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 IV. Scene VI.

Scene VI.—The Country near Dover.

Enter GLOUCESTER, and EDGAR dressed like
a peasant.

Glo. When shall I come to the top of that
same hill?
Edg. You do climb up it now; look how we
labour.
Glo. Methinks the ground is even.
Edg. Horrible steep:
Hark! do you hear the sea?
Glo. No, truly.
Edg. Why, then your other senses grow im-
perfect
By your eyes' anguish.
Glo. So may it be, indeed.
Methinks thy voice is altered, and thou speak'st
In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
Edg. Y'are much deceiv'd; in nothing am I
chang'd
But in my garments.
Glo. Methinks you're better spoken.
Edg. Come on, sir; here's the place: stand
still.
How fearful
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway
air
Show scarce so gross as beetles; half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful
trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice, and yond tall anchoring bark
Diminish'd to her cock, her cock a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring
surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
Glo. Set me where you stand.
Edg. Give me your hand; you are now with-
in a foot
Of the extreme verge: for all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.
Glo. Let go my hand.
Here, friend,'s another purse; in it a jewel
Well worth a poor man's taking: fairies and
gods
Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
Edg. Now fare you well, good sir.
Glo. With all my heart
Edg. Why I do trifle thus with, his despair
Is done to cure it.
Glo. O you mighty gods!
This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off;
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff and loathed part of nature should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well. [He falls forward.
Edg. Gone, sir: farewell.
[Aside.] And yet I know not how conceit may
rob
The treasury of life when life itself
Yields to the theft; had he been where he
thought
By this had thought been past. Alive or dead?
[To GLOUCESTER.] Ho, you sir! friend! Hear
you, sir? speak!
Thus might he pass indeed; yet he revives.
What are you, sir?
Glo. Away and let me die.
Edg. Hadst thou been aught but gossamer,
feathers, air,
So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou'dst shivered like an egg; but thou dost
breathe,
Hast heavy substance, bleed'st not, speak'st, art
sound.
Ten masts at each make not the altitude
Which thou hast perpendicularly fell:
Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again.
Glo. But have I fallen or no?
Edg. From the dread summit of this chalky
bourn.
Look up a-height; the shrill-gorg'd lark so far
Cannot be seen or heard: do but look up.
Glo. Alack! I have no eyes.
Is wretchedness depriv'd that benefit
To end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort,
When misery could beguile the tyrant's rage,
And frustrate his proud will.
Edg. Give me your arm:
Up: so. How is't? Feel you your legs? You
stand.
Glo. Too well, too well.
Edg. This is above all strangeness.
Upon the crown o' the cliff, what thing was that
Which parted from you?
Glo. A poor unfortunate beggar.
Edg. As I stood here below methought his
eyes
Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
Horns whelk'd and wav'd like the enridged sea:
It was some fiend; therefore, thou happy father,
Think that the clearest gods, who make them
honours
Of men's impossibilities, have preserv'd thee.
Glo. I do remember now; henceforth I'll bear
Affliction till it do cry out itself
'Enough, enough,' and die. That thing you
speak of
I took it for a man; often 'twould say
'The fiend, the fiend:' he led me to that place.
Edg. Bear free and patient thoughts. But
who comes here?

Enter LEAR, fantastically dressed with
flowers.
The safer sense will ne'er-accommodate
His master thus.
Lear. No, they cannot touch me for coining;
I am the king himself.
Edg. O thou side-piercing sight!
Lear, Nature's above art in that respect.
There's your press-money. That fellow handles
his bow like a crow-keeper: draw me a clothier's
yard. Look, look! a mouse. Peace, peace!
this piece of toasted cheese will do't. There's
my gauntlet; I'll prove it on a giant. Bring
up the brown bills. O! well flown, bird; i' the
clout, i' the clout: hewgh! Give the word.
Edg. Sweet marjoram.
Lear. Pass.
Glo. I know that voice.
Lear. Ha! Goneril, with a white beard!
They flatter'd me like a dog, and told me I had
white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were
there. To say 'ay' and 'no' to everything
I said! 'Ay' and 'no' too was no good divi-
nity. When the rain came to wet me once and
the wind to make me chatter, when the thun-
der would not peace at my bidding, there I
found 'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they
are not men o' their words: they told me I was
every thing; 'tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.
Glo. The trick of that voice I do well re-
member:
Is't not the king?
Lear. Ay, every inch a king:
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
Adultery?
Thou shall not die: die for adultery! No:
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard
son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
To't luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
Behold yond simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks presageth snow;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure's name;
The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above:
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends':
There's hell, there's darkness, there is the sul-
phurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie,
fie! pah, pah! Give me an ounce of civet, good
apothecary, to sweeten my imagination: there's
money for thee.
Glo. O! let me kiss that hand!
Lear. Let me wipe it first; it smells of mor-
tality.
Glo. O ruin'd piece of nature! This great
world
Shall so wear out to nought. Dost thou know
me?
Lear. I remember thine eyes well enough.
Dost thou squiny at me? No, do thy worst,
blind Cupid; I'll not love. Read thou this
challenge; mark but the penning of it.
Glo. Were all the letters suns, I could not see.
Edg. [Aside.] I would not take this from
report; it is,
And my heart breaks at it.
Lear. Read.
Glo. What! with the case of eyes?
Lear. O, ho! are you there with me? No
eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse?
Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a
light: yet you see how this world goes.
Glo. I see it feelingly.
Lear. What! art mad? A man may see how
this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine
ears: see how yond justice rails upon yon simple
thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and,
handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the
thief? Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a
beggar?
Glo. Ay, sir.
Lear. And the creature run from the cur?
There thou mightst behold the great image of
authority; a dog's obey'd in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine
own back;
Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp'st her. The usurer hangs
the cozener.
Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with
gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw doth pierce it.
None does offend, none, I say none; I'll able
'em:
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes;
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now,
now, now;
Pull off my boots; harder, harder; so.
Edg. [Aside.] O! matter and impertinency
mix'd;
Reason in madness!
Lear. If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take
my. eyes;
I know thee well enough; thy name is Glou-
cester:
Thou must be patient; we came crying hither:
Thou know'st the first time that we smell the air
We waul and cry. I will preach to thee: mark.
Glo. Alack! alack the day!
Lear. When we are born, we cry that we are
come
To this great stage of fools. This' a good block!
It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
A troop of horse with felt; I'll put it in proof,
And when I have stolen upon these sons-in-law,
Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

Enter Gentleman, with Attendants.
Gent. O! here he is; lay hand upon him. Sir,
Your most dear daughter—
Lear. No rescue? What! a prisoner? I am
even
The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
You shall have ransom. Let me have surgeons;
I am cut to the brains.
Gent. You shall have any thing.
Lear. No seconds? All myself?
Why this would make a man a man of salt,
To use his eyes for garden water-pots,
Ay, and laying autumn's dust.
Gent. Good sir,—
Lear. I will die bravely as a bridegroom.
What!
I will be jovial: come, come; I am a king,
My masters, know you that?
Gent. You are a royal one, and we obey you.
Lear. Then there's life in it. Nay, an you
get it, you shall get it by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa.
[Exit. Attendants follow.
Gent. A sight most pitiful in the meanest
wretch,
Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one
daughter,
Who redeems nature from the general curse
Which twain have brought her to.
Edg. Hail, gentle sir!
Gent. Sir, speed you: what's your will?
Edg. Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle
toward?
Gent. Most sure and vulgar; every one hears
that,
Which can distinguish sound.
Edg. But, by your favour,
How near's the other army?
Gent. Near, and on speedy foot; the main
descry
Stands on the hourly thought.
Edg. I thank you, sir: that's all.
Gent. Though that the queen on special
cause is here,
Her army is mov'd on.
Edg. I thank you, sir.
[Exit Gentleman.
Glo. You ever-gentle gods, take my breath
from me:
Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
To die before you please!
Edg. Well pray you, father.
Glo. Now, good sir, what are you?
Edg. A most poor man, made tame to for-
tune's blows;
Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand,
I'll lead you to some biding.
Glo. Hearty thanks:
The bounty and the benison of heaven
To boot, and boot!

Enter OSWALD.
Osw. A proclaim'd prize! Most happy!
That eyeless head of thine was first fram'd flesh
To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy
traitor,
Briefly thyself remember: the sword is out
That must destroy thee.
Glo. Now let thy friendly hand
Put strength enough to't. [EDGAR interposes.
Osw. Wherefore, bold peasant,
Dar'st thou support a publish'd traitor? Hence;
Lest that infection of his fortune take
Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
Edg. Chill not let go, zur, without vurther
'casion.
Osw. Let go, slave, or thou diest.
Edg. Good gentleman, go your gait, and let
poor volk pass. An chud ha' bin zwaggered
out of my life, 'twould not ha' bin zo long as
'tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th' old
man; keep out, che vor ye, or ise try whether
your costard or my hallow be the harder. Chill
be plain with you.
Osw. Out, dunghill!
Edg. Chill pick your teeth, zur. Come; no
matter vor your foins.
[They fight and EDGAR knocks him down.
Osw. Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain,
take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the English party: O! untimely death.
[Dies.
Edg. I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
Glo. What! is he dead?
Edg. Sit you down, father; rest you.
Let's see his pockets: these letters that he
speaks of
May be my friends. He's dead; I am only sorry
He had no other deaths-man. Let us see:
Leave, gentle wax; and, manners, blame us not:
To know our enemies' minds, we'd rip their
hearts;
Their papers, is more lawful.
Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. You
have many opportunities to cut him off; if
your will want not, time and place will be
fruitfully offered. There is nothing done if he
return the conqueror; then am I the prisoner,
and his bed my gaol; from the loathed warmth
whereof deliver me, and supply the place for
your labour.
Your—wife, so I would say—
Affectionate servant,
GONERIL.
O undistinguish'd space of woman's will!
A plot upon her virtuous husband's life,
And the exchange my brother! Here, in the
sands,
Thee I'll rake up, the post unsanctified
Of murderous lechers; and in the mature time
With this ungracious paper strike the sight
Of the death-practis'd duke. For him 'tis well
That of thy death and business I can tell.
Glo. The king is mad: how stiff is my vile
sense,
That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling
Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract:
So should my thoughts be sever'd from my
griefs,
And woes by wrong imaginations lose
The knowledge of themselves. [Drums afar off.
Edg. Give me your hand:
Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum.
Come, father, I'll bestow you with a friend.
[Exeunt.
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