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About this text

  • 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
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    The History of King Leir (Quarto, 1605)

    Enter Messenger solus.
    Mes. Now happily I am arriued here,
    Before the stately Palace of the Cambrian King:
    1160If Leir be here safe-seated, and in rest,
    To rowse him from it I will do my best. Enter Ragan.
    Now bags of gold, your vertue is (no doubt)
    To make me in my message bold and stout.
    The King of heauen preserue your Maiesty.
    1165And send your Highnesse euerlasting raigne.
    Ra. Thanks, good my friend; but what imports thy message?
    Mes.Kind greetings from the Cornwall Queene:
    The residue these letters will declare.
    She opens the letters.
    1170Rag. How fares our royall sister?
    Mes. I did leaue her at my parting, in good health.
    She reads the letter, frownes and stamps.
    E See
    The History of King Leir
    See how her colour comes and goes agayne,
    Now red as scarlet, now as pale as ash:
    1175See how she knits her brow, and bytes her lips,
    And stamps, and makes a dumbe shew of disdayne,
    Mixt with reuenge, and violent extreames.
    Here will be more worke and more crownes for me.
    Rag. Alas, poore soule, and hath he vsde her thus?
    1180And is he now come hither, with intent
    To set diuorce betwixt my Lord and me?
    Doth he giue out, that he doth heare report,
    That I do rule my husband as I list,
    And therefore meanes 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, dottard that he is.
    In Cornwall he hath made such mutinies,
    1190First, setting of the King against the Queene;
    Then stirring vp the Commons 'gainst the King;
    That had he there continued any longer,
    He had bin call'd in question for his fact.
    So vpon that occasion thence he fled,
    1195And comes thus slily stealing vnto vs:
    And now already since his coming hither,
    My Lord and he are growne in such a league,
    That I can haue no conference with his Grace:
    I feare, he doth already intimate
    1200Some forged cauillations 'gainst my state:
    Tis therefore best to cut him off in time,
    Lest slaunderous rumours once abroad disperst,
    It is too late for them to be reuerst.
    Friend, as the tennour of these letters shewes,
    1205My sister puts great confidence in thee.
    Mes. She neuer yet committed trust to me,
    But that (I hope) she found me alwayes faythfull:
    So will I be to any friend of hers,
    That hath occasion to imploy my helpe
    1210Rag. Hast thou the heart to act a stratagem,
    and his three daughters.
    And giue a stabbe or two, if need require?
    Mes. I haue a heart compact of Adamant,
    Which neuer knew what melting pitty meant.
    I weigh no more the murdring of a man,
    1215Then I respect the cracking of a Flea,
    When I doe catch her byting on my skin.
    If you will haue your husband or your father,
    Or both of them sent to another world.
    Do but commaund me doo't, it shall be done.
    1220Rag. It is ynough, we make no doubt of thee:
    Meet vs to morrow here, at nyne a clock:
    Meane while, farewell, and drink that for my sake. Exit.
    Mes. I, this is it will make me do the deed:
    Oh, had I euery day such customers,
    1225This were the gainefulst trade in Christendome!
    A purse of gold giu'n for a paltry stabbe!
    Why, heres a wench that longs to haue a stabbe.
    Wel, I could giue it her, and ne're hurt her neither.