ACT 1, SCENE 2: The Earl of Gloucester's castle.

Enter EDMUND, with a letter.

EDMUND: 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                         [5]
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?                             [10]
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well, then,                                            [15]
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,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base                                      [20]
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Enter GLOUCESTER.

GLOUCESTER: Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
Confined to exhibition! All this done                                                  [25]
Upon the gad! Edmund, how now! what news?

EDMUND: So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter.]

GLOUCESTER: Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

EDMUND: I know no news, my lord.

GLOUCESTER: What paper were you reading?                                              [30]

EDMUND: Nothing, my lord.

GLOUCESTER: 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 spectacles.                                                 [35]

EDMUND: 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 perused, I find it not fit for your
o'er-looking.

GLOUCESTER: Give me the letter, sir.                                                             [40]

EDMUND: I shall offend, either to detain or give it.
The contents, as in part I understand them, are to
blame.

GLOUCESTER: Let's see, let's see.

EDMUND: I hope, for my brother's justification, he                                     [45]
wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

GLOUCESTER: [Reads] '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                       [50]
in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as
it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that
of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till
I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for
ever, and live the beloved of your brother,                                         [55]
EDGAR.'
Hum--conspiracy!--'Sleep till I waked 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 this to you? who brought it?                                [60]

EDMUND: It was not brought me, my lord; there's the
cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the casement of
my closet.

GLOUCESTER: You know the character to be your
brother's?                                                                                                     [65]

EDMUND: 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.

GLOUCESTER: It is his.

EDMUND: It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his                                          [70]
heart is not in the contents.

GLOUCESTER: Hath he never heretofore sounded you in
this business?

EDMUND: Never, my lord: but I have heard him oft
maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age, and                               [75]
fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the
son, and the son manage his revenue.

GLOUCESTER: O villain, villain! His very opinion in
the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brut-
ish villain! worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him;                    [80]
I'll apprehend him: abominable villain! Where is he?

EDMUND: 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 shall run a certain course; where,                          [85]
if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his
purpose, it would make a great gap in your own
honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I
dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath wrote
this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no                           [90]
further pretence of danger.

GLOUCESTER: Think you so?

EDMUND: If your honour 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                         [95]
without any further delay than this very evening.

GLOUCESTER: He cannot be such a monster--

EDMUND: Nor is not, sure.

GLOUCESTER: To his father, that so tenderly and en-
tirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek                        [100]
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.

EDMUND: I will seek him, sir, presently: convey the
business as I shall find means and acquaint you withal.                  [105]

GLOUCESTER: 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 scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies;                  [110]
in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond
cracked '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: machina-                       [115]
tions, 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
banished! his offence, honesty! 'Tis strange.                                      [120]
[Exit.]

EDMUND: This is the excellent foppery of the world,
that, when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit
of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our disasters
the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by
necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves,                             [125]
thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance;
drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedi-
ence 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 to                          [130]
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. Tut, I should have been that I am,
had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled                        [135]
on my bastardizing. Edgar--
Enter EDGAR.
and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh
like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend
these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.                                                                [140]

EDGAR: How now, brother Edmund! what serious
contemplation are you in?

EDMUND: I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I
read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

EDGAR: Do you busy yourself about that?                                                       [145]

EDMUND: I promise you, the effects he writes of suc-
ceed 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 diffi-                        [150]
dences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

EDGAR: How long have you been a sectary astronomi-
cal?

EDMUND: Come, come; when saw you my father last?                              [155]

EDGAR: Why, the night gone by.

EDMUND: Spake you with him?

EDGAR: Ay, two hours together.

EDMUND: Parted you in good terms? Found you no
displeasure in him by word or countenance?                                     [160]

EDGAR: None at all.

EDMUND: Bethink yourself wherein you may have
offended him: and at my entreaty forbear his presence
till some little time hath qualified the heat of his
displeasure; which at this instant so rageth in him, that                  [165]
with the mischief of your person it would scarcely
allay.

EDGAR: Some villain hath done me wrong.

EDMUND: That's my fear. I pray you, have a
continent forbearance till the speed of his rage goes                          [170]
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 armed.

EDGAR: Armed, brother!                                                                                     [175]

EDMUND: Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed:
I am no honest man if there be any good meaning
towards you: I have told you what I have seen and
heard; but faintly, nothing like the image and horror
of it: pray you, away.                                                                                 [180]

EDGAR: Shall I hear from you anon?

EDMUND: 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                            [185]
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.

[Exit.]


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