SCENE IIThe Earl of Gloucester's castle.
Enter EDMUND, with a letter.
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 (10)
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 hand:
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,--legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed, (20)
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards! Enter GLOUCESTER.
Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
Confined to exhibition! All this done
Upon the gad! Edmund, how now! what news?
So please your lordship, none. [Putting up the letter.
Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
I know no news, my lord. (30)
What paper were you reading?
Nothing, my lord.
No? What needed, then, that terrible
dispatch 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.
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. (40)
I find it not fit for your o'er-looking.
Give me the letter, sir.
I shall offend, either to detain or
give it. The contents, as in part I understand
them, are to blame.
Let's see, let's see.
I hope, for my brother's justification,
he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my
'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 brain to breed it in?--When came this to
you? who brought it?
It was not brought me, my lord;
there's the cunning of it: I found it thrown in
at the casement of my closet.
You know the character to be your
If the matter were good, my lord, I
durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, (70)
I would fain think it were not.
It is his.
It is his hand, my lord; but I hope
his heart is not in the contents.
Hath he never heretofore sounded
you in this business?
Never, my lord: but I have heard
him oft maintain it to be fit, that, sons at
perfect age, and fathers declining, the father
should be as ward to the son, and the son
manage his revenue.
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?
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 wrote this to feel my affection to your
honor, and to no further pretence of danger.
Think you so?
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 (101)
than this very evening.
He cannot be such a monster--
Nor is not, sure.
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
I will seek him, sir, presently; convey
the business as I shall find means, and (111)
acquaint you withal.
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, hollownwss,
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. [Exit.
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.
Edgar-- Enter EDGAR.
and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the
old comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy,
with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these
eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la,
How now, brother Edmund! what serious (151)
contemplation are you in?
I am thinking, brother, of a prediction
I read this other day, what should follow
Do you busy yourself about that?
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.
How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
Come, come; when saw you my father
Why, the night gone by.
Spake you with him? (170)
Ay, two hours together.
Parted you in good terms? Found
you no displeasure in him by word or
None at all.
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 (179)
of your person it would scarcely allay.
Some villain hath done me wrong.
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 ye, go; there's
my key: if you do stir abroad, go armed.
Brother, I advise you to the best; go
armed: I am no honest man if there be any
good meaning towards you: I have told you
what I have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing
like the image and horror of it: pray you
Shall I hear from you anon?
I do serve you in this business. [Exit Edgar.
A credulous father! and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms,
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
My practices ride easy! I see the business. (199)
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
All with me's meet that I can fashion fit. [Exit.