Scene II

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 banished thus! and France in choler parted!
And the king gone tonight! subscribed his power!(25)
Confined to exhibition! All this done
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?(30)
EDMUND:
I know no news, my lord.
GLOUCESTER:
What paper were you reading?
EDMUND:
Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER:
No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of
it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such(35)
need to hide itself. Let's see: come, if it be nothing, I shall
not need spectacles.
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.(40)
GLOUCESTER:
Give me the letter, sir.
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 wrote this(45)
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 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 half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, 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?


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.(60)
GLOUCESTER:
You know the character to be your brother's?
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 heart is not in the contents.(65)
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 fathers declining, the(70)
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, brutish villain! worse
than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I'll apprehend him:(75)
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, if you violently proceed against him,(80)
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 wrote this to
feel my affection to your honor, and to no further pretense
of danger.(85)
GLOUCESTER:
Think you so?
EDMUND:
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.(90)
GLOUCESTER:
He cannot be such a monster—
EDMUND:
Nor is not, sure.
GLOUCESTER:
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(95)
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.
GLOUCESTER:
These late eclipses in the sun and moon(100)
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; in countries, discord;
in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and(105)
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(110)
out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it
carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished!
his offense, honesty! 'Tis strange.
EDMUND:
This is the excellent foppery of the world,
that, when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit(115)
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,
thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance;
drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience(120)
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 the charge of a
star! My father compounded with my mother under the
dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa major;(125)
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 on my bastardizing. Edgar—

[Enter Edgar]

And pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old
comedy: my cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh(130)
like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend these
divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.
EDGAR:
How now, brother Edmund! what serious contemplation
are you in?
EDMUND:
I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other(135)
day, what should follow these eclipses.
EDGAR:
Do you busy yourself about that?
EDMUND:
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;(140)
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.
EDGAR:
How long have you been a sectary astronomical?(145)
EDMUND:
Come, come; when saw you my father last?
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(150)
him by word or countenance?
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(155)
this instant so rageth in him, that 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 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!
EDMUND:
Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed: I am no(165)
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.
EDGAR:
Shall I hear from you anon?
EDMUND:
I do serve you in this business.(170)

[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:(175)
All with me's meet that I can fashion fit.

[Exit Edmund.]