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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)

    [Scene 2] [Video Sc.2]
    Enter Gonorill and Ragan
    I marvel, Ragan, how you can endure
    To see that proud pert peat, our youngest sister,
    So slightly to account of us, her elders,
    100As if we were no better than herself!
    We cannot have a quaint device so soon,
    Or new-made fashion of our choice invention,
    But, if she like it, she will have the same,
    Or study newer to exceed us both.
    105Besides, she is so nice and so demure,
    So sober, courteous, modest, and precise,
    That all the court hath work enough to do
    To talk how she exceedeth me and you.
    What should I do? Would it were in my power
    110To find a cure for this contagious ill:
    Some desperate medicine must be soon applied
    To dim the glory of her mounting fame,
    Else, ere't be long, she'll have both prick and praise,
    And we must be set by for working days.
    115Do you not see what several choice of suitors
    She daily hath, and of the best degree?
    Say, amongst all, she hap to fancy one,
    And have a husband whenas we have none;
    Why, then, by right, to her we must give place,
    120Though it be ne'er so much to our disgrace.
    By my virginity, rather than she shall have
    A husband before me,
    I'll marry one or other in his shirt.
    And yet I have made half a grant already
    125Of my good will unto the king of Cornwall.
    Swear not so deeply, sister. Here cometh my Lord Skalliger.
    Something his hasty coming doth import.
    Enter Skalliger
    Sweet princesses, I am glad I met you here so luckily,
    Having good news which doth concern you both
    130And craveth speedy expedition.
    For God's sake, tell us what it is, my lord!
    I am with child until you utter it.
    [To Ragan] Madam, to save your longing, this it is:
    Your father, in great secrecy, today
    135Told me he means to marry you out of hand
    Unto the noble prince of Cambria. --
    You, madam, to the king of Cornwall's grace. --
    Your younger sister he would fain bestow
    Upon the rich king of Hibernia,
    140But that he doubts she hardly will consent,
    For hitherto she ne'er could fancy him.
    If she do yield, why then, between you three,
    He will divide his kingdom for your dowries.
    But yet there is a further mystery
    145Which, so you will conceal, I will disclose.
    Whate'er thou speakst to us, kind Skalliger,
    Think that thou speak'st it only to thyself.
    He earnestly desireth for to know
    Which of you three do bear most love to him,
    150And on your loves he so extremely dotes
    As never any did, I think, before.
    He presently doth mean to send for you
    To be resolved of this tormenting doubt,
    And look whose answer pleaseth him the best,
    155They shall have most unto their marriages.
    Oh, that I had some pleasing mermaid's voice
    For to enchant his senseless senses with!
    For he supposeth that Cordella will,
    Striving to go beyond you in her love,
    160Promise to do whatever he desires;
    Then will he straight enjoin her, for his sake,
    Th'Hibernian king in marriage for to take.
    This is the sum of all I have to say,
    Which, being done, I humbly take my leave,
    165Not doubting but your wisdoms will foresee
    What course will best unto your good agree.
    Thanks, gentle Skalliger; thy kindness undeserved
    Shall not be unrequited, if we live.
    Exit Skalliger.
    Now have we fit occasion offered us
    170To be revenged upon her unperceived.
    Nay, our revenge we will inflict on her
    Shall be accounted piety in us.
    I will so flatter with my doting father
    As he was ne'er so flattered in his life.
    175Nay, I will say that if it be his pleasure
    To match me to a beggar, I will yield,
    For why I know -- whatever I do say --
    He means to match me with the Cornwall king.
    I'll say the like, for I am well assured,
    180Whate'er I say to please the old man's mind,
    Who dotes as if he were a child again,
    I shall enjoy the noble Cambrian prince;
    Only, to feed his humor, will suffice
    To say I am content with anyone
    185Whom he'll appoint me. This will please him more
    Than e'er Apollo's music pleasèd Jove.
    I smile to think in what a woeful plight
    Cordella will be when we answer thus,
    For she will rather die than give consent
    190To join in marriage with the Irish king.
    So will our father think she loveth him not
    Because she will not grant to his desire,
    Which we will aggravate in such bitter terms
    That he will soon convert his love to hate,
    195For he, you know, is always in extremes.
    Not all the world could lay a better plot;
    I long till it be put in practice.