King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 4

page Act 1 Scene 4 Page 9

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FOOL

I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o' thing than a fool. And yet I would not be thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides and left nothing i' th' middle. Here comes one o' the parings.

FOOL

I’m amazed how similar you and your daughters are. They want to whip me for telling the truth, you want to whip me for lying, and sometimes I’m even whipped for keeping quiet. I’d rather be anything besides a fool. And yet I wouldn’t want to be you, uncle. When you gave away pieces of your kingdom, it’s as if you cut off pieces on both sides of your brain and left nothing in the middle. Here comes the owner of one piece.
Enter GONERIL
GONERIL enters.

LEAR

How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on?
175Methinks you are too much of late i' th' frown.

LEAR

What’s going on, daughter? Why are you frowning like that? I think you’ve been frowning too much recently.

FOOL

(to LEAR) Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning. Now thou art an O without a figure. I am better than thou art now. I am a fool. Thou art nothing.
(to GONERIL) Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue. So your face bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum,
He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
Weary of all, shall want some.
(indicates LEAR) That’s a shelled peascod.

FOOL

(to LEAR) You were better off when you didn’t have to care whether she frowned or not. Now you’re a big zero, with no digit in front of it to give it value. I’m better than you are—I’m a fool and you’re nothing.
(to GONERIL) Yes, I promise I’ll shut up. That’s what you’re telling me with that expression on your face, even though you don’t say anything. Mum, mum,
The man who gives away his crust and his crumbs
Will discover that he needs some crumbs back.
(pointing at LEAR) That guy is an empty pea pod.

GONERIL

(to LEAR) Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be-endurèd riots. Sir,
190I had thought by making this well known unto you
To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful
By what yourself too late have spoke and done
That you protect this course and put it on
By your allowance—which if you should, the fault
195Would not ’scape censure, nor the redresses sleep
Which in the tender of a wholesome weal
Might in their working do you that offense,

GONERIL

(to LEAR) It’s not just your fool here who can say whatever he wants, but your whole obnoxious entourage keeps whining and arguing, bursting out in intolerably vicious riots. Sir, I thought you could put an end to all this if I told you about it. But judging by what you’ve said and done recently, I’m worried that you don’t mind this chaos, and even approve of it. If that’s true, it’s shameful. I realize that restraining your knights