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  • Enter EDMUND, 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,
    For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
    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 the 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 the legitimate: fine word,--legitimate!
    Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
    And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
    Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
    Now, gods, stand up for bastards!


  • Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
    And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
    Confined 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Give me the letter, sir.

  • 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.

  • I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote
    this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

  • 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, 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?

  • 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?

  • 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 hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is
    not in the contents.

  • Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?

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

  • 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?

  • 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, 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 further
    pretence of danger.

  • 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 without any further delay than this very evening.

  • He cannot be such a monster--

  • Nor is not, sure.

  • 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.

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

  • 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; 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:
    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 banished! his
    offence, honesty! 'Tis strange.

  • 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, thieves, and
    treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards,
    liars, and adulterers, by an enforced 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 to 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 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.

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

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

  • Do you busy yourself about that?

  • 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?

  • Why, the night gone by.

  • Spake you with him?

  • Ay, two hours together.

  • Parted you in good terms? Found you no
    displeasure in him by word or countenance?

  • 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 with the mischief of your person it
    would scarcely allay.

  • Some villain hath done me wrong.

  • That's my fear. I pray you, have a continent
    forbearance till the spied 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.

  • Armed, brother!

  • 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.

  • Shall I hear from you anon?

  • 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 practises 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.