A line-by-line translation

King Lear

King Lear Translation Act 2, Scene 2

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Enter KENT disguised and OSWALD the steward, severally

OSWALD

Good dawning to thee, friend. Art of this house?

OSWALD

Good morning to you, friend. Are a servant in this house?

KENT

Ay.

KENT

Yes.

OSWALD

Where may we set our horses?

OSWALD

Where can we stable our horses?

KENT

I' th' mire.

KENT

In the swamp.

OSWALD

Prithee, if thou lovest me, tell me.

OSWALD

Please, my friend, tell me.

KENT

I love thee not.

KENT

I'm not your friend.

OSWALD

Why, then, I care not for thee.

OSWALD

Well then. If you're going to be like that, I don't care for you either.

KENT

If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make thee care for me.

KENT

If I had you between my teeth, I'd make you care.

OSWALD

Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.

OSWALD

Why are you treating me like this? I don't know you.

KENT

Fellow, I know thee.

KENT

But I know you, fellow.

OSWALD

What dost thou know me for?

OSWALD

What do you know about me then?

KENT

A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave; a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service; and art nothing but the composition of a knave,beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.

KENT

I know that you're a villain and a rascal; that you eat kitchen scraps; and that you're filthy, arrogant, shallow, and shameless. You're a cheapskate servant in dirty stockings; a cowardly villain who loves to sue people; a bastard; a narcissistic, effeminate rogue; and a villain with so few possessions, you could fit them all in one trunk. You'd play the pimp to please your masters. You're nothing but a combination of villain, beggar, coward, pimp, and the son and heir of a mangy bitch, and I'll beat you until you whine if you try to deny even a single one of my words.

OSWALD

Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee nor knows thee!

OSWALD

What a monstrous fellow you are, that you would slander someone you don't know, and who doesn't know you!

KENT

What a brazen-faced varlet art thou to deny thou knowest me! Is it two days ago since I tripped up thy heels and beat thee before the king? Draw, you rogue, for though it be night yet the moon shines. I’ll make a sop o' th' moonshine of you. [draws his sword] Draw, youwhoreson cullionly barber-monger, draw!

KENT

And what a bold-faced servant you are to deny that you know me! Wasn't it just two days ago that I tripped you and beat you up in front of the king? Draw your sword, you scoundrel. It might be nighttime, but there's enough moonlight to fight by. I'll stab you so many times you can soak up the moonlight through your holes! [Drawing his sword] Draw, you villainous, preening son-of-a-bitch, draw!

OSWALD

Away! I have nothing to do with thee.

OSWALD

Away with you! I want nothing to do with you.

KENT

Draw, you rascal. You come with letters against the king and take Vanity the puppet’s part against the royalty of her father. Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado your shanks. Draw, you rascal! Come your ways.

KENT

Draw your sword, you rascal. You're here with a letter plotting against the king, and you take the side of that vain puppet Goneril against her royal father. Draw your sword, you scoundrel, or I'll slice you up like a hog. Draw, you rascal! Come on and fight!

OSWALD

Help, ho! Murder! Help!

OSWALD

Help, hey! Murder! Help!

KENT

Strike, you slave. Stand, rogue. Stand, you neat slave, strike! [strikes OSWALD]

KENT

Fight, you rogue. Stand still, scoundrel. Fight, you dainty villain, fight! [He strikes OSWALD]

OSWALD

Help, ho! Murder, murder!

OSWALD

Help, hey! Murder, murder!

Enter EDMUND the bastard with his rapier drawn, the Duke of CORNWALL, the Duchess REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and servants

EDMUND

How now? What’s the matter? Part.

EDMUND

What's going on? What's the matter? Stop fighting!

KENT

[to EDMUND] With you, goodman boy, if you please. Come,I’ll flesh ye. Come on, young master.

KENT

[To EDMUND] I'll take you on then, boy, if you like! Come on, I'll strike first. Come on, young master.

GLOUCESTER

Weapons, arms? What’s the matter here?

GLOUCESTER

Swords out? What's the matter here?

CORNWALL

Keep peace, upon your lives.He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?

CORNWALL

Calm down, I command you. The next person to strike again will die. What is the matter?

REGAN

The messengers from our sister and the king.

REGAN

These two are the messengers from my sister and the king.

CORNWALL

What is your difference? Speak.

CORNWALL

What are you fighting about? Speak.

OSWALD

I am scarce in breath, my lord.

OSWALD

I'm out of breath, my lord.

KENT

No marvel, you have so bestirred your valor. You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee. A tailor madethee.

KENT

No wonder, with all your brave exertions. You cowardly rascal, Nature is ashamed to admit that she created you. A tailor made you.

CORNWALL

Thou art a strange fellow. A tailor make a man?

CORNWALL

You're a strange fellow. How could a tailor make a man?

KENT

Ay, a tailor, sir. A stone-cutter or painter could nothave made him so ill though they had been but two yearso' th' trade.

KENT

Yes, a tailor, sir. A sculptor or a painter could never have made something that awful, even if they had only been practicing their craft for two years.

CORNWALL

Speak yet. How grew your quarrel?

CORNWALL

But tell me: what are you fighting about?

OSWALD

This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of his gray beard—

OSWALD

This old ruffian, sir, whose life I spared because of my respect for the elderly—

KENT

Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!—My lord, ifyou will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar and daub the wall of a jakes with him.—Spare my gray beard, you wagtail?

KENT

[To OSWALD] You bastard, you're a "z," an unnecessary letter! 

[To CORNWALL] My lord, if you'll allow me, I'll grind this coarse villain into powder and plaster the bathroom walls with him. 

[To OSWALD] So you spared my life because I'm old, did you, you puppy?

CORNWALL

Peace, sirrah!You beastly knave, know you no reverence?

CORNWALL

Quiet, sir! Don't you have any respect, you beast?

KENT

Yes, sir, but anger hath a privilege.

KENT

Yes, sir, but not when I'm angry.

CORNWALL

Why art thou angry?

CORNWALL

Why are you angry?

KENT

That such a slave as this should wear a sword, Who wears no honesty. 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, Bring 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! Smile you my speeches as I were a fool? Goose, an I had you upon Sarum plain, I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot.

KENT

I'm angry that a dishonorable servant like this should wear a sword like a gentleman. Smiling scoundrels like him undo the holy bonds of love between people, gnawing like rats at knots that are too intricate to untie. They encourage only the worst parts of their masters' personality, bringing oil to the fire of their anger and snow to the coldness of their cruelty. They're like weathervanes, turning whichever way the wind is blowing, never taking a stand for anything true, and ignorantly following their masters like dogs. 

[To OSWALD] Damn your ugly face! Are you smiling at my words like I'm a fool? You goose, if I found you on Salisbury Plain, I'd send you cackling all the way back to Camelot.

CORNWALL

Why, art thou mad, old fellow?

CORNWALL

What, are you crazy, old man?

GLOUCESTER

[to KENT] How fell you out?Say that.

GLOUCESTER

[To KENT] How did this fight begin? Tell us that.

KENT

No contraries hold more antipathy Than I and such a knave.

KENT

No two opposites could hate each other more than myself and that scoundrel.

CORNWALL

Why dost thou call him “knave?” What’s his offense?

CORNWALL

Why do you call him "scoundrel?" What crime has he committed?

KENT

His countenance likes me not.

KENT

I don't like his face.

CORNWALL

No more perchance does mine, nor his, nor hers.

CORNWALL

But perhaps you don't like mine either, or his, or hers.

KENT

Sir, ’tis my occupation to be plain. I have seen better faces in my time Than stands on any shoulder that I see Before me at this instant.

KENT

Sir, it's my job to be honest, and I've seen better faces in my day than those I see standing on the shoulders around me right now.

CORNWALL

This is some fellow, Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect A saucy roughness and constrains the garb Quite from his nature. He cannot flatter, he. An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth. An they will take it, so. If not, he’s plain. These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness Harbor more craft and more corrupter ends Than twenty silly-ducking observants That stretch their duties nicely.

CORNWALL

Look at this fellow, who gets praised for his honesty and then acts rude and insolent, using his "bluntness" as a cover for his cruelty. He cannot flatter, not he! He is honest and blunt, and so must speak the truth. And if people accept it, well and good. But if not, he's telling the truth and they just can't handle it! I know this kind of villain, whose honesty hides more cunning and corruption than twenty brown-nosed servants who can only bow and flatter. 

KENT

Sir, in good faith, or in sincere verity, Under th' allowance of your great aspect, Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire On flickering Phoebus' front—

KENT

Sir, truthfully, sincerely, if you'll give the approval of your magnificent face, which glows with the radiance of Phoebus' forehead—

CORNWALL

What mean’st by this?

CORNWALL

What do you mean by this?

KENT

To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer. 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.

KENT

I'm changing my manner of speech, since you disliked my plain words so much. Sir, I know that I'm no flatterer. If a man tricked you with plain language, then he's just a plain scoundrel. But I'm not like that, though it's tempting to try to anger you.

CORNWALL

[to OSWALD] What was th' offense you gave him?

CORNWALL

[To OSWALD] How did you offend him?

OSWALD

I never gave him any. It pleased the king his master very late To strike at me upon his misconstruction When he, conjunct 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.

OSWALD

I never did. Recently his master the king felt like striking me because of a misunderstanding, and then this man here took the king's side, encouraging his anger, and tripped me from behind. When I was down on the ground he insulted me, slandered me, and built himself up so he would seem like a worthy man to the king. The king then praised him for his courage in assaulting me, even though I never tried to fight back at all. And just now, excited by remembering his last "mighty battle" with me, he drew his sword and attacked me again.

KENT

None of these rogues and cowardsBut Ajax is their fool.

KENT

These sorts of cowardly villains always boast like Ajax.

CORNWALL

Fetch forth the stocks, ho!—You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,We’ll teach you.

CORNWALL

Bring out the stocks!  We'll teach you, you stubborn old rascal, you arrogant geezer.

KENT

Sir, I am too old to learn. Call not your stocks for me. I serve the king, On whose employment I was sent to you. You shall do small respect, show too bold malice Against the grace and person of my master, Stocking his messenger.

KENT

Sir, I'm too old to learn. Don't put me in the stocks. I serve the king, who sent me here to you. You'll be insulting my master's royal and personal honor if you put his messenger in the stocks.

CORNWALL

Fetch forth the stocks!As I have life and honor, there shall he sit till noon.

CORNWALL

Bring the stocks! I swear on my life and honor, he'll be locked up until noon.

REGAN

Till noon? Till night, my lord, and all night too.

REGAN

Until noon? Until night, my lord—and all night too.

KENT

Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog,You should not use me so.

KENT

Why, madam, you wouldn't treat me so badly even if I was your father's dog.

REGAN

Sir, being his knave, I will.

REGAN

But you're his villainous servant, sir. So I will.

CORNWALL

This is a fellow of the selfsame colorOur sister speaks of.—Come, bring away the stocks!

CORNWALL

This is exactly the kind of fellow your sister warned us about.—Come on, bring in the stocks!

Stocks brought out

GLOUCESTER

Let me beseech your grace not to do so. His fault is much, and the good king his master Will check him for ’t. Your purposed low correction Is such as basest and contemned’st wretches For pilferings and most common trespasses Are punished with. The king his master needs must take it ill, That he, so slightly valued in his messenger, Should have him thus restrained.

GLOUCESTER

Let me ask you not to do this, your Grace. The man has done wrong, and the good king his master will punish him for it. But the kind of punishment you intend for him is more appropriate for petty thieves than for royal servants. His master, the king, will surely be insulted when he finds out that you value him so little, locking up and humiliating his messenger like this.

CORNWALL

I’ll answer that.

CORNWALL

I'll take responsibility for it.

REGAN

My sister may receive it much more worseTo have her gentleman abused, assaultedFor following her affairs.—Put in his legs.

REGAN

My sister may be more insulted to learn that her messenger was abused and assaulted just for following her orders. 

[To servants] Put his legs in the stocks.

KENT is put in the stocks

CORNWALL

[to GLOUCESTER ] Come, my good lord, away.

CORNWALL

[To GLOUCESTER] Come on, my good lord, let's go.

Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER and KENT

GLOUCESTER

I am sorry for thee, friend. 'Tis the duke’s pleasure, Whose disposition, all the world well knows,Will not be rubbed nor stopped. I’ll entreat for thee.

GLOUCESTER

I'm sorry for you, friend. It's what the duke wants, and everyone knows that he won't allow even the slightest opposition once he's made up his mind. But I'll try to persuade him to release you.

KENT

Pray you do not, sir. I have watched and traveled hard. Some time I shall sleep out. The rest I’ll whistle. A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels. Give you good morrow.

KENT

Please don't, sir. I've been awake and traveling for a long time. I can catch up on sleep while I'm locked up here, and I'll whistle for the rest of the time to entertain myself. Even good men can have their luck wear out. Have a good morning.

GLOUCESTER

The duke’s to blame in this. 'Twill be ill taken.

GLOUCESTER

The duke's to blame for this. The king won't be happy about it.

Exit GLOUCESTER

KENT

Good King, that must approve the common saw, Thou out of heaven’s benediction comest To the warm sun. [takes out a letter] Approach, thou beacon to this underglobe, That by thy comfortable beams I may Peruse this letter. Nothing almost sees miracles But misery. I know ’tis from Cordelia, Who hath most fortunately been informed Of my obscurèd course and [reads the letter] “shall find time From this enormous state, seeking to give Losses their remedies.” All weary and o'erwatched, Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold This shameful lodging. Fortune, good night. Smile once more. Turn thy wheel. [sleeps]

KENT

Good King Lear, you're just proving the old saying that everything goes from good to bad. [He takes out a letter] Rise, sun, and shine on me so I can read this letter. Only those who are miserable are granted miracles. I know that this letter is from Cordelia, who fortunately knows about my attempts to look after the king in this disguise. [Reading the letter] She says that she "will have time to fix things now that she's away from the monstrous state of affairs in this country." I'm exhausted, and I've been awake for far too long. I'll take advantage of my fatigue and shut my weary eyes, so I can't see my own humiliating situation. Good night, Fortune. Smile once more. Turn your wheel of fate. [He falls asleep]

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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.