A line-by-line translation

King Lear

King Lear Translation Act 1, Scene 5

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Enter LEAR, KENT disguised, and FOOL

LEAR

[to KENT, giving him letters] Go you before to Gloucester with these letters. Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you know than comes from her demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.

LEAR

[To KENT, giving him a letter] Go ahead of me to Gloucester, and give this letter to Regan. Don't tell her anything or answer her questions about the letter. If you don't go fast enough, I'll get there before you.

KENT

I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.

KENT

My lord, I won't sleep until I've delivered your letter.

Exit KENT

FOOL

If a man’s brains were in ’s heels, were ’t not in danger of kibes?

FOOL

If a man's brains were in his feet, wouldn't they be in danger of chilblains?

LEAR

Ay, boy.

LEAR

Yes, boy.

FOOL

Then, I prithee, be merry. Thy wit shall ne'er go slipshod.

FOOL

Then please cheer up. Your brains won't ever have to wear slippers. Feet with brains would never make this useless journey.

LEAR

Ha, ha, ha!

LEAR

Ha, ha, ha!

FOOL

Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly. For though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an apple, yetI can tell what I can tell.

FOOL

Your other daughter will treat you kindly, you'll see. Even though she and Goneril are as similar as two crabapples, I can still tell what I can tell.

LEAR

Why, what canst thou tell, my boy?

LEAR

Why, what can you tell, my boy?

FOOL

She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i' th' middle on ’s face?

FOOL

That Regan will taste just like Goneril—both of them like sour crabapples. Can you tell me why a man's nose stands in the middle of his face?

LEAR

No.

LEAR

No.

FOOL

Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side ’s nose, that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

FOOL

Why, to keep his eyes separated, so he can see whatever he can't sniff out.

LEAR

I did her wrong—

LEAR

I did her wrong—

FOOL

Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?

FOOL

Can you tell me how an oyster makes his shell?

LEAR

No.

LEAR

No.

FOOL

Nor I neither. But I can tell why a snail has a house.

FOOL

Me neither. But I can tell you why a snail carries its house.

LEAR

Why?

LEAR

Why?

FOOL

Why, to put ’s head in—not to give it away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case.

FOOL

Why, to keep himself dry. And then he can't give his house away to his daughters and leave himself without a place to go.

LEAR

I will forget my nature. So kind a father!—Be my horsesready?

LEAR

[To himself] I will forget my fatherly feelings. I was such a kind father! 

[To FOOL] Are my horses ready?

FOOL

Thy asses are gone about 'em. The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

FOOL

Your attendant asses are getting them. There's a pretty reason why the constellation Pleiades has only seven stars.

LEAR

Because they are not eight?

LEAR

Because it doesn't have eight?

FOOL

Yes indeed. Thou wouldst make a good fool.

FOOL

Yes indeed. You would make a good fool.

LEAR

To take ’t again perforce—Monster ingratitude!

LEAR

I could have taken back my kingdom by force. What monstrous ingratitude!

FOOL

If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time.

FOOL

Uncle, if you were my fool, I'd have you beaten for getting old before your time.

LEAR

How’s that?

LEAR

How's that?

FOOL

Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

FOOL

You shouldn't have gotten old until you'd also gotten wise.

LEAR

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!I would not be mad.Keep me in temper. I would not be mad.

LEAR

Oh, don't let me go crazy, not crazy, sweet God! I don't want to go crazy. Keep me sane. I don't want to go crazy.

Enter a GENTLEMAN

How now? Are the horses ready?

Well, are the horses ready?

GENTLEMAN

Ready, my lord.

GENTLEMAN

Ready, my lord.

LEAR

Come, boy.

LEAR

Come on, boy.

Exeunt LEAR and GENTLEMAN

FOOL

She that’s a maid now and laughs at my departure,Shall not be a maid long unless things be cut shorter.

FOOL

Any girl who laughs at my departure won't be a virgin for long—not unless men are all castrated.

Exit

King lear
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Matt cosby
About the Translator: Matt Cosby
Matt Cosby graduated from Amherst College in 2011, and currently works as a writer and editor for LitCharts. He is from Florida but now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also makes art, plays the piano, and goes to dog parks.