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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
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    The History of King Leir (Quarto, 1605)

    Enter Leir and Perillus.
    Per. My Lord, you are vp to day before your houre,
    Tis newes to you to be abroad so rathe.
    Leir. Tis newes indeed, I am so extreme heauy,
    1435That I can scarcely keepe my eye-lids open.
    Per. And so am I, but I impute the cause
    To rising sooner then we vse to do.
    Leir. Hither my daughter meanes to come disguis'd:
    and his three daughters.
    Ile sit me downe, and read vntill she come.
    1440Pull out a booke and sit downe.
    Per. Sheele not be long, I warrant you, my Lord:
    But say, a couple of these they call good fellowes,
    Should step out of a hedge, and set vpon vs,
    We were in good case for to answere them.
    1445Leir. 'Twere not for vs to stand vpon our hands.
    Per.I feare, we scant should stand vpon our legs.
    But how should we do to defend our selues?
    Leir. Euen pray to God, to blesse vs frō their hands:
    For feruent prayer much ill hap withstands.
    1450Per. Ile sit and pray with you for company;
    Yet was I ne're so heauy in my life.
    They fall both asleepe.
    Enter the Messenger or murtherer with two
    daggers in his hands.
    1455Mess. Were it not a mad iest, if two or three of my professiō
    should meet me, and lay me downe in a ditch, and play robbe
    thiefe with me, & perforce take my gold away from me, whilest
    I act this stratagem, and by this meanes the gray beards should
    escape? Fayth, when I were at liberty againe, I would make no
    1460more to do, but go to the next tree, and there hang my selfe.
    See them and start.
    But stay, me thinks, my youthes are here already,
    And with pure zeale haue prayed themselues asleepe.
    I thinke, they know to what intent they came,
    1465And are prouided for another world.
    He takes their bookes away.
    Now could I stab them brauely, while they sleepe,
    And in a maner put them to no payne;
    And doing so, I shewed them mighty friendship:
    1470For feare of death is worse then death it selfe.
    But that my sweet Queene will'd me for to shew
    This letter to them, ere I did the deed.
    Masse, they begin to stirre: ile stand aside;
    So shall I come vpon them vnawares.
    1475They wake and rise.
    Leir. I maruell, that my daughter stayes so long.
    F Per. I
    The History of King Leir
    Per. I feare, we did mistake the place, my Lord.
    Leir. God graunt we do not miscarry in the place:
    I had a short nap, but so full of dread,
    1480As much amazeth me to think thereof.
    Per. Feare not, my Lord, dreames are but fantasies,
    And slight imaginations of the brayne.
    Mes.Perswade him so; but ile make him and you
    Confesse, that dreames do often proue too true.
    1485Per. I pray, my Lord, what was the effect of it?
    I may go neere to gesse what it pretends.
    Mes. Leaue that to me, I will expound the dreame.
    Leir. Me thought, my daughters, Gonorill & Ragan,
    Stood both before me with such grim aspects.
    1490Eche brandishing a Faulchion in their hand,
    Ready to lop a lymme off where it fell,
    And in their other hands a naked poynyard,
    Wherwith they stabd me in a hundred places,
    And to their thinking left me there for dead:
    1495But then my youngest daughter, fayre Cordella,
    Came with a boxe of Balsome in her hand,
    And powred it into my bleeding wounds,
    By whose good meanes I was recouered well,
    In perfit health, as earst I was before:
    1500And with the feare of this I did awake,
    And yet for feare my feeble ioynts do quake.
    Mes.Ile make you quake for something presently.
    Stand, Stand. They reele.
    Leir. We do, my friend, although with much adoe.
    1505Mes. Deliuer, deliuer.
    Per. Deliuer vs, good Lord, from such as he.
    Mes. You should haue prayed before, while it was time,
    And then perhaps, you might haue scapt my hands:
    But you, like faithfull watch-men, fell asleepe,
    1510The whilst I came and tooke your Halberds from you.
    Shew their Bookes.
    And now you want your weapons of defence,
    How haue you any hope to be deliuered?
    This comes, because you haue no better stay,
    and his three daughters.
    1515But fall asleepe, when you should watch and pray.
    Leir. My friend, thou seemst to be a proper man.
    Mes. Sblood, how the old slaue clawes me by the elbow?
    He thinks, belike, to scape by scraping thus.
    Per. And it may be, are in some need of money.
    1520Mes. That to be false, behold my euidence.
    Shewes his purses.
    Leir. If that I haue will do thee any good,
    I giue it thee, euen with a right good will. Take it.
    Per. Here, take mine too, & wish with all my heart,
    1525To do thee pleasure, it were twice as much.
    Take his, and weygh them both in his hands.
    Mes. Ile none of them, they are too light for me.
    Puts them in his pocket.
    Leir. Why then farewell: and if thou haue occasion
    1530In any thing, to vse me to the Queene,
    'Tis like ynough that I can pleasure thee.
    They proffer to goe.
    Mes. Do you heare, do you heare, sir?
    If I had occasion to use you to the Queene,
    1535Would you do one thing for me I should aske?
    Leir. I, any thing that lyes within my power.
    Here is my hand vpon it, so farewell. Proffer to goe.
    Mes. Heare you sir, heare you? pray, a word with you.
    Me thinks, a comely honest ancient man
    1540Should not dissemble with one for a vantage.
    I know, when I shall come to try this geare,
    You will recant from all that you haue sayd.
    Per. Mistrust not him, but try him when thou wilt:
    He is her father, therefore may do much.
    1545Mes. I know he is, and therefore meane to try him:
    You are his friend too, I must try you both.
    Ambo.Prithy do, prithy do. Proffer to go out.
    Mes.Stay gray-beards then, and proue men of your words:
    The Queene hath tyed me by a solemne othe,
    1550Here in this place to see you both dispatcht:
    Now for the safegard of my conscience,
    Do me the pleasure for to kill your selues:
    F2 So
    The History of King Leir
    So shall you saue me labour for to do it,
    And proue your selues true old men of your words.
    1555And here I vow in sight of all the world,
    I ne're will trouble you whilst I liue agayne.
    Leir.Affright vs not with terrour, good my friend,
    Nor strike such feare into our aged hearts.
    Play not the Cat, which dallieth with the mouse;
    1560And on a sudden maketh her a pray:
    But if thou art markt for the man of death
    To me and to my Damion, tell me playne,
    That we may be prepared for the stroke,
    And make our selues fit for the world to come.
    1565Mes. I am the last of any mortall race,
    That ere your eyes are likely to behold,
    And hither sent of purpose to this place,
    To giue a finall period to your dayes,
    Which are so wicked, and haue liued so long,
    1570That your owne children seeke to short your life.
    Leir. Camst thou from France, of purpose to do this?
    Mes. From France? zoones, do I looke like a Frenchman?
    Sure I haue not mine owne face on; some body hath chang'd
    faces with me, and I know not of it: But I am sure, my apparell
    1575is all English. Sirra, what meanest thou to aske that question?
    I could spoyle the fashion of this face for anger. A French face!
    Leir. Because my daughter, whom I haue offended,
    And at whose hands I haue deseru'd as ill,
    As euer any father did of child,
    1580Is Queene of Fraunce, no thanks at all to me,
    But vnto God, who my iniustice see.
    If it be so, that shee doth seeke reuenge,
    As with good reason she may iustly do,
    I will most willingly resigne my life,
    1585A sacrifice to mittigate her ire:
    I neuer will intreat thee to forgiue,
    Because I am vnworthy for to liue.
    Therefore speake soone, & I will soone make speed:
    Whether Cordella will'd thee do this deed?
    1590Mes. As I am a perfit gentleman, thou speakst French to me:
    I neuer
    and his three daughters.
    I neuer heard Cordellaes name before,
    Nor neuer was in Fraunce in all my life:
    I neuer knew thou hadst a daughter there,
    To whom thou didst proue so vnkind a churle:
    1595But thy owne toung declares that thou hast bin
    A vyle old wretch, and full of heynous sin.
    Leir. Ah no, my friend, thou are deceyued much:
    For her except, whom I confesse I wrongd,
    Through doting frenzy, and o're-ielous loue.
    1600There liues not any vnder heauens bright eye,
    That can conuict me of impiety.
    And therefore sure thou dost mistake the marke:
    For I am in true peace with all the world.
    Mes. You are the fitter for the King of heauen:
    1605And therefore, for to rid thee of suspence,
    Know thou, the Queenes of Cambria and Cornwall,
    Thy owne two daughters, Gonorill and Ragan,
    Appoynted me to massacre thee here.
    Why wouldst thou then perswade me, that thou art
    1610In charity with all the world? but now
    When thy owne Issue hold thee in such hate,
    That they haue hyred me t'abbridge thy fate,
    Oh, fy vpon such vyle dissembling breath,
    That would deceyue, euen at the poynt of death.
    1615Per. Am I awake, or is it but a dreame?
    Mes. Feare nothing, man, thou art but in a dreame,
    And thou shalt neuer wake vntill doomes day,
    By then, I hope, thou wilt haue slept ynough.
    Leir. Yet, gentle friend, graunt one thing ere I die.
    1620Mes. Ile graunt you any thing, except your liues.
    Leir. Oh, but assure me by some certayne token,
    That my two daughters hyred thee to this deed:
    If I were once resolu'd of that, then I
    Would wish no longer life, but craue to dye.
    1625Mes. That to be true, in sight of heauen I sweare.
    Leir. Sweare not by heauen, for feare of punishmēt:
    The heauens are guiltlesse of such haynous acts.
    Mes. I sweare by earth, the mother of vs all.
    F3 Leir. Sweare
    The History of King Leir
    Leir. Sweare not by earth; for she abhors to beare
    1630Such bastards, as are murtherers of her sonnes.
    Mes. Why then, by hell, and all the deuils I sweare.
    Leir. Sweare not by hell; for that stands gaping wide,
    To swallow thee, and if thou do this deed.
    Thunder and lightning.
    1635Mes. I would that word were in his belly agayne,
    It hath frighted me euen to the very heart:
    This old man is some strong Magician:
    His words haue turned my mind from this exployt.
    Then neyther heauen, earth, nor hell be witnesse;
    1640But let this paper witnesse for them all.
    Shewes Gonorils letter.
    Shall I relent, or shall I prosecute?
    Shall I resolue, or were I best recant?
    I will not crack my credit with two Queenes,
    1645To whom I haue already past my word.
    Oh, but my conscience for this act doth tell,
    I get heauens hate, earths scorne, and paynes of hell.
    They blesse themselues.
    Per. Oh iust Iehoua, whose almighty power
    1650Doth gouerne all things in this spacious world,
    How canst thou suffer such outragious acts
    To be committed without iust reuenge?
    O viperous generation and accurst,
    To seeke his blood, whose blood did make them first!
    1655Leir. Ah, my true friend in all extremity,
    Let vs submit vs to the will of God:
    Things past all sence, let vs not seeke to know;
    It is Gods will, and therefore must be so.
    My friend, I am prepared for the stroke:
    1660Strike when thou wilt, and I forgiue thee here,
    Euen from the very bottome of my heart.
    Mes. But I am not prepared for to strike.
    Leir. Farewell, Perillus, euen the truest friend,
    That euer liued in aduersity:
    1665The latest kindnesse ile request of thee,
    Is that thou go vnto my daughter Cordella,
    and his three daughters.
    And carry her her fathers latest blessing:
    Withall desire her, that she will forgiue me;
    For I haue wrongd her without any cause.
    1670Now, Lord, receyue me, for I come to thee,
    And dye, I hope, in perfit charity.
    Dispatch, I pray thee, I haue liued too long.
    Mes. I, but you are vnwise, to send an errand
    By him that neuer meaneth to deliuer it:
    1675Why, he must go along with you to heauen:
    It were not good you should go all alone.
    Leir. No doubt, he shal, when by the course of nature,
    He must surrender vp his due to death:
    But that time shall not come, till God permit.
    1680Mes. Nay, presently, to beare you company.
    I haue a Pasport for him in my pocket,
    Already seald, and he must needs ride Poste.
    Shew a bagge of money.
    Leir. The letter which I read, imports not so,
    1685It only toucheth me, no word of him.
    Mess. I, but the Queene commaunds it must be so,
    And I am payd for him, as well as you.
    Per. I, who haue borne you company in life,
    Most willingly will beare a share in death.
    1690It skilleth not for me, my friend, a whit,
    Nor for a hundred such as thou and I.
    Mes. Mary, but it doth, sir, by your leaue; your good dayes
    are past: though it bee no matter for you, tis a matter for me,
    proper men are not so rife.
    1695Per. Oh, but beware, how thou dost lay thy hand
    Vpon the high anoynted of the Lord:
    O, be aduised ere thou dost begin:
    Dispatch me straight, but meddle not with him.
    Leir. Friend, thy commission is to deale with me,
    1700And I am he that hath deserued all:
    The plot was layd to take away my life:
    And here it is, I do intreat thee take it:
    Yet for my sake, and as thou art a man,
    Spare this my friend, that hither with me came:
    F4 I brought
    The History of King Leir
    1705I brought him forth, whereas he had not bin,
    But for good will to beare 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 dye,
    1710Who is the cause of it, but only I?
    aMes. Why that am I, let that ne're trouble thee.
    Leir. O no, tis I. O, had I now to giue thee
    The monarchy of all the spacious world
    To saue his life, I would bestow it on thee:
    1715But I haue nothing but these teares and prayers,
    And the submission of a bended knee. kneele.
    O, if all this to mercy moue thy mind,
    Spare him, in heauen thou shalt like mercy find.
    Mes.I am as hard to be moued as another, and yet
    1720me thinks the strength of their perswasions stirres me
    a little.
    Per.My friend, if feare of the almighty power
    Haue power to moue thee, we haue sayd ynough:
    But if thy mind be moueable with gold,
    1725We haue not presently to giue it thee:
    Yet to thy selfe thou mayst do greater good,
    To keepe thy hands still vndefilde from blood:
    For do but well consider with thy selfe,
    When thou hast finisht this outragious act,
    1730What horrour still will haunt thee for the deed:
    Think this agayne, that they which would incense
    Thee for to be the Butcher of their father,
    When it is done, for feare it should be knowne,
    Would make a meanes to rid thee from the world:
    1735Oh, then art thou for euer tyed in chaynes
    Of euerlasting torments to indure,
    Euen in the hotest hole of grisly hell,
    Such paynes, as neuer mortall toung can tell.
    It thunders. He quakes, and lets fall the Dagger
    1740next to Perillus.
    Leir. O, heauens be thanked, he wil spare my friend.
    Now when thou wilt come make an end of me.
    and his three daughters.
    He lets fall the other dagger.
    Per.Oh, happy sight! he meanes to saue my Lord.
    1745The King of heauen continue this good mind.
    Leir. Why stayst thou to do execution?
    Mes. I am as wilfull as you for your life:
    I will not do it, now you do intreat me.
    Per. Ah, now I see thou hast some sparke of grace.
    1750Mes. Beshrew you for it, you haue put it in me:
    The parlosest old men, that ere I heard.
    Well, to be flat, ile not meddle with you:
    Here I found you, and here ile leaue you:
    If any aske you why the case so stands?
    1755Say that your toungs were better then your hands. Exit.Mess.
    Per. Farewell. If euer we together meet,
    It shall go hard, but I will thee regreet.
    Courage, my Lord, the worst is ouerpast;
    Let vs giue thanks to God, and hye vs hence.
    1760Leir. Thou art deceyued; for I am past the best,
    And know not whither for to go from hence:
    Death had bin better welcome vnto me,
    Then longer life to adde more misery.
    Per. It were not good to returne from whence we(came,
    1765Vnto your daughter Ragan back againe.
    Now let vs go to France, vnto Cordella,
    Your youngest daughter, doubtlesse she will succour you.
    Leir. Oh, how can I perswade my selfe of that,
    Since the other two are quite deuoyd of loue;
    1770To whom I was so kind, as that my gifts,
    Might make them loue me, if 'twere nothing else?
    Per. No worldly gifts, but grace from God on hye,
    Doth nourish vertue and true charity.
    Remember well what words Cordella spake,
    1775What time you askt her, how she lou'd your Grace.
    Se sayd, her loue vnto you was as much,
    As ought a child to beare vnto her father.
    Leir. But she did find, my loue was not to her,
    As should a father beare vnto a child.
    1780Per. That makes not her loue to be any lesse,
    G If
    The History of King Leir
    If she do loue you as a child should do:
    You haue tryed two, try one more for my sake,
    Ile ne're intreat you further tryall make.
    Remember well the dream you had of late,
    1785And thinke what comfort it foretels to vs.
    Leir. Come, truest friend, that euer man possest,
    I know thou counsailst all things for the best:
    If this third daughter play a kinder part,
    It comes of God, and not of my desert. Exeunt.