Act I. Scene
Scene II.A Hall in the EARL OF
Enter EDMUND, with a letter.
Edm. Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy
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-
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore
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,
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!
Glo. Kent banished thus! And France in
And the king gone to-night! subscribed his
Confin'd to exhibition! All this done
Upon the gad! Edmund, how now! what
Edm. So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter.
Glo. Why so earnestly seek you to put up
Edm. I know no news, my lord.
Glo. What paper were you reading?
Edm. Nothing, my lord.
Glo. 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
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.
Glo. Give me the letter, sir.
Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it.
The contents, as in part I understand them, are
Glo. Let's see, let's see.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification,
he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my
Glo. 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 enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live
the beloved of your brother, EDGARHum!
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
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.
Glo. You know the character to be your
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.
Glo. It is his.
Edm. It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his
heart is not in the contents.
Glo. 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
Glo. O villain, villain! His very opinion in
the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, de-
tested, brutish villain! worse than brutish! Go,
sirrah, seek him; I'll apprehend him. Abomin-
able 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; where, 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, and to
no other pretence of danger.
Glo. Think you so?
Edw. 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 satis-
faction; and that without any further delay
than this very evening.
Glo. He cannot be such a monster
Edm. Nor is not, sure.
Glo.to his father, that so tenderly and entirely
loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek
him 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.
Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey
the business as I shall find means, and acquaint
Glo. 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
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; there's father against
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
noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his
offence, honesty! 'Tis strange! [Exit.
Edm. This is the excellent foppery of the
world, that, when we are sick in fortune,often
the surfeit of our own behaviour,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 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 whoremaster man, to lay
his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!
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. 'Sfoot! I should have been that
I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament
twinkled on my bastardizing. 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,
Edg. How now, brother Edmund! What
serious contemplation are you in?
Edm. I am thinking, brother, of a prediction
I read this other day, what should follow these
Edg. Do you busy yourself with that?
Edm. I promise you the effects he writes of
succeed unhappily; as of unnaturalness between
the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolu-
tions of ancient amities; divisions in state;
menaces and maledictions against king and
nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of
friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches,
and I know not what.
Edg. How long have you been a sectary
Edm. Come, come; when saw you my father
Edg. The night gone by.
Edm. Spake you with him?
Edg. Ay, two hours together.
Edm. Parted you in good terms? Found
you no displeasure in him by word or counte-
Edg. None at all.
Edm. Bethink yourself wherein you may have
offended 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.
Edg. Some villain hath done me wrong.
Edm. That's my fear. I pray you have a
continent forbearance till the speed of his rage
goes slower, and, as I say, retire with me to my
lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to
hear my lord speak. Pray you, go; there's my
key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.
Edg. Armed, brother!
Edm. Brother, I advise you to the best; go
armed; I am no honest man if there be any good
meaning toward you; I have told you what I
have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing like
the image and horror of it; pray you, away.
Edg. Shall I hear from you anon?
Edm. I do serve you in this business.
A credulous father, and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
My practices ride easy! I see the business.
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
All with me's meet that I can fashion fit. [Exit.