QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • 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)

    1430.1[Scene 19] [Video Sc.19]
    Enter Leir and Perillus
    My lord, you are up today before your hour.
    'Tis news to you to be abroad so rathe.
    'Tis news indeed; I am so extreme heavy,
    1435That I can scarcely keep my eyelids open.
    And so am I, but I impute the cause
    To rising sooner than we use to do.
    Hither my daughter means to come disguised;
    I'll sit me down and read until she come.
    1440[Leir] pulls out a book and sits down.
    She'll not be long, I warrant you, my lord,
    But say a couple of these they call good-fellows
    Should step out of a hedge and set upon us.
    We were in good case for to answer them.
    'Twere not for us to stand upon our hands.
    I fear we scant should stand upon our legs.
    But how should we do to defend ourselves?
    Even pray to God to bless us from their hands,
    For fervent prayer much ill hap withstands.
    I'll sit and pray with you for company;
    Yet was I ne'er so heavy in my life.
    They fall both asleep.
    Enter the Messenger, or murderer, with two daggers in his hands
    Were it not a mad jest if two or three of my profession should meet me and lay me down in a ditch and play rob-thief with me and perforce take my gold away from me whilst I act this stratagem, and by this means the gray-beards should escape? Faith, when I were at liberty again I would make no 1460more to do but go to the next tree and there hang myself.
    Sees them and starts
    But stay, methinks my youths are here already
    And with pure zeal have prayed themselves asleep.
    I think they know to what intent they came
    1465And are provided for another world.
    He takes their books away.
    Now could I stab them bravely, while they sleep,
    And in a manner put them to no pain,
    And doing so, I showed them mighty friendship,
    1470For fear of death is worse than death itself.
    But that my sweet queen willed me for to show
    This letter to them ere I did the deed.
    Mass, they begin to stir. I'll stand aside;
    So shall I come upon them unawares.
    1475They wake and rise.
    I marvel that my daughter stays so long.
    I fear we did mistake the place, my lord.
    God grant we don't miscarry in the place;
    I had a short nap, but so full of dread
    1480As much amazeth me to think thereof.
    Fear not, my lord: dreams are but fantasies
    And slight imaginations of the brain.
    [Aside] Persuade him so, but I'll make him and you
    Confess that dreams do often prove too true.
    I pray, my lord, what was the effect of it?
    I may go near to guess what it portends.
    [Aside] Leave that to me: I will expound the dream.
    Methought my daughters, Gonorill and Ragan,
    Stood both before me with such grim aspects,
    1490Each brandishing a falchion in their hands,
    Ready to lop a limb off where it fell,
    And in their other hands a naked poniard,
    Wherewith they stabbed me in a hundred places,
    And, to their thinking, left me there for dead;
    1495But then my youngest daughter, fair Cordella,
    Came with a box of balsam in her hand,
    And poured it into my bleeding wounds,
    By whose good means I was recovered well,
    In perfect health, as erst I was before;
    1500And with the fear of this I did awake,
    And yet for fear my feeble joints do quake.
    I'll make you quake for something presently.
    Stand, stand!
    They reel.
    We do, my friend, although with much ado.
    Deliver, deliver!
    Deliver us, good Lord, from such as he.
    You should have prayed before, while it was time,
    And then perhaps you might have 'scaped my hands;
    But you, like faithful watchmen, fell asleep
    1510The whilst I came and took your halberds from you
    [He]shows their books.
    And now you want your weapons of defence.
    How have you any hope to be delivered?
    This comes because you have no better stay
    1515But fall asleep when you should watch and pray.
    My friend, thou seemst to be a proper man.
    [Aside] 'Sblood, how the old slave claws me by the elbow?
    He thinks, belike, to 'scape by scraping thus.
    And, it may be, are in some need of money.
    That to be false, behold my evidence.
    [He]shows his purses.
    If that I have will do thee any good,
    I give it thee, even with a right good will.
    [Messenger] take[s] Leir's purse.
    Here, take mine too, and wish with all my heart,
    1525To do thee pleasure, it were twice as much.
    Takes [Perillus' purse], and weighs them both in his hands
    I'll none of them: they are too light for me.
    Puts them in his pocket
    Why then, farewell, an if thou have occasion
    1530In anything to use me to the queen,
    'Tis like enough that I can pleasure thee.
    They proffer to go.
    Do you hear? Do you hear, sir?
    If I had occasion to use you to the queen,
    1535Would you do one thing for me, I should ask?
    Ay, anything that lies within my power;
    Here is my hand upon it. So farewell.
    [He] proffers to go
    Hear you, sir? Hear you? Pray, a word with you.
    Methinks a comely honest ancient man
    1540Should not dissemble with one for a vantage.
    I know when I shall come to try this gear,
    You will recant from all that you have said.
    Mistrust not him, but try him when thou wilt;
    He is her father, therefore may do much.
    I know he is, and therefore mean to try him.
    You are his friend too; I must try you both.
    Leir and Perillus
    Prithee do, prithee do.
    [They] proffer to go out.
    Stay, gray-beards, then, and prove men of your words.
    The queen hath tied me by a solemn oath
    1550Here in this place to see you both dispatched.
    Now, for the safeguard of my conscience,
    Do me the pleasure for to kill yourselves;
    So shall you save me labor for to do it,
    And prove yourselves true old men of your words.
    1555And here I vow, in sight of all the world,
    I ne'er will trouble you whilst I live again.
    Affright us not with terror, good my friend,
    Nor strike such fear into our agèd hearts.
    Play not the cat which dallieth with the mouse
    1560And on a sudden maketh her a prey,
    But if thou art marked for the man of death
    To me and to my Damon, tell me plain,
    That we may be preparèd for the stroke
    And make ourselves fit for the world to come.
    I am the last of any mortal race
    That e'er your eyes are likely to behold,
    And hither sent of purpose to this place
    To give a final period to your days,
    Which are so wicked and have lived so long
    1570That your own children seek to short your life.
    Cam'st thou from France of purpose to do this?
    From France? 'Zoons, do I look like a Frenchman? Sure I have not mine own face on: somebody hath changed faces with me and I know not of it. But I am sure my apparel 1575is all English. Sirrah, what meanest thou to ask that question? I could spoil the fashion of this face for anger. A French face!
    Because my daughter, whom I have offended,
    And at whose hands I have deserved as ill
    As ever any father did of child,
    1580Is queen of France, no thanks at all to me,
    But unto God, who my injustice sees.
    If it be so that she doth seek revenge,
    As with good reason she may justly do,
    I will most willingly resign my life:
    1585A sacrifice to mitigate her ire.
    I never will entreat thee to forgive,
    Because I am unworthy for to live.
    Therefore speak soon, and I will soon make speed,
    Whether Cordella willed thee do this deed?
    As I am a perfect gentleman, thou speakst French to me.
    I never heard Cordella's name before,
    Nor never was in France in all my life;
    I never knew thou hadst a daughter there
    To whom thou didst prove so unkind a churl;
    1595But thy own tongue declares that thou hast been
    A vile old wretch, and full of heinous sin.
    Ah no, my friend, thou are deceivèd much,
    For her except, whom I confess I wronged
    Through doting frenzy and o'erjealous love,
    1600There lives not any under heaven's bright eye
    That can convict me of impiety.
    And, therefore, sure thou dost mistake the mark,
    For I am in true peace with all the world.
    You are the fitter for the king of Heaven;
    1605And, therefore, for to rid thee of suspense,
    Know thou the queens of Cambria and Cornwall,
    Thy own two daughters, Gonorill and Ragan,
    Appointed me to massacre thee here.
    Why wouldst thou then persuade me that thou art
    1610In charity with all the world but now,
    When thy own issue hold thee in such hate
    That they have hired me t'abridge thy fate?
    Oh, fie upon such vile dissembling breath
    That would deceive even at the point of death.
    Am I awake, or is it but a dream?
    Fear nothing, man, thou art but in a dream,
    And thou shalt never wake until doomsday.
    By then, I hope, thou wilt have slept enough.
    Yet, gentle friend, grant one thing ere I die.
    I'll grant you anything except your lives.
    Oh, but assure me by some certain token
    That my two daughters hired thee to this deed.
    If I were once resolved of that, then I
    Would wish no longer life, but crave to die.
    That to be true, in sight of heaven, I swear.
    Swear not by heaven for fear of punishment:
    The heavens are guiltless of such heinous acts.
    I swear by earth, the mother of us all.
    Swear not by earth; for she abhors to bear
    1630Such bastards as are murderers of her sons.
    Why then, by hell and all the devils, I swear.
    Swear not by hell, for that stands gaping wide
    To swallow thee an if thou do this deed.
    Thunder and lightning
    [Aside] I would that word were in his belly again:
    It hath frighted me even to the very heart.
    This old man is some strong magician:
    His words have turned my mind from this exploit. --
    Then neither heavens, earth, nor hell be witness,
    1640But let this paper witness for them all.
    [He] shows Gonorill's letter.
    [Aside] Shall I relent, or shall I prosecute?
    Shall I resolve, or were I best recant?
    I will not crack my credit with two queens
    1645To whom I have already passed my word.
    Oh, but my conscience for this act doth tell,
    I get heaven's hate, earth's scorn, and pains of hell.
    [Leir AND Perillus] bless themselves.
    O just Jehovah, whose almighty power
    1650Doth govern all things in this spacious world,
    How canst thou suffer such outrageous acts
    To be committed without just revenge?
    Oh, viperous generation and accursed,
    To seek his blood whose blood did make them first!
    Ah, my true friend in all extremity,
    Let us submit us to the will of God.
    Things past all sense, let us not seek to know:
    It is God's will, and therefore must be so.
    My friend, I am preparèd for the stroke;
    1660Strike when thou wilt, and I forgive thee here,
    Even from the very bottom of my heart.
    But I am not prepared for to strike.
    Farewell, Perillus, even the truest friend
    That ever lived in adversity.
    1665The latest kindness I'll request of thee
    Is that thou go unto my daughter Cordella
    And carry her her father's latest blessing.
    Withal desire her that she will forgive me,
    For I have wronged her without any cause. --
    1670Now, Lord, receive me, for I come to thee,
    And die, I hope, in perfect charity. --
    Dispatch, I pray thee; I have lived too long.
    Ay, but you are unwise to send an errand
    By him that never meaneth to deliver it.
    1675Why, he must go along with you to heaven;
    It were not good you should go all alone.
    No doubt he shall, when, by the course of nature,
    He must surrender up his due to death;
    But that time shall not come till God permit.
    Nay, presently, to bear you company.
    I have a passport for him in my pocket,
    Already sealed, and he must needs ride post.
    [He] shows a bag of money
    The letter which I read imports not so:
    1685It only toucheth me, no word of him.
    Ay, but the queen commands it must be so,
    And I am paid for him as well as you.
    I, who have borne you company in life,
    Most willingly will bear a share in death.
    1690It skilleth not for me, my friend, a whit,
    Nor for a hundred such as thou and I.
    Marry, but it doth, sir, by your leave: your good days are past. Though it be no matter for you, 'tis a matter for me; proper men are not so rife.
    Oh, but beware how thou dost lay thy hand
    Upon the high anointed of the Lord.
    Oh, be advisèd ere thou dost begin:
    Dispatch me straight, but meddle not with him.
    Friend, thy commission is to deal with me,
    1700And I am he that hath deservèd all.
    The plot was laid to take away my life,
    And here it is: I do entreat thee take it.
    Yet, for my sake, and as thou art a man,
    Spare this my friend that hither with me came.
    1705I brought him forth whereas he had not been
    But for good will to bear me company.
    He left his friends, his country, and his goods,
    And came with me in most extremity.
    Oh, if he should miscarry here and die,
    1710Who is the cause of it, but only I?
    Why that am I! Let that ne'er trouble thee.
    Oh no, 'tis I. Oh, had I now to give thee
    The monarchy of all the spacious world
    To save his life, I would bestow it on thee;
    1715But I have nothing but these tears and prayers,
    And the submission of a bended knee.
    [Leir] kneels.
    Oh, if all this to mercy move thy mind,
    Spare him! In heaven thou shalt like mercy find.
    [Aside] I am as hard to be moved as another, and yet 1720methinks the strength of their persuasions stirs me a little.
    My friend, if fear of the almighty power
    Have power to move thee, we have said enough,
    But if thy mind be movable with gold,
    1725We have not presently to give it thee.
    Yet to thyself thou mayst do greater good
    To keep thy hands still undefiled from blood,
    For do but well consider with thyself,
    When thou hast finished this outrageous act,
    1730What horror still will haunt thee for the deed.
    Think this again, that they which would incense
    Thee for to be the butcher of their father,
    When it is done, for fear it should be known
    Would make a means to rid thee from the world.
    1735Oh, then art thou forever tied in chains
    Of everlasting torments to endure,
    Even in the hottest hole of grisly hell,
    Such pains as never mortal tongue can tell.
    It thunders. [Messenger] quakes, and lets fall the dagger 1740next to Perillus.
    Oh, heavens be thanked, he will spare my friend!
    Now, when thou wilt, come make an end of me.
    [Messenger] lets fall the other dagger.
    Oh, happy sight! He means to save my lord.
    1745The king of heaven continue this good mind.
    Why stayst thou to do the execution?
    I am as wilful as you for your life:
    I will not do it, now you do entreat me.
    Ah, now I see thou hast some spark of grace.
    Beshrew you for it; you have put it in me!
    The parlousest old men that e'er I heard!
    Well, to be flat, I'll not meddle with you;
    Here I found you, and here I'll leave you.
    If any ask you why the case so stands,
    1755Say that your tongues were better than your hands.
    Exit Messenger.
    Farewell. If ever we together meet,
    It shall go hard, but I will thee re-greet.--
    Courage, my lord, the worst is overpast;
    Let us give thanks to God, and hie us hence.
    Thou art deceived, for I am past the best
    And know not whither for to go from hence.
    Death had been better welcome unto me
    Than longer life to add more misery.
    It were not good to return from whence we came,
    1765Unto your daughter Ragan back again.
    Now let us go to France, unto Cordella,
    Your youngest daughter; doubtless she will succor you.
    Oh, how can I persuade myself of that,
    Since th'other two are quite devoid of love
    1770To whom I was so kind, as that my gifts
    Might make them love me, if 'twere nothing else?
    No worldly gifts, but grace from God on high,
    Doth nourish virtue and true charity.
    Remember well what words Cordella spake
    1775What time you asked her how she loved your grace.
    She said her love unto you was as much
    As ought a child to bear unto her father.
    But she did find my love was not to her
    As should a father bear unto a child.
    That makes not her love to be any less
    If she do love you as a child should do.
    You have tried two; try one more for my sake.
    I'll ne'er entreat you further trial make.
    Remember well the dream you had of late,
    1785And think what comfort it foretells to us.
    Come, truest friend that ever man possessed,
    I know thou counselst all things for the best.
    If this third daughter play a kinder part,
    It comes of God, and not of my desert.