Various monologues from Shakespeare’s King Lear
King Lear Act I, scene i
Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall –
And you, our no less loving son of Albany –
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters,
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,
Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Gonerill,
Our eldest born, speak first.
King Lear, Act II, scene iii
I heard myself proclaimed,
And by the happy hollow of a tree
Escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place
That guard and most unusual vigilance
Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may ‘scape
I will preserve myself; and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury, in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast. My face I’ll grime with filth,
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots,
And with presented nakedness outface
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
Strike in their numbed and mortified bare arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
And with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes, and mills
Sometimes with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity: ‘ Poor Turlygod! Poor Tom!’
That’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am.
King Lear – Act I; Scene ii
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!
King Lear Act III, scene iii
Go to. Say you nothing. There is division
between the Dukes; and a worse matter than that. I
have received a letter this night; ’tis dangerous to be
spoken; I have locked the letter in my closet. These injuries
the King now bears will be revenged home. There
is part of a power already footed. We must incline to the
King. I will look him and privily relieve him. Go you
and maintain talk with the Duke, that my charity be not
of him perceived. If he ask for me, I am ill and gone to
bed. If I die for it, as no less is threatened me, the King
my old master must be relieved. There is strange things
toward, Edmund. Pray you, be careful.
King Lear act IV, scene iv
Alack, ’tis he! Why, he was met even now
King Lear act V, scene iii
Draw thy sword,
That if my speech offend a noble heart
Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
He draws his sword
Behold; it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession. I protest,
Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
Conspirant ‘gainst this high illustrious prince,
And, from th’ extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou ‘ no,’
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,