Act 1, Scene 2
The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.
- Enter Edmund the Bastard with a letter.
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- Thou, Nature, art my goddess, to thy law
- My services are bound. Wherefore should I
- Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
- The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
- For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
- Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base?
- When my dimensions are as well-compact,
- My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
- As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
- With base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base, base?
- Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
- More composition, and fierce quality,
- Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
- Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops,
- Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,
- Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
- Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
- As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, “legitimate”!
- Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
- And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
- Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper:
- Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
- Enter Gloucester.
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- Kent banish’d thus? And France in choler parted?
- And the King gone tonight? Prescrib’d his pow’r,
- Confin’d to exhibition? All this done
- Upon the gad? Edmund, how now? What news?
- So please your lordship, none.
- Putting up the letter.
- Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
- I know no news, my lord.
- What paper were you reading?
- Nothing, my lord.
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- No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of it into your
- pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide
- itself. Let’s see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need
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- I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my
- brother that I have not all o’er-read; and for so much as I
- have perus’d, I find it not fit for your o’erlooking.
- Give me the letter, sir.
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- I shall offend either to detain or give it: the contents, as
- in part I understand them, are to blame.
- Let’s see, let’s see.
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- I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as
- an essay or taste of my virtue.
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- “This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to
- the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till our
- oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond
- bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways, not as
- it hath power, but as it is suffer’d. Come to me, that of
- this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I
- wak’d him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever, and
- live the belov’d of your brother. Edgar.”
- Hum? Conspiracy?
- “Sleep till I wake him, you should enjoy half his revenue.”
- My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? A heart and brain
- to breed it in?—When came you to this? Who brought it?
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- It was not brought me, my lord; there’s the cunning of it. I
- found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
- You know the character to be your brother’s?
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- If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his;
- but in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
- It is his.
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- It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is not in the
- Has he never before sounded you in this business?
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- Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be
- fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declin’d, the
- father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his
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- O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter. Abhorred
- villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! Worse than
- brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I’ll apprehend him.
- Abominable villain! Where is he?
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- I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to
- suspend your indignation against my brother till you can
- derive from him better testimony of his intent, you should
- run a certain course; where, if you violently proceed
- against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great
- gap in your own honor and shake in pieces the heart of his
- obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath
- writ this to feel my affection to your honor, and to no
- other pretense of danger.
- Think you so?
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- If your honor judge it meet, I will place you where you
- shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance
- have your satisfaction, and that without any further delay
- than this very evening.
- He cannot be such a monster—
- Nor is not, sure.
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- To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him.
- Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I
- pray you. Frame the business after your own wisdom. I would
- unstate myself to be in a due resolution.
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- I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as I
- shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
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- These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to
- us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus,
- yet nature finds itself scourg’d by the sequent effects.
- Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
- cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces,
- treason; and the bond crack’d ’twixt son and father. This
- villain of mine comes under the prediction; there’s son
- against father: the King falls from bias of nature; there’s
- father against child. We have seen the best of our time.
- Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous
- disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this
- villain, Edmund, it shall lose thee nothing, do it
- carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banish’d! His
- offense, honesty! ’Tis strange.
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- This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are
- sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behavior—we
- make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars,
- as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly
- compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical
- predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an
- enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we
- are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion
- of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the
- charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under
- the Dragon’s tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so
- that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should
- have been that I am, had the maidenl’est star in the
- firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar—
- Enter Edgar.
- Pat! He comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue
- is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam.—O,
- these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.
- Humming these notes.
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- How now, brother Edmund, what serious contemplation are you
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- I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other
- day, what should follow these eclipses.
- Do you busy yourself with that?
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- I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily,
- as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent, death,
- dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities, divisions in state,
- menaces and maledictions against king and nobles, needless
- diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
- nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
- How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
- Come, come, when saw you my father last?
- The night gone by.
- Spake you with him?
- Ay, two hours together.
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- Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by
- word nor countenance?
- None at all.
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- Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him; and at
- my entreaty forbear his presence until some little time hath
- qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant
- so rageth in him, that with the mischief of your person it
- would scarcely allay.
- Some villain hath done me wrong.
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- That’s my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till
- the speed of his rage goes slower; and as I say, retire with
- me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear
- my lord speak. Pray ye go, there’s my key. If you do stir
- abroad, go arm’d.
- Arm’d, brother?
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- Brother, I advise you to the best; I am no honest man if
- there be any good meaning toward you. I have told you what I
- have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image and
- horror of it. Pray you away.
- Shall I hear from you anon?
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- I do serve you in this business.
- Exit Edgar.
- A credulous father and a brother noble,
- Whose nature is so far from doing harms
- That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
- My practices ride easy. I see the business.
- Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
- All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.