"King Lear" by William Shakespeare, Act 2

February 8, 2013
In this tragedy, King Lear's plan to divide his kingdom between his three daughters leads to his downfall when he misjudges their true feelings. Read the full text here.

Here are links to our lists for the play: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5
[Enter Edmund, the Bastard and Curan, severally.]
Fare you well, sir.
He’s coming hither, now, i’ th’ night, i’ th’ haste,
And Regan with him.
Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress.
On the surface, Edmund is making himself look good to Gloucester by pretending that he had tried to convince Edgar not to kill their father. But Shakespeare's use of the word manifold can be seen as a hint to how Edmund has so many forms that he can't be trusted.
Persuade me to the murder of your Lordship,
But that I told him the revenging gods
’Gainst parricides did all the thunder bend,
Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to th’ father
And thou must make a dullard of the world
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spurs
To make thee seek it.
Hark, the Duke’s trumpets. I know not why he comes.
Was he not companion with the riotous knights
That tended upon my father?
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well informed of them, and with such cautions
That if they come to sojourn at my house
I’ll not be there.
GLOUCESTER: I serve you, madam.
Your Graces are right welcome.
[ Flourish. They exit.]
OSWALD: Where may we set our horses?
KENT: I’ th’ mire.
What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me!
Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado your shanks!
The word nature should be capitalized since Kent is personifying it here by claiming that Oswald is such a horrible person that Mother Nature would disclaim having made him. Compare this to Lear's disclaiming of all paternal care for Cordelia in Act 1.
You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee; a tailor made thee.
CORNWALL: Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
OSWALD: This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of his gray beard—
My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar and daub the wall of a jakes with him.
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
Such smiling rogues as these,
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords atwain
Which are too intrinse t’ unloose; smooth every passion
That in the natures of their lords rebel—
Being oil to fire, snow to the colder moods—
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,
Knowing naught, like dogs, but following.
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
No contraries hold more antipathy
Than I and such a knave.
This is some fellow
Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect
A saucy roughness and constrains the garb
Quite from his nature.
On the surface, Kent appears to be sincerely saying great things about Cornwall, but he is taking the flattery so far that there is more mockery than verity in his words.
KENT: Sir, in good faith, in sincere verity,
Under th’ allowance of your great aspect,
Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire
On flick’ring Phoebus’ front—
CORNWALL: What mean’st by this?
He that beguiled you in a plain accent was a plain knave, which for my part I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to ’t.
It pleased the King his master very late
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, compact, and flattering his displeasure,
Tripped me behind; being down, insulted, railed,
And put upon him such a deal of man
That worthied him, got praises of the King
For him attempting who was self- subdued;
And in the fleshment of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here again.
Your purposed low correction
Is such as basest and contemned’st wretches
For pilf’rings and most common trespasses
Are punished with.
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter.
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.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars who with roaring voices
Strike in their numbed and mortifièd arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary,
And, with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity.
But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
I’ll forbear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man.
I’ll forbear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man.
I’ll forbear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man.
REGAN: I am glad to see your Highness.
LEAR: Regan, I think you are. I know what reason
I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,
Sepulch’ring an adult’ress
O Regan, she hath tied
Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.
I can scarce speak to thee. Thou ’lt not believe
With how depraved a quality—O Regan!
“Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
“Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes!
This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
Indiscretion can also mean "a petty misdeed" but Goneril is not accusing Lear of doing anything wrong. Instead, she is defending herself by saying that Lear lacks the ability to fairly judge her actions; she also insults him further with the word dotage.
All's not offence that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.
Having given up his kingly powers, disowned Cordelia, and cursed Goneril, Lear does not have much left that he can reject. At the point of this example sentence, Lear thinks he can still rely on Regan, but upon discovering that she is even less welcoming than Goneril of him and his 100 knights, he is forced to carry out his proud threat to " abjure all roofs."
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity of the air.
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity of the air.
Calling Goneril a boil, sore and carbuncle IS chiding. This sentence shows how Lear is struggling between childish name-calling and patient dignity.
Thou art a boil,
A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee.
Let shame come when it will; I do not call it.
How in one house
Should many people under two commands
Hold amity? ’Tis hard, almost impossible.
Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
O sir, to willful men
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters.

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