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King Lear

King Lear Translation Act 4, Scene 2

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Enter GONERIL and EDMUND the bastard

GONERIL

Welcome, my lord. I marvel our mild husbandNot met us on the way.

GONERIL

Welcome, my lord. I'm surprised that my bland husband hasn't met us on the way.

Enter OSWALD

Now, where’s your master?

[To OSWALD] Now, where's your master?

OSWALD

Madam, within—but never man so changed. I told him of the army that was landed. He smiled at it. I told him you were coming. His answer was “The worse.” Of Gloucester’s treachery And of the loyal service of his son, When I informed him, then he called me “sot,” And told me I had turned the wrong side out. What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him; What like, offensive.

OSWALD

He's inside, madam. But you've never seen a man so changed. I told him that the French army had landed, and he smiled at the news. I told him that you were coming, and he answered with "too bad." When I told him about Gloucester's treachery and his son Edmund's loyal service, he called me "fool," and told me I had it backwards. The things he ought to dislike seem pleasant to him, and what should be good news offends him.

GONERIL

[to EDMUND ] Then shall you go no further. It is the cowish terror of his spirit That dares not undertake. He’ll not feel wrongs Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother. Hasten his musters and conduct his powers. I must change names at home, and give the distaff Into my husband’s hands. This trusty servant Shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear— If you dare venture in your own behalf— A mistress’s command. Wear this. Spare speech. Decline your head. This kiss, if it durst speak, Would stretch thy spirits up into the air. [kisses EDMUND] Conceive, and fare thee well.

GONERIL

[To EDMUND] Then you shouldn't come any further. It's my husband's cowardly terror that keeps him from taking risks. He'll ignore insults that should require him to retaliate. But what you and I talked about on the way here—our desire for each other—may soon be realized. Edmund, go back to my brother-in-law Cornwall. Help gather his troops and lead his armies. When I get home I will change roles with Albany, and thus make my husband play the housewife. This trusty servant Oswald can carry messages between us. If you trust yourself to ask, you will soon be likely to hear my command as both Duchess and as your lover. Wear this for me. [She gives him a favor] Don't speak. Bend down to me. If this kiss could speak, it would encourage you to do great things. [She kisses EDMUND] I hope you understand. Farewell.

EDMUND

Yours in the ranks of death.

EDMUND

I'm your servant until death.

GONERIL

My most dear Gloucester!

GONERIL

My dearest Gloucester!

Exit EDMUND

Oh, the difference of man and man!To thee a woman’s services are due.My fool usurps my body.

Oh, how different two men can be! You deserve my services as a woman, Edmund. My foolish husband still thinks he possesses me.

OSWALD

Madam, here comes my lord.

OSWALD

Madam, here comes my lord.

Exit OSWALD

Enter ALBANY

GONERIL

I have been worth the whistle.

GONERIL

So I'm finally worth your time.

ALBANY

O Goneril, You are not worth the dust which the rude wind Blows in your face. I fear your disposition. That nature, which contemns its origin Cannot be bordered certain in itself. She that herself will sliver and disbranch From her material sap perforce must wither And come to deadly use.

ALBANY

Oh Goneril, you aren't worth the dust that the rude wind blows in your face. I fear your nature. I can't trust anyone who condemns her own father. A woman who cuts herself off from her family is like a branch that tries to break away from the tree that gave it life—she must wither and come to ruin.

GONERIL

No more. The text is foolish.

GONERIL

No more of that. Your sermon is stupid.

ALBANY

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile. Filths savor but themselves. What have you done? Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed? A father, and a gracious agèd man, Whose reverence even the head-lugged bear would lick, Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded. Could my good brother suffer you to do it— A man, a prince by him so benefited? If that the heavens do not their visible spirits Send quickly down to tame these vile offenses, It will come: Humanity must perforce prey on itself Like monsters of the deep.

ALBANY

Wisdom and goodness seem vile to vile people. To the filthy everything seems filthy. What have you done? You two tigers—not daughters—what wicked deeds have you done? You barbarous degenerates, you've driven your father crazy. He once was a gracious old man whom even an angry bear would respect. How could my good brother-in-law allow you to do it, when he himself was given his power by the king? If the heavens don't send down avenging angels to punish these terrible crimes, then the end will come: humanity must turn on itself, all of us destroying each other like monsters from the deep.

GONERIL

Milk-livered man That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs— Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning Thine honor from thy suffering; that not know’st Fools do those villains pity who are punished Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy drum? France spreads his banners in our noiseless land, With plumèd helm thy state begins to threat, Whiles thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries, “Alack, why does he so?”

GONERIL

You cowardly man, you always turn the other cheek and let abuse rain down on your head. You can't tell the difference between restraining yourself and being taken advantage of. You don't realize that only fools pity villains like Gloucester, whom we punish before they can commit their crimes. Where's your war drum? The King of France spreads his banners in our peaceful country and your kingdom is at risk of war. But all you do is sit here, you moralizing fool, and complain, "Alas, why is he doing that?"

ALBANY

See thyself, devil!Proper deformity shows not in the fiendSo horrid as in woman.

ALBANY

Look at yourself, devil! Moral deformity is expected in devils, so it doesn't seem as horrible in them as it does when it appears in a woman.

GONERIL

O vain fool!

GONERIL

Oh useless fool!

ALBANY

Thou changèd and self-covered thing, for shame! Bemonster not thy feature. Were ’t my fitness To let these hands obey my blood, They are apt enough to dislocate and tear Thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend, A woman’s shape doth shield thee.

ALBANY

Shame on you, you warped and false creature! Don't make faces at me and express your inner monstrous nature. If I could allow my hands to do what my heart desires, I would rip you in two. But even if you are a devil, I won't hurt a woman.

GONERIL

Marry, your manhood, mew!

GONERIL

What a man you are, meowing like a kitten!

Enter FIRST MESSENGER

ALBANY

What news?

ALBANY

What's the news?

FIRST MESSENGER

O my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead,Slain by his servant, going to put outThe other eye of Gloucester.

FIRST MESSENGER

Oh, my lord, the Duke of Cornwall's dead. He was killed by his servant as he was about to gouge out Gloucester's other eye.

ALBANY

Gloucester’s eyes?

ALBANY

Gloucester's eyes?

FIRST MESSENGER

A servant that he bred, thrilled with remorse, Opposed against the act, bending his sword To his great master; who thereat enraged Flew on him and amongst them felled him dead— But not without that harmful stroke, which since Hath plucked him after.

FIRST MESSENGER

A servant of his own house was moved by pity to oppose Cornwall's actions. He drew his sword against his great master, who became enraged and attacked and killed the servant—but not before he had received the wound that killed him afterward.

ALBANY

This shows you are above, You justicers, that these our nether crimes So speedily can venge! But oh, poor Gloucester— Lost he his other eye?

ALBANY

This shows that there is justice in heaven. It's proved by the fact that these earthly crimes are punished so quickly! But oh, poor Gloucester. Did he lose his other eye?

FIRST MESSENGER

Both, both, my lord.—This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer.'Tis from your sister.

FIRST MESSENGER

Both, both, my lord. 

[To GONERIL] This letter, madam, demands an immediate answer. It's from your sister.

GONERIL

[aside] One way I like this well. But being widow, and my Gloucester with her, May all the building in my fancy pluck Upon my hateful life. Another way The news is not so tart.— I’ll read and answer.

GONERIL

[To herself] In a way I'm glad that Cornwall's dead. But now that Regan is a widow, and my Edmund is with her, then Edmund might choose her over me. Then all my fantasies will crumble and I'll have to continue this hateful life. But in another way, the news is not so tragic. 

[To FIRST MESSENGER and ALBANY] I'll go read the letter and answer it.

Exit GONERIL

ALBANY

Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

ALBANY

Where was Gloucester's son Edmund when they took out his father's eyes?

FIRST MESSENGER

Come with my lady hither.

FIRST MESSENGER

He was riding here with my lady.

ALBANY

He is not here.

ALBANY

But he's not here.

FIRST MESSENGER

No, my good lord. I met him back again.

FIRST MESSENGER

No, my good lord. I met him on his way back.

ALBANY

Knows he the wickedness?

ALBANY

Does he know about all this wickedness?

FIRST MESSENGER

Ay, my good lord. 'Twas he informed against him, And quit the house on purpose that their punishmentMight have the freer course.

FIRST MESSENGER

Yes, my lord. He was the one who informed against his father, and left the house so that they could punish Gloucester fully without worrying about Edmund's feelings.

ALBANY

Gloucester, I live To thank thee for the love thou showed’st the king, And to revenge thine eyes.— Come hither, friend. Tell me what more thou know’st.

ALBANY

Gloucester, I will live to thank you for the love you showed the king, and I'll avenge your eyes.

[To FIRST MESSENGER] Come here, friend. Tell me what else you know.

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.