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  • Title: The History of King Leir (Quarto, 1605)
  • 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 (Quarto, 1605)

    Enter King of Cornwall, Leir, Perillus & Nobles.
    Corn. Father, what ayleth you to be so sad?
    Me thinks, you frollike not as you were wont.
    820Leir. The neerer we do grow vnto our graues,
    The lesse we do delight in worldly ioyes.
    Corn. But if a man can frame himselfe to myrth,
    It is a meane for to prolong his life.
    Leir. Then welcome sorrow, Leirs only friend,
    825Who doth desire his troubled dayes had end.
    Corn. Comfort your selfe, father, here comes your daughter,
    Who much will grieue, I kuow, to see you sad. EnterGonorill.
    Leir. But more doth grieue, I feare, to see me liue.
    Corn. My Gonorill, you come in wished time,
    830To put your father from these pensiue dumps.
    In fayth, I feare that all things go not well.
    Gon. What,
    and his three daughters.
    Gon. What, do you feare, that I haue angred him?
    Hath he complaynd of me vnto my Lord?
    Ile prouide him a piece of bread and cheese;
    835For in a time heele practise nothing else,
    Then carry tales from one vnto another.
    Tis all his practise for to kindle strife,
    'Twixt you, my Lord, and me your louing wife:
    But I will take an order, if I can,
    840To cease th'effect, where first the cause began.
    Corn. Sweet, be not angry in a partiall cause,
    He ne're complaynd of thee in all his life.
    Father, you must not weygh a womans words.
    Leir. Alas, not I: poore soule, she breeds yong bones,
    845And that is it makes her so tutchy sure.
    Gon. What, breeds young bones already! you will make
    An honest woman of me then, belike.
    O vild olde wretch! who euer heard the like,
    That seeketh thus his owne child to defame?
    850Corn. I cannot stay to heare this discord sound.Exit.
    Gon. For any one that loues your company,
    You may go pack, and seeke some other place,
    Tosowe the seed of discord and disgrace. Exit.
    Leir. Thus, say or do the best that e're I can,
    855Tis wrested straight into another sence.
    This punishment my heauy sinnes deserue,
    And more then this ten thousand thousand times:
    Else aged Leir them could neuer find
    Cruell to him, to whom he hath bin kind.
    860Why do I ouer-liue my selfe, to see
    The course of nature quite reuerst in me?
    Ah, gentle Death, if euer any wight
    Did wish thy presence with a perfit zeale:
    Then come, I pray thee, euen with all my heart,
    865And end my sorrowes with thy fatall dart. He weepes.
    Per. Ah, do not so disconsolate your selfe,
    Nor dew your aged cheeks with wasting teares.
    Leir. What man art thou that takest any pity
    Vpon the worthlesse state of old Leir?
    D Per. One,
    The History of King Leir
    870Per. One, who doth beare as great a share of griefe,
    As if it were my dearest fathers case.
    Leir. Ah, good my friend, how ill art thou aduisde,
    For to consort with miserable men:
    Go learne to flatter, where thou mayst in time
    875Get fauour 'mongst the mighty, and so clyme:
    For now I am so poore and full of want,
    As that I ne're can recompence thy loue.
    Per.What's got by flattery, doth not long indure;
    And men in fauour liue not most secure.
    880My conscience tels me, if I should forsake you,
    I were the hatefulst excrement on the earth:
    Which well do know, in course of former time,
    How good my Lord hath bin to me and mine.
    Leir. Did I ere rayse thee higher then the rest
    885Of all thy ancestors which were before?
    Per. I ne're did seeke it; but by your good Grace,
    I still inioyed my owne with quietnesse.
    Leir. Did I ere giue thee liuing, to increase
    The due reuennues which thy father left?
    890Per. I had ynough, my Lord, and hauing that,
    What should you need to giue me any more?
    Leir. Oh, did I euer dispossesse my selfe,
    And giue thee halfe my Kingdome in good will?
    Per. Alas, my Lord, there were no reason, why
    895You should haue such a thought, to giue it me.
    Leir. Nay, if thou talke of reason, then be mute;
    For with good reason I can thee confute.
    If they, which first by natures sacred law,
    Do owe to me the tribute of their liues;
    900If they to whom I alwayes haue bin kinde,
    And bountifull beyond comparison;
    If they, for whom I haue vndone my selfe,
    And brought my age vnto this extreme want,
    Do now reiect, contemne, despise, abhor me,
    905What reason moueth thee to sorrow for me?
    Per . Where reason fayles, let teares confirme my loue,
    And speake how much your passions do me moue.
    and his three daughters.
    Ah, good my Lord, condemne not all for one:
    You haue two daughters left, to whom I know
    910You shall be welcome, if you please to go.
    Leir. Oh, how thy words adde sorrow to my soule,
    To thinke of my vnkindnesse to Cordella!
    Whom causelesse I did dispossesse of all,
    Vpon th'vnkind suggesstions of her sisters:
    915And for her sake, I thinke this heauy doome
    Is falne on me, and not without desert:
    Yet vnto Ragan was I alwayes kinde,
    And gaue to her the halfe of all I had:
    It may be, if I should to her repayre,
    920She would be kinder, and intreat me fayre.
    Per. No doubt she would, & practise ere't be long,
    By force of Armes for to redresse your wrong.
    Leir. Well, since thou doest aduise me for to go,
    I am resolu'd to try the worst of wo. Exeunt.