A line-by-line translation

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

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GLOUCESTER

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

GLOUCESTER

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OLD MAN

Alack, sir, you cannot see your way.

OLD MAN

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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

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OLD MAN

How now? Who’s there?

OLD MAN

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EDGAR

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

EDGAR

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OLD MAN

[to GLOUCESTER] 'Tis poor mad Tom.

OLD MAN

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EDGAR

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

EDGAR

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OLD MAN

[to EDGAR] Fellow, where goest?

OLD MAN

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GLOUCESTER

Is it a beggarman?

GLOUCESTER

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OLD MAN

Madman and beggar too.

OLD MAN

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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

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EDGAR

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

EDGAR

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GLOUCESTER

Is that the naked fellow?

GLOUCESTER

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OLD MAN

Ay, my lord.

OLD MAN

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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

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OLD MAN

Alack, sir, he is mad.

OLD MAN

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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

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OLD MAN

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

OLD MAN

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Exit OLD MAN

GLOUCESTER

Sirrah, naked fellow—

GLOUCESTER

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EDGAR

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

EDGAR

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GLOUCESTER

Come hither, fellow.

GLOUCESTER

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EDGAR

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

EDGAR

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GLOUCESTER

Know’st thou the way to Dover?

GLOUCESTER

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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

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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

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EDGAR

Ay, master.

EDGAR

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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

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EDGAR

Give me thy arm.Poor Tom shall lead thee.

EDGAR

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Exeunt

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.