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Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 1

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Enter EDMUND the bastard, with a letter
EDMUND enters with a letter.


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
5For 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
10With “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, tirèd bed
Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops
15Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate.—Fine word, “legitimate”!—
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
20And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!


I only worship what’s natural, not what’s manmade. Why should I let myself be tortured by manmade social customs that deprive me of my rights simply because I was born twelve or fourteen months later than my older brother? Why do they call me “bastard” and “lowlife” when I’m just as gifted in mind and body as legitimate children? Why do they call us bastards “lowlifes”? Always “lowlife,” “bastard,” “lowlife,” “lowlife.” At least we bastards were conceived in a moment of passionate lust rather than in a dull, tired marriage bed, where half-sleeping parents monotonously churn out a bunch of sissy kids. All right then, legitimate brother Edgar, I have to have your lands. Our father loves me just as much as the legitimate Edgar. What a nice word that is, “legitimate”! Well, my legitimate Edgar, if this letter works and my plan succeeds, Edmund the lowlife will beat the legitimate. Look out, I’m on my way up. Three cheers for bastards!
Enter GLOUCESTER EDMUND looks over his letter
GLOUCESTER enters. EDMUND looks over his letter.


Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?
And the king gone tonight, prescribed his power
25Confined to exhibition? All this done
Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?


Kent’s been banished just like that? And the King of France gone in a huff? And King Lear’s abdicated his authority, making his kingship a ceremonial title only? All this so suddenly?—Edmund, what’s going on? What’s the news?