William Shakespeare's King Lear teaches the lesson to never believe everything you hear.
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King Lear

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Act I. Scene IV.

Scene IV.—A Hall in the Same.

Enter KENT, disguised.

Kent. If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I raz'd my likeness. Now, banish'd
Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand con-
demn'd,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov'st,
Shall find thee full of labours.

Horns within. Enter LEAR, Knights, and
Attendants.
Lear. Let me not stay a jot for dinner: go,
get it ready. [Exit an Attendant.] How now!
what art thou?
Kent. A man, sir.
Lear. What dost thou profess? What wouldst
thou with us?
Kent. 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 judgment; to
fight when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
Lear. What art thou?
Kent. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as
poor as the king.
Lear. If thou be as poor for a subject as he
is for a king, thou art poor enough. What
wouldst thou?
Kent. Service.
Lear. Whom wouldst thou serve?
Kent. You.
Lear. Dost thou know me, fellow?
Kent. No, sir; but you have that in your
countenance which I would fain call master.
Lear. What's that?
Kent. Authority.
Lear. What services canst thou do?
Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run,
mar a curious 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.
Lear. How old art thou?
Kent. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for
singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing;
I have years on my back forty-eight.
Lear. 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 call my fool
hither. [Exit an Attendant.

Enter OSWALD.
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
Osw. So please you,— [Exit.
Lear. What says the fellow there? Call the
clotpoll back. [Exit a Knight.] Where's my
fool, ho? I think the world's asleep. How now!
where's that mongrel?

Re-enter Knight.
Knight. He says, my lord, your daughter is
not well.
Lear. Why came not the slave back to me
when I called him?
Knight. Sir, he answered me in the roundest
manner, he would not.
Lear. He would not!
Knight. My lord, I know not what the matter
is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not
entertained with that ceremonious affection as
you were wont; there's a great abatement of
kindness appears as well in the general de-
pendants as in the duke himself also and your
daughter.
Lear. Ha! sayest thou so?
Knight. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord,
if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent
when I think your highness wronged.
Lear. Thou but rememberest me of mine
own conception: I have perceived a most faint
neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as
mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pre-
tence and purpose of unkindness: I will look
further into't. But where's my fool? I have
not seen him this two days.
Knight. Since my young lady's going into
France, sir, the fool hath much pined him away.
Lear. No more of that; I have noted it well.
Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with
her. [Exit an Attendant.
Go you, call hither my fool. [Exit an Attendant.

Re-enter OSWALD.
O! you sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am
I, sir?
Osw. My lady's father.
Lear. 'My lady's father!' my lord's knave:
you whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
Osw. I am none of these, my lord; I beseech
your pardon.
Lear. Do you bandy looks with me, you
rascal? [Striking him.
Osw. I'll not be struck, my lord.
Kent. Nor tripped neither, you base football
player. [Tripping up his heels.
Lear. I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me,
and I'll love thee.
Kent. Come, sir, arise, away! I'll teach you
differences: away, away! If you will measure
your lubber's length again, tarry; but away! Go
to; have you wisdom? so.
[Pushes OSWALD out.
Lear. Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee:
there's earnest of thy service.
[Gives KENT money.

Enter Fool.
Fool. Let me hire him too: here's my cox-
comb. [Offers KENT his cap.
Lear. How now, my pretty knave! how dost
thou?
Fool. Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
Kent. Why, fool?
Fool. Why? for taking one's part that's out
of favour. Nay, an 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!
Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
Lear. Why, my boy?
Fool. If I gave them all my living, I'd keep
my coxcombs myself. There's mine; beg another
of thy daughters.
Lear. Take heed, sirrah; the whip.
Fool. Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must
be whipped out when Lady the brach may stand
by the fire and stink.
Lear. A pestilent gall to me!
Fool. [To KENT.] Sirrah, I'll teach thee a
speech.
Lear. Do.
Fool. Mark it, nuncle:—
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest;
Leave thy drink and thy whore,
And keep in-a-door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.
Kent. This is nothing, fool.
Fool. Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd
lawyer, you gave me nothing for't. Can you
make no use of nothing, nuncle?
Lear. Why, no, boy; nothing can be made
out of nothing.
Fool. [To KENT.] Prithee, tell him, so much
the rent of his land comes to: he will not believe
a fool.
Lear. A bitter fool!
Fool. Dost thou know the difference, my boy,
between a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
Lear. No, lad; teach me.
Fool. That lord that counsell'd thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand:
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear;
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
Lear. Dost thou call me fool, boy?
Fool. All thy other titles thou hast given
away; that thou wast born with.
Kent. This is not altogether fool, my lord.
Fool. No, faith, lords and great men will not
let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would
have part on't, and ladies too: they will not let
me have all fool to myself; they'll be snatching.
Nuncle, give me an egg, and I'll give thee two
crowns.
Lear. What two crowns shall they be?
Fool. Why, after I have cut the egg i' the
middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of
the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i' the
middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest
thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt: thou hadst
httle wit in thy bald crown when thou 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;
For wise men are grown foppish,
And know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.
Lear. When were you wont to be so full of
songs, sirrah?
Fool. I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou
madest thy 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,
And go the fools among.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can
teach thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.
Lear. An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you
whipped.
Fool. I marvel what kin thou and thy
daughters are: they'll have me whipped for
speaking true, thou'It 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 i' the middle: here comes one o' the
parings.

Enter GONERIL.
Lear. How now, daughter! what makes that
frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late
i' the frown.
Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou
hadst no need to care for her frowning; now
thou art an O without a figure. I am bettor
than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art
nothing. [To GONERIL.] Yes, forsooth, I will
hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though
you say nothing.
Mum, mum;
He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
Weary of all, shall want some.
That's a shealed peascod. [Pointing to LEAR.
Gon. Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto
you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow
fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the
fault
Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
Fool. For you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had it head bit off by it young.
So out went the candle, and we were left dark-
ling.
Lear. Are you our daughter?
Gon. I would you would make use of your
good wisdom,
Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away
These dispositions which of late transform you
From what you rightly are.
Fool. May not an ass know when the cart
draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.
Lear. Does any here know me? This is not
Lear:
Does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are
his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied. Ha! waking? 'tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Fool. Lear's shadow.
Lear. I would learn that; for, by the marks
of sovereignty, knowledge and reason, I should
be false persuaded I had daughters.
Fool. Which they will make an obedient
father.
Lear. Your name, fair gentlewoman?
Gon. This admiration, sir, is much o' the
favour
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright:
As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
Here do you keep a hundred knights and
squires;
Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd, and bold,
That this our court, infected with their man-
ners,
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a grac'd palace. The shame itself doth
speak
For instant remedy; be then desir'd
By her that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainder, that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
Which know themselves and you.
Lear. Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together.
Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee:
Yet have I left a daughter.
Gon. You strike my people, and your disor-
der'd rabble
Make servants of their betters.
Enter ALBANY.
Lear. Woe, that too late repents;
[To ALBANY.] O! sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show'st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster.
Alb. Pray, sir, be patient.
Lear. [To GONERIL.] Detested kite! thou
liest:
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of
nature
From the fix'd place, drew from my heart all
love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
[Striking his head.
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
Alb. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath mov'd you.
Lear. It may be so, my lord.
Hear, Nature, hear! dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
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
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
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 312
To have a thankless child! Away, away! [Exit.
Alb. Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes
this?
Gon. Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.

Re-enter LEAR.
Lear. What! fifty of my followers at a clap,
Within a fortnight?
Alb. What's the matter, sir?
Lear. I'll tell thee. [To GONERIL.] Life and
death! I am asham'd
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
That these hot tears, which break from me per-
force,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs
upon thee!
Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, is it come to this?
Let it be so: I have another daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I'll resume the shape which thou dost
think
I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.
[Exeunt LEAR, KENT, and Attendants.
Gon. Do you mark that?
Alb. I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you.—
Gon. Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
[To the Fool.] You, sir, more knave than fool,
after your master.
Fool. Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear! tarry, and
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;
So the fool follows after. [Exit.
Gon. This man hath had good counsel. A hun-
dred knights!
'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights; yes, that on every
dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!
Alb. Well, you may fear too far.
Gon. 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 utter'd I have writ my sister;
If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
When I have show'd the unfitness,—

Re-enter OSWALD.
How now, Oswald!
What! have you writ that letter to my sister?
Osw. Ay, madam.
Gon. Take you some company, and away to
horse:
Inform her full of my particular fear;
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact it more. Get you gone,
And hasten your return. [Exit OSWALD.] No,
no, my lord,
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
Than praised for harmful mildness.
Alb. How far your eyes may pierce I cannot
tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
Gon. Nay, then—
Alb. Well, well; the event. [Exeunt.
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