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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)

    1156.1[Scene 15] [Video Sc.15]
    Enter Messenger [alone]
    Now happily I am arrivèd here
    Before the stately palace of the Cambrian king.
    1160If Leir be here safe-seated and in rest,
    To rouse him from it I will do my best.
    Enter Ragan
    Now, bags of gold, your virtue is, no doubt,
    To make me in my message bold and stout. --
    The king of heaven preserve your majesty,
    1165And send your highness everlasting reign.
    Thanks, good my friend, but what imports thy message?
    Kind greetings from the Cornwall queen;
    The residue these letters will declare.
    She opens the letters.
    How fares our royal sister?
    I did leave her at my parting in good health.
    She reads the letter, frowns, and stamps.
    [Aside] See how her color comes and goes again,
    Now red as scarlet, now as pale as ash;
    1175See how she knits her brow, and bites her lips,
    And stamps, and makes a dumbshow of disdain
    Mixed with revenge and violent extremes.
    Here will be more work and more crowns for me.
    [Aside] Alas, poor soul, and hath he used her thus?
    1180And is he now come hither with intent
    To set divorce betwixt my lord and me?
    Doth he give out that he doth hear report
    That I do rule my husband as I list,
    And therefore means to alter so the case
    1185That I shall know my lord to be my head?
    Well, it were best for him to take good heed,
    Or I will make him hop without a head
    For his presumption, dotard that he is.
    In Cornwall he hath made such mutinies --
    1190First, setting of the king against the queen,
    Then stirring up the commons 'gainst the king --
    That had he there continued any longer,
    He had been called in question for his fact.
    So upon that occasion thence he fled,
    1195And comes thus slyly stealing unto us,
    And now already since his coming hither,
    My lord and he are grown in such a league
    That I can have no conference with his grace.
    I fear he doth already intimate
    1200Some forgèd cavillations 'gainst my state.
    'Tis therefore best to cut him off in time,
    Lest slanderous rumors, once abroad dispersed,
    It is too late for them to be reversed. --
    [To the Messenger] Friend, as the tenor of these letters shows,
    1205My sister puts great confidence in thee.
    She never yet committed trust to me
    But that, I hope, she found me always faithful.
    So will I be to any friend of hers
    That hath occasion to employ my help.
    Hast thou the heart to act a stratagem,
    And give a stab or two if need require?
    I have a heart compact of adamant
    Which never knew what melting pity meant.
    I weigh no more the murd'ring of a man
    1215Than I respect the cracking of a flea
    When I do catch her biting on my skin.
    If you will have your husband or your father
    Or both of them sent to another world,
    Do but command me do't: it shall be done.
    It is enough; we make no doubt of thee.
    Meet us tomorrow, here, at nine o'clock.
    Meanwhile, farewell,
    [She gives him a purse.]
    and drink that for my sake.
    Exit [Ragan].
    Ay, this is it will make me do the deed.
    Oh, had I every day such customers,
    1225This were the gainful'st trade in Christendom!
    A purse of gold giv'n for a paltry stab!
    Why, here's a wench that longs to have a stab.
    Well, I could give it her, and ne'er hurt her neither.
    [Exit Messenger.]