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  • Title: The History of King Leir (Modern)
  • Editor: Andrew Griffin

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Anonymous
    Editor: Andrew Griffin
    Peer Reviewed

    The History of King Leir (Modern)

    943.1[Scene 12] [Video Sc.12]
    Enter Cornwall, Gonorill, and attendants
    Ah, Gonorill, what dire unhappy chance
    Hath sequestered thy father from our presence
    That no report can yet be heard of him?
    Some great unkindness hath been offered him,
    Exceeding far the bounds of patience,
    950Else all the world shall never me persuade
    He would forsake us without notice made.
    Alas, my lord, whom doth it touch so near,
    Or who hath interest in this grief but I,
    Whom sorrow had brought to her longest home,
    955But that I know his qualities so well?
    I know he is but stol'n upon my sister
    At unawares to see her how she fares
    And spend a little time with her, to note
    How all things go and how she likes her choice;
    960And when occasion serves, he'll steal from her
    And unawares return to us again.
    Therefore, my lord, be frolic and resolve
    To see my father here again ere long.
    I hope so too, but yet to be more sure
    965I'll send a post immediately to know
    Whether he be arrivèd there or no.
    Exit [Cornwall with attendants].
    But I will intercept the messenger
    And temper him, before he doth depart,
    With sweet persuasions and with sound rewards,
    970That his report shall ratify my speech
    And make my lord cease further to inquire.
    If he be not gone to my sister's court,
    As sure my mind presageth that he is,
    He haply may, by travelling unknown ways,
    975Fall sick, and as a common passenger
    Be dead and buried. Would God it were so well,
    For then there were no more to do but this:
    "He went away, and none knows where he is."
    But say he be in Cambria with the king
    980And there exclaim against me, as he will;
    I know he is as welcome to my sister
    As water is into a broken ship.
    Well, after him I'll send such thunderclaps
    Of slander, scandal, and invented tales
    985That all the blame shall be removed from me
    And, unperceived, rebound upon himself.
    Thus with one nail another I'll expel,
    And make the world judge that I used him well.
    Enter the Messenger that should go to Cambria, 990 with a letter in his hand.
    My honest friend, whither away so fast?
    To Cambria, madam, with letters from the king.
    To whom?
    Unto your father, if he be there.
    Let me see them.
    She opens them.
    Madam, I hope your grace will stand between me and my neck-verse if I be called in question for opening the king's letters.
    'Twas I that opened them; it was not thou.
    Ay, but you need not care, and so must I, a handsome man, be quickly trussed up; and when a man's hanged, all the world cannot save him.
    He that hangs thee were better hang his father,
    Or that but hurts thee in the least degree.
    1005I tell thee, we make great account of thee.
    I am o'erjoyed; I surfeit of sweet words.
    Kind Queen, had I a hundred lives, I would
    Spend ninety-nine of them for you for that word.
    Ay, but thou wouldst keep one life still,
    1010And that's as many as thou art like to have.
    That one life is not too dear for my good queen: this sword, this buckler, this head, this heart, these hands, arms, legs, tripes, bowels, and all the members else whatsoever, are at your dispose. Use me, trust me, command me; if I fail in any1015thing, tie me to a dung cart and make a scavenger's horse of me, and whip me so long as I have any skin on my back.
    In token of further employment, take that.
    Flings him a purse.
    A strong bond, a firm obligation, good in law, good 1020in law. If I keep not the condition, let my neck be the forfeiture of my negligence.
    I like thee well; thou hast a good tongue.
    And as bad a tongue, if it be set on it, as any oysterwife at Billingsgate hath. Why, I have made many of my neighbors 1025forsake their houses with railing upon them, and go dwell elsewhere, and so, by my means, houses have been good cheap in our parish. My tongue being well whetted with choler is more sharp than a razor of Palermo.
    Oh, thou art a fit man for my purpose.
    Commend me not, sweet Queen, before you try me.
    As my deserts are, so do think of me.
    Well said. Then this is thy trial: instead of carrying the king's letters to my father, carry thou these letters to my sister, which contain matter quite contrary to the other. There 1035shall she be given to understand that my father hath detracted her, given out slanderous speeches against her, and that he hath most intolerably abused me, set my lord and me at variance, and made mutinies amongst the commons.
    These things -- although it be not so --
    1040Yet thou must affirm them to be true
    With oaths and protestations as will serve
    To drive my sister out of love with him
    And cause my will accomplishèd to be.
    This do, thou winn'st my favor forever,
    1045And makst a highway of preferment to thee
    And all thy friends.
    It sufficeth; conceit, it is already done. I will so tongue-whip him that I will leave him as bare of credit 1050as a poulter leaves a cony when she pulls off his skin.
    Yet there is a further matter.
    I thirst to hear it.
    If my sister thinketh convenient, as my letters importeth, to make him away, hast thou the heart to 1055effect it?
    Few words are best in so small a matter;
    These are but trifles. By this book I will.
    [He] kisse[s] the paper.
    About it presently; I long till it be done.
    I fly, I fly.