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But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
Reg. Prescribe not us our duty.
Let your study
Cor. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides :
Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt FRANCE and CORDELIA. Gon. Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
Reg. That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
Gon. You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.
Reg. 'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
Gon. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but there. withal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Reg. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment.
Gon. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together: if our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
Reg. We shall further think of it.
SCENE II.-A Hall in the EARL OF GLOSTER's Castle.
Enter EDMUND with a letter.
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Edm. So please your lordship, none. [Putting up the letter.
Glo. No? What needed, then, that terrible despatch 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 spectacles.
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 over-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 to blame.
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 virtue.
Glo. [reads.] 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,
EDGAR. Hum-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 a brain to breed it in? When came this to you? who brought it?
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 brother's?
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 before sounded you in this business?
Edm. Never, my lord: but I have heard him oft 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 revenue.
Glo. O villain, villain !-His very opinion in the letter ! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish!--Go, sirrah, seek him; I'll apprehend him.-Abominable 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?
Edm. 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 satisfaction; 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 you withal.
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 'twixt 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.
[Excit. 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. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
Enter EDGAR. Pat!—he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh like Tomo Bedlam.-0, these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.
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 eclipses.
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, dissolutions 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 astronomical!
Edm. Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word nor countenance?
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; I am no honest man if there be any good meaning toward you: I have told you wbat 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. [Exit EDGAR.
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
SCENE III.-A Room in the DUKE OF ALBANY's Palace.
Enter GONERIL and OSWALD. Gon. Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?
Osw. Ay, madam.
Gon. By day and night, he wrongs me; every hour