes, that on every dream,
point, at / at a in readiness, prepared, armed

Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
buzz (n.) rumour, whisper, report
dislike (n.) 2 discord, disagreement, dissension
fancy (n.) 5 imagining, flight of fancy, fanciful thought

He may enguard his dotage with their powers
dotage (n.) 2 feebleness of mind, senility
enguard (v.) protect, preserve, shield
power (n.) 6 (plural) physical faculties, bodily strength

And hold our lives in mercy. – Oswald, I say!


Well, you may fear too far.


                         Safer than trust too far.

Let me still take away the harms I fear,

Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.

What he hath uttered I have writ my sister;

If she sustain him and his hundred knights

When I have showed th' unfitness –

Enter Oswald

                         How now, Oswald!

What, have you writ that letter to my sister?


Yes, madam.


Take you some company and away to horse.

Inform her full of my particular fear,
full (adv.) 1 fully, completely, properly
particular (adj.) 1 personal, special, private

And thereto add such reasons of your own

As may compact it more. Get you gone,
compact (v.) 1 consolidate, confirm, strengthen

And hasten your return.

Exit Oswald

                         No, no, my lord,

This milky gentleness and course of yours,
course (n.) 1 course of action, way of proceeding See Topics: Frequency count

Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,

You are much more a-taxed for want of wisdom
attask, attax (v.) take to task, blame
tax (v.) 1 censure, blame, take to task, disparage
want (n.) 1 lack, shortage, dearth

Than praised for harmful mildness.


How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell;

Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
oft (adv.) often See Topics: Frequency count


Nay then –


Well, well – th' event!
event (n.) outcome, issue, consequence


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