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King Lear

King Lear Translation Act 4, Scene 1

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Enter EDGAR diguised

EDGAR

Yet better thus, and known to be contemned, Than still contemned and flattered. To be worst, The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear. The lamentable change is from the best; The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then, Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace! The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst Owes nothing to thy blasts.

EDGAR

I'm still better off like this—as a beggar who is openly hated—than when I was a nobleman who was flattered to my face and hated in secret. Even the worst, lowliest, and most dejected creatures still have a little hope for better things, and live without fear of getting worse. The worst kind of change is when good luck goes bad—but such a change can make us laugh at fortune's tricks. I welcome, then, these winds of change and freedom! I've hit the bottom, so I have nothing more to fear from bad luck.

Enter GLOUCESTER led by an OLD MAN

But who comes here? My father, poorly led? World, world, O world! But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, Life would not yield to age.

But who's that coming? My father, accompanied only by one poor peasant? Oh world, world, world! If the strange twists of fortune didn't make life hateful, we would never age and die.

OLD MAN

[to GLOUCESTER] O my good lord,I have been your tenant and your father’s tenant these fourscore years.

OLD MAN

[To GLOUCESTER] Oh, my good lord, I have been your tenant and your father's tenant for these last eighty years.

GLOUCESTER

Away, get thee away. Good friend, be gone.Thy comforts can do me no good at all.Thee they may hurt.

GLOUCESTER

Away, go away. Leave me, good friend. Your help can't do me any good, and it might put you in danger.

OLD MAN

Alack, sir, you cannot see your way.

OLD MAN

But you cannot see where you're going, sir.

GLOUCESTER

I have no way, and therefore want no eyes. I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen, Our means secure us and our mere defects Prove our commodities. O dear son Edgar, The food of thy abusèd father’s wrath, Might I but live to see thee in my touch, I’d say I had eyes again!

GLOUCESTER

I have nowhere to go, so I don't need eyes to see my path. And even when I could see, I followed the wrong path. It's often the case that when we are prosperous we get overconfident. But being deprived of something teaches us humility and is actually beneficial. Oh my dear son Edgar, the object of your deceived father's anger, if I might live to touch your face again, that would be as good as getting my eyes back!

OLD MAN

How now? Who’s there?

OLD MAN

What's that? Who's there?

EDGAR

[aside] O gods! Who is ’t can say “I am at the worst?”I am worse than e'er I was.

EDGAR

[To himself] Oh gods! Who can ever say, "It can't get any worse?" I'm worse off now than I ever was before.

OLD MAN

[to GLOUCESTER] 'Tis poor mad Tom.

OLD MAN

[To GLOUCESTER] It's poor crazy Tom.

EDGAR

[aside] And worse I may be yet. The worst is notSo long as we can say “This is the worst.”

EDGAR

[To himself] And things might get worse still. As long as we are able to say "this is the worst," then it's not the worst yet.

OLD MAN

[to EDGAR] Fellow, where goest?

OLD MAN

[To EDGAR] Where are you going, fellow?

GLOUCESTER

Is it a beggarman?

GLOUCESTER

Is it a beggar?

OLD MAN

Madman and beggar too.

OLD MAN

He's both a madman and a beggar.

GLOUCESTER

He has some reason, else he could not beg. I' th' last night’s storm I such a fellow saw, Which made me think a man a worm. My son Came then into my mind, and yet my mind Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since. As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods. They kill us for their sport.

GLOUCESTER

He must still have some sanity, or else he couldn't beg. I saw a man like that in last night's storm, and he made me think of how insignificant humans are. He reminded me of my son, though at the time my son was my enemy. Now I know better. To the gods, we are like flies killed for fun by undisciplined boys.

EDGAR

[aside] How should this be?Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow, Angering itself and others.—Bless thee, master!

EDGAR

[To himself] How can this be? It's a bad business to have to keep playing the fool in the face of my father's sorrow. I'm only distressing myself and him. 

[To GLOUCESTER] Bless you, master!

GLOUCESTER

Is that the naked fellow?

GLOUCESTER

Is that the naked fellow?

OLD MAN

Ay, my lord.

OLD MAN

Yes, my lord.

GLOUCESTER

Then prithee, get thee gone. If for my sake Thou wilt o'ertake us hence a mile or twain I' th' way toward Dover, do it for ancient love. And bring some covering for this naked soul, Which I’ll entreat to lead me.

GLOUCESTER

Then please go. If you're willing to do me a favor—for the sake of our long and loyal relationship—then catch up with us a mile or two down the road towards Dover. And bring some clothes for this naked beggar. I'll ask him to lead me.

OLD MAN

Alack, sir, he is mad.

OLD MAN

But alas, sir, he's crazy.

GLOUCESTER

'Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.Do as I bid thee. Or rather, do thy pleasure.Above the rest, be gone.

GLOUCESTER

It's the sickness of our times that madmen must lead the blind. Do as I tell you. Or rather, do whatever you want. But above all, leave this place.

OLD MAN

I’ll bring him the best 'parel that I have,Come on ’t what will.

OLD MAN

I'll bring him the best clothes that I have, come what may.

Exit OLD MAN

GLOUCESTER

Sirrah, naked fellow—

GLOUCESTER

Sir, naked fellow—

EDGAR

Poor Tom’s a-cold. [aside] I cannot daub it further.

EDGAR

Poor Tom's cold. 

[To himself] I can't continue this charade.

GLOUCESTER

Come hither, fellow.

GLOUCESTER

Come here, man.

EDGAR

[aside] And yet I must.—Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed.

EDGAR

[To himself] And yet I must. 

[To GLOUCESTER] Bless your sweet eyes. They're bleeding.

GLOUCESTER

Know’st thou the way to Dover?

GLOUCESTER

Do you know the way to Dover?

EDGAR

Both stile and gate, horseway and footpath. Poor Tom hath been scared out of his good wits. Bless thee, goodman’s son, from the foul fiend! Five fiends have been in poor Tom at once: of lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididence, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of stealing; Modo, of murder; Flibbertigibbet, of mopping and mowing,who since possesses chambermaids and waiting-women. So bless thee, master.

EDGAR

I know every step of the way—post and gate, horse path and footpath. Poor Tom has been scared out of his wits. Bless you, friend, and avoid the devil! Five devils have possessed poor Tom all at once: Obidicut, the devil of lust; Hobbididence, the devil of muteness; Mahu, the devil of stealing; Modo, the devil of murder; and Flibbertigibbet, the devil of making mocking faces, who possesses many chambermaids and serving ladies lately. So bless you, master.

GLOUCESTER

[Giving EDGAR a purse] Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues Have humbled to all strokes. That I am wretched Makes thee the happier. Heavens, deal so still. Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly. So distribution should undo excess, And each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?

GLOUCESTER

[Giving EDGAR a purse] Here, take this purse, you who have been humbled by all the plagues of heaven. My misery makes yours seem less wretched. God, let it always be this way. Let the spoiled and gluttonous man—who makes the laws serve his own desires, and won't see the misery around him because he doesn't feel it himself—let him feel your anger, you gods. The even distribution of wealth should rid us of excess luxuries, and then each man might have enough to live. Do you know Dover?

EDGAR

Ay, master.

EDGAR

Yes, master.

GLOUCESTER

There is a cliff, whose high and bending head Looks fearfully in the confinèd deep. Bring me but to the very brim of it, And I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear With something rich about me. From that place I shall no leading need.

GLOUCESTER

There is a cliff there, whose high and bending head leans precariously over the deep sea. Bring me to the very edge of it, and I'll repay you for your troubles with something valuable on my person. Once I'm there I won't need to be led anymore.

EDGAR

Give me thy arm.Poor Tom shall lead thee.

EDGAR

Give me your arm. Poor Tom will lead you.

Exeunt

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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.