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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 the Gallian King, and Mumford, dsguised
    like Pilgrims.
    Mum. My Lord, how do you brook this Brittish ayre?
    585King. My Lord? I told you of this foolish humour,
    And bound you to the contrary, you know.
    Mum. Pardon me for once, my Lord; I did forget.
    King. My Lord agayne? then let's haue nothing else,
    And so be tane for spyes, and then tis well.
    590Mum. Swounds, I could bite my toung in two for anger:
    For Gods sake name your selfe some proper name.
    King. Call me Tresillus: Ile call thee Denapoll.
    Mum. Might I be made the Monarch of the world,
    I could not hit vpon these names, I sweare.
    595King. Then call me Will, ile call thee Iacke.
    Mum. Well, be it so, for I haue wel deseru'd to be cal'd Iack.
    King. Stand close; for here a Brittish Lady cōmeth: EnterCordella.
    A fayrer creature ne're mine eyes beheld.
    Cord. This is a day of ioy vnto my sisters,
    600Wherein they both are maried vnto Kings;
    And I by byrth, as worthy as themselues,
    Am turnd into the world, to seeke my fortune.
    How may I blame the fickle Queene of Chaunce,
    and his three daughters.
    That maketh me a patterne of her power?
    605Ah, poore weake mayd, whose imbecility
    Is far vnable to indure these brunts.
    Oh, father Leir, how dost thou wrong thy child,
    Who alwayes was obedient to thy will!
    But why accuse I fortune and my father?
    610No, no, it is the pleasure of my God:
    And I do willingly imbrace the rod.
    King. It is no Goddesse ; for she doth complayne
    On fortune, and th'vnkindnesse of her father.
    Cord. These costly robes ill fitting my estate,
    615I will exchange for other meaner habit.
    Mum. Now if I had a Kingdome in my hands,
    I would exchange it for a milkmaids smock and petycoate,
    That she and I might shift our clothes together.
    Cord. I will betake me to my threed and Needle,
    620And earne my liuing with my fingers ends.
    Mum. O braue! God willing, though shalt haue my custome,
    By sweet S. Denis, here I sadly sweare,
    For all the shirts and night-geare that I weare.
    Cord. I will professe and vow a maydens life.
    625Mum. Thē I protest thou shalt not haue my custom.
    King. I can forbeare no longer for to speak:
    For if I do, I think my heart will breake.
    Mum. Sblood, Wil, I hope you are not in loue with my Sēpster.
    King. I am in such a laborinth of loue,
    630As that I know not which way to get out.
    Mum. You'l ne're get out, vnlessse you first get in.
    King. I prithy Iacke, crosse not my passions.
    Mum. Prithy Wil, to her, and try her patience.
    King. Thou fairest creature, whatsoere thou art,
    635That euer any mortall eyes beheld,
    Vouchsafe to me, who haue o'reheard thy woes,
    To shew the cause of these thy sad laments.
    Cor. Ah Pilgrims, what auailes to shew the cause,
    When there's no meanes to find a remedy?
    640King. To vtter griefe, doth ease a heart o'recharg'd.
    Cor. To touch a sore, doth aggrauate the payne.
    C2 King.The
    The History of King Leir
    King. The silly mouse, by vertue of her teeth,
    Releas'd the princely Lyon from the net.
    Cor. Kind Palmer, which so much desir'st to heare
    645The tragick tale of my vnhappy youth:
    Know this in briefe, I am the haplesse daughter
    Of Leir, sometimes King of Brittany.
    King. Why, who debarres his honourable age,
    From being still the King of Brittany?
    650Cor. None, but himselfe hath dispossest himselfe,
    And giuen all his Kingdome to the Kings
    Of Cornwall and of Cambria, with my sisters.
    King. Hath he giuen nothing to your louely selfe?
    Cor. He lou'd me not, & therfore gaue me nothing,
    655Only because I could not flatter him:
    And in this day of tryumph to my sisters,
    Doth Fortune tryumph in my ouerthrow.
    King. Sweet Lady, say there should come a King,
    As good as eyther of your sisters husbands,
    660To craue your loue, would you accept of him?
    Cor. Oh, doe not mocke with those in misery,
    Nor do not think, though fortune haue the power,
    To spoyle mine honour, and debase my state,
    That she hath any interest in my mind:
    665For if the greatest Monarch on the earth,
    Should sue to me in this extremity,
    Except my heart could loue, and heart could like,
    Better then any that I euer saw,
    His great estate no more should moue my mind,
    670Then mountaynes moue by blast of euery wind.
    King. Think not, sweet Nymph, tis holy Palmers guise,
    To grieued soules fresh torments to deuise:
    Therefore in witnesse of my true intent,
    Let heauen and earth beare record of my words:
    675There is a young and lusty Gallian King,
    So like to me, as I am to my selfe,
    That earnestly doth craue to haue thy loue,
    And ioyne with thee in Hymens sacred bonds.
    Cor. The like to thee did ne're these eyes behold;
    and his three daughters.
    680Oh liue to adde new torments to my griefe:
    Why didst thou thus intrap me vnawares?
    Ah Palmer, my estate doth not befit
    A kingly mariage, as the case now stands.
    Whilome when as I liu'd in honours height,
    685A Prince perhaps might postulate my loue:
    Now misery, dishonour and disgrace,
    Hath light on me, and quite reuerst the case.
    Thy King will hold thee wise, if thou surcease
    The sute, whereas no dowry will insue.
    690Then be aduised, Palmer, what to do:
    Cease for thy King, seeke for thy selfe to woo.
    King. Your birth's too high for any, but a King.
    Cor. My mind is low ynough to loue a Palmer,
    Rather then any King vpon the earth.
    695King. O, but you neuer can indure their life,
    Which is so straight and full of penury.
    Cor. O yes, I can, and happy if I might:
    Ile hold thy Palmers staffe within my hand,
    And thinke it is the Scepter of a Queene.
    700Sometime ile set thy Bonnet on my head,
    And thinke I weare a rich imperiall Crowne.
    Sometime ile helpe thee in thy holy prayers,
    And thinke I am with thee in Paradise.
    Thus ile mock fortune, as she mocketh me,
    705And neuer will my louely choyce repent:
    For hauing thee, I shall haue all content.
    King. 'Twere sin to hold her longer in suspence,
    Since that my soule hath vow'd she shall be mine.
    Ah, deare Cordella, cordiall to my heart,
    710I am no Palmer, as I seeme to be,
    But hither come in this vnknowne disguise,
    To view th'admired beauty of those eyes.
    I am the King of Gallia, gentle mayd,
    (Although thus slenderly accompanied)
    715and yet thy vassayle by imperious Loue,
    and sworne to serue thee euerlastingly.
    Cor. What e're you be, of high or low discent,
    C3 All's
    The History of King Leir
    All's one to me, I do request but this:
    That as I am, you will accept of me,
    720And I will haue you whatsoe're you be:
    Yet well I know, you come of royall race,
    I see such sparks of honour in your face:
    Mum. Haue Palmers weeds such power to win fayre Ladies?
    Fayth, then I hope the next that falles is myne:
    725Vpon condition I no worse might speed,
    I would for euer weare a Palmers weed.
    I like an honest and playne dealing wench,
    That sweares (without exceptions) I will haue you.
    These foppets, that know not whether to loue a man or no, ex-
    730cept they first go aske their mothers leaue, by this hand, I hate
    them ten tymes worse then poyson.
    King. What resteth then our happinesse to procure?
    Mum. Fayth, go to Church, to make the matter sure.
    King. It shall be so, because the world shall say,
    735King Leirs three daughters were wedded in one day:
    The celebration of this happy chaunce,
    We will deferre, vntill we come to Fraunce.
    Mum. I like the wooing, that's not long a doing.
    Well, for her sake, I know what I know:
    740Ile neuer marry whilest I liue,
    Except I haue one of these Brittish Ladyes,
    My humour is alienated from the mayds of Fraunce. Exeunt.