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King Lear

King Lear Translation Act 3, Scene 2

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Storm still. Enter LEAR and FOOL

LEAR

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks! You sulfurous and thought-executing fires, Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, Smite flat the thick rotundity o' th' world, Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once That make ingrateful man!

LEAR

Blow, winds, until your cheeks crack! Rage on, storm! You whirlwinds and tornadoes, pour out water until you've drenched the steeples of our churches and drowned their weathervanes! You sulfurous and deadly lightning—herald of the mighty thunderbolts that split oak trees—singe the white hair on my head! And you, thunder that shakes everything, crush the spherical world flat, and crack open the molds from which nature forms humans, and spill all the seeds that grow up to become ungrateful mankind!

FOOL

O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rainwater out o' door. Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters blessing. Here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.

FOOL

Oh, uncle, encountering false holy water (like flattering courtier's speeches) in a dry house is better than being outside getting soaked by rainwater. Please, uncle, let’s go inside and ask your daughters to forgive you. This stormy night has no pity for either wise men or fools.

LEAR

Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain! Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters. I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness. I never gave you kingdom, called you children. You owe me no subscription. Why then, let fall Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand, your slave— A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man. But yet I call you servile ministers, That will with two pernicious daughters joined Your high engendered battles 'gainst a head So old and white as this. Oh, ho! 'Tis foul.

LEAR

Rumble your belly, thunder! Spit, fire! Pour down, rain! The rain, wind, thunder, and fire are not my daughters. I don't blame you, you elements of the storm, for being unkind. I never gave you a kingdom or called you my children. You don't owe me obedience. So be as horrible as you want to. Here I stand, your slave—a poor, sick, weak, and hated old man. But I can still accuse you of joining forces with my two wicked daughters, and using your heavenly powers to strike my old, white head. Oh! It's foul!

FOOL

He that has a house to put ’s head in has a good headpiece. The codpiece that will house Before the head has any— The head and he shall louse. So beggars marry many. The man that makes his toe What he his heart should make Shall of a corn cry woe, And turn his sleep to wake. For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.

FOOL

Whoever has a house to cover his head has a good hat.
If a man finds housing for his genitals before he finds housing for his head—he'll end up poor and lice-infested. So whores have "married" many men by giving them housing. The man who values his toe more than he values his heart will always have corns to complain of, and be kept awake at night. For there's never been a pretty woman who didn't practice making pretty faces in the mirror.

Enter KENT disguised

LEAR

No, I will be the pattern of all patience.I will say nothing.

LEAR

No, I will act like a model of patience. I will say nothing.

KENT

Who’s there?

KENT

Who's there?

FOOL

Marry, here’s grace and a codpiece—that’s a wise man and a fool.

FOOL

By God, here's majesty and genitalia—that is, a wise man and a fool.

KENT

[to LEAR] Alas, sir, are you here? Things that love night Love not such nights as these. The wrathful skies Gallow the very wanderers of the dark And make them keep their caves. Since I was man, Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder, Such groans of roaring wind and rain I never Remember to have heard. Man’s nature cannot carry Th' affliction nor the fear.

KENT

[To LEAR] Alas, sir, are you here? Even creatures of the night avoid nights like this. These angry skies frighten even the bats and make them keep to their caves. Never in my whole life have I seen or heard such fiery lightning, such bursts of horrible thunder, and such groans of roaring wind and rain. Human nature cannot bear all this danger and fear.

LEAR

Let the great gods That keep this dreadful pudder o'er our heads Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch That hast within thee undivulgèd crimes Unwhipped of justice. Hide thee, thou bloody hand, Thou perjured, and thou simular man of virtue That art incestuous. Caitiff, to pieces shake, That under covert and convenient seeming Hast practiced on man’s life. Close pent-up guilts, Rive your concealing continents and cry These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man More sinned against than sinning.

LEAR

May the great gods who stirred up this commotion in the sky find and crush their enemies tonight. Tremble in fear, you wretched people who have committed secret crimes and gone unpunished by justice. Hide yourselves, you bloody-handed murderers, you perjurers, you men who seem to be virtuous but really practice incest. Tremble until you fall to pieces, you villains who have plotted against human lives in secret. Let all your secret, pent-up guilts burst from their hiding places, and beg for mercy from the dreadful gods who summoned such a storm. I am a man who has been sinned against more than he has sinned.

KENT

Alack, bareheaded? Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel. Some friendship will it lend you 'gainst the tempest. Repose you there, while I to this hard house— More harder than the stones whereof ’tis raised, Which even but now, demanding after you, Denied me to come in—return, and force Their scanted courtesy.

KENT

Alas, you're not even wearing a hat or hood? My gracious lord, there is a cow shed nearby. It will lend you some protection from this storm. Go there and rest, while I ask for help at the house where your heartless daughters are staying—those daughters who are more heartless than the stones the house is made of. Just now I went there and asked about you, but they wouldn't let me in. But now I'll return and force them to be courteous.

LEAR

My wits begin to turn.— [to FOOL] Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?Iam cold myself. [to KENT] Where is this straw, my fellow? The art of our necessities is strange That can make vile things precious. Come, your hovel. Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart That’s sorry yet for thee.

LEAR

I begin to see things differently. 

[To the FOOL] Come on, my boy. How are you, my boy? Are you cold? I am cold myself. 

[To KENT] Where is this cow shed you spoke of, my fellow? It's strange how in a time of need even a worthless thing can become precious. Come, bring me to this shed. My poor fool, part of my heart still feels sorry for you.

FOOL

[sings] He that has and a little tiny wit— With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain— Must make content with his fortunes fit, For the rain it raineth every day.

FOOL

[Singing]
The man with even a tiny bit of wit—
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain—
Must learn to take what he can get,
For the rain it rains every day.

LEAR

True, my good boy.—Come, bring us to this hovel.

LEAR

True, my good boy. Come, bring us to this cow shed.

Exeunt LEAR and KENT

FOOL

This is a brave night to cool a courtesan. I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go. When priests are more in word than matter, When brewers mar their malt with water, When nobles are their tailors' tutors, No heretics burned but wenches' suitors, When every case in law is right, No squire in debt nor no poor knight, When slanders do not live in tongues, Nor cutpurses come not to throngs, When usurers tell their gold i' th' field, And bawds and whores do churches build— Then shall the realm of Albion Come to great confusion. Then comes the time, who lives to see ’t, That going shall be used with feet. This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.

FOOL

Such a night would cool even a prostitute's hot lust. I'll deliver a prophecy before I go: when priests don't practice what they preach; when brewers dilute their beer with water; when noblemen follow fashion more closely than their tailors do; when the only heretics being burned are faithless lovers, who burn with venereal disease; when every law case is just; when no servants or knights are in debt; when tongues don't slander each other, and pickpockets don't steal from crowds; when moneylenders have nothing to hide; and pimps and whores build churches—then the kingdom of England will come to ruin. Then those who live to see that day will stroll around on foot. This is a prophecy Merlin will make, because I live before his time.

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.