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'King Lear' Act 1, Scene 2 (Part 1)

The Complete Text to 'King Lear' Act 1, Scene 2 (Part 1)

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[The Earl of Gloucester's castle.]

[Enter EDMUND, with a letter]


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,
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
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 top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

[Enter GLOUCESTER]


GLOUCESTER

Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
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.


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,
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.


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
this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.


GLOUCESTER

[Reads]

'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
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.'
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?


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
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.


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.


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