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The Tragedy of King Lear: A Screenplay

Chapter Text

The Tragedy of King Lear

 

By William Shakespeare

Adapted by Masked Man 2





















FADE IN:

INT. NIGHT: EDMUND’S CHAMBER, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

Soft music plays. Begin opening credits. Slow pan through a large bedchamber, dimly lit by a single candelabrum. Flashes of furnishings-- an unmade four-poster bed, clothing (cloak, overcoat, boots, doublet and jerkin, sword belt) strewn all over the floor, a narrow casement window cracked open, long and heavy drapes half-drawn.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: SMALL COUNCIL ROOM, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

An old man wearing a heavy ermine robe and crown stands at the head of a circular table with a large map of Britain behind him. This is LEAR. His shoulders are slumped, his gnarled hands braced against the table. He is tired, defeated, alone.

 

INTERCUT WITH CASTLE SHOTS:

 

INT. NIGHT: EDMUND’S CHAMBER, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

Center the camera on a large, polished desk, bare apart from the candelabrum, a half-used ream of fine quality paper in an ornate wooden box, an inkwell, a sheet of paper before a ringed hand. Music turns dark as a quill pen is dipped into the ink and the hand begins to write. We see the camera pan up to a face in extreme CU-- the line of lashes, the curve of a cheek, the bristle of a mustache, parted lips. This is EDMUND, writing the false letter.

 

EDMUND

(voice-over, continuing after “of the world” to be read over the following shots)

 

This is the excellent foppery of the world: that when we are sick in fortune-- often the surfeits of our own behavior-- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance,  drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of stars! (A pause) Though the wisdom of nature can reason thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities mutinies, in countries discords, palaces treason. The bond cracked between son and father, father and daughter. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves.



INT. NIGHT: GREAT HALL, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

GONERIL, matronly, proud, clad in stately black, enters ahead of her solemn-faced husband ALBANY. REGAN, in black and green, is crushed into a kiss by her husband CORNWALL. The two exchange a smoldering look before CORNWALL nods and moves to stand beside ALBANY, facing an empty throne. REGAN joins GONERIL beside it. GONERIL whispers something in REGAN’S ear.

 

INT. NIGHT: STABLES, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

GLOUCESTER, dressed to ride, strides inside. A STABLEHAND leads two horses to him, tilts his head as if to ask, “shall I fetch a third?” GLOUCESTER glances in the direction of the house offscreen, face grim and set.

 

INT. NIGHT: GREAT HALL, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

CORDELIA, gently and demurely, clad in soft blue, enters the chamber and moves to stand beside her sisters, keeping a slight distance from them. Her shoulders hunch inward as they cast brief, contemptuous glances her way. Behind her come BURGUNDY and FRANCE, who stand stiffly opposite ALBANY and CORNWALL. FRANCE shifts his weight, looks longingly over at CORDELIA. BURGUNDY stares straight ahead.

 

EXT. NIGHT: ROAD FROM GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

GLOUCESTER and EDMUND ride in silence away from the house, into a rolling mist as clouds obscure the moon.

 

INT. NIGHT: GREAT HALL, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

KENT strides through the hall’s double doors, giving the sisters and gathered men a reassuring glance before turning worried eyes to the throne. Slow CU on his face.

 

INT. NIGHT: EDGAR’S CHAMBER, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

This shot is disorientingly out of focus, closing in briefly on the lines of hands or body but never revealing more than a sliver of a face. The chamber is almost completely dark; a small window is open and the drapes and shutters are thrown wide, permitting the last vestige of moonlight through-- just enough to see the slight figure of EDGAR sprawled in a window seat. One hand drifts shakily over the windowsill, trembling fingers lazily tapping the air as though they played an invisible piano, or flicked at insects. The other hand lifts a bottle. Unsteady CU on a stubbled throat, swallowing, before the bottle slips down the frame to crash, in slow motion, onto the floor.



INT. NIGHT: SMALL COUNCIL ROOM, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

LEAR stands before the room’s double doors, clutching his scepter, debating whether or not to leave. He takes one deep, shuddering breath before bursting open the doors.

 

INT. NIGHT: EDGAR’S CHAMBER, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

We hear a breath of something that might be a sob or a laugh or both, and EDGAR curls sharply in on himself, like he has heard the faraway slam of the door. A lone wolf howls outside.




FADE TO BLACK

 

TITLE SCREEN: THE TRAGEDY OF KING LEAR

 

INT. NIGHT: GREAT HALL, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

The hall tableau is identical to how it was before, but now GLOUCESTER stands beside KENT, sans cloak. In the corner of the frame we see it is with EDMUND, who hands it, and his own, to a SERVANT. We also see CORNWALL shifting restlessly, looking impatient, but smug. ALBANY, beside him, simply looks weary, unable to meet the cold, sharp gaze of GONERIL. GLOUCESTER and KENT speak quietly to each other.

 

FOCUS ON CONVERSATION:

 

KENT

 

I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

It did always seem so to us, but now in the division of the kingdoms it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for--

 

EDMUND, through with the SERVANT, moves over to KENT and GLOUCESTER, cutting the latter off.

 

KENT

 

Is not this your son, my lord?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to’t.

 

KENT

 

I cannot conceive you!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Sir, this young fellow’s mother could, whereupon she grew round-wombed and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. But I have a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who is yet no dearer in my account. Though came this knave saucily into the world before he was sent for, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged.

 

KENT

 

I cannot wish thy fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?

 

EDMUND

 

No, my lord.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

My lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter as my honorable friend.

 

EDMUND

 

My services to your lordship.

 

KENT

 

I must love you, and sue to know you better.

 

A fanfare of trumpets. Pan to LEAR, entering the hall with a train of GENTLEMEN and KNIGHTS. LEAR crosses to sit on his throne. The FOLLOWERS merge into the shadows along the back of the hall. The SERVANT brings LEAR a map, which he unfurls onto a low table before the throne.

 

LEAR

 

Here will we express our darker purposes. Know that we have divided in three our kingdom, and ‘tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business off our state, confirming them on younger years while we unburdened crawl toward death. Tell me, my daughters, which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extend where merit doth most challenge it? Goneril, our eldest born, speak first.

 

GONERIL

 

Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter; dearer than eyesight, space, or liberty; beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; no less than life; with grace, health, beauty, honor, as much as child e’er loved; a love that makes breath poor and speech unable.



CUT TO:

 

CORDELIA’S face in CU

 

CORDELIA

(voice-over)

 

What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

 

PAN OUT:



LEAR

 

Of all these bounds even from this line to this, with shadowy forests and with champaigns riched, with plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads we make thee lady. To thine and Albany’s issue be this perpetual.

 

GONERIL gives ALBANY a small, satisfied look. REGAN makes a moue of discontent.

 

LEAR

 

What says our second daughter? Dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall-- speak.

 

REGAN

 

Sir, I am made of that same mettle as my sister, and prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love-- only she comes too short, that I profess myself an enemy to all other joys, and find I am alone felicitate in your dear highness’ love.

 

CUT TO:

 

CORDELIA’S face in CU

 

CORDELIA

(voice-over)

 

Then poor Cordelia-- and yet, not so, for I am sure my love’s richer than my tongue.

 

PAN OUT:

 

LEAR

 

To thee and thine hereditary ever remain this ample third of our kingdom, no less in space, validity, and pleasure than that confirmed on Goneril.

 

LEAR turns to CORDELIA. The scene is silent, the shot focused on father and daughter, everyone else blurring into the background. The look on LEAR’S face is one of tender hope and pride. CORDELIA is stoic, just barely managing to hide her fear.

 

LEAR

 

But now our joy, although the last, not least in our dear love: what can you say to win a third more opulent than your sisters’?

 

CORDELIA

 

Nothing, my lord.

 

LEAR

 

Nothing?

 

CORDELIA

 

Nothing.

 

LEAR

 

Nothing can come of nothing.

 

CORDELIA

 

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond: no more, nor less.

 

LEAR

 

How, how, Cordelia?

 

CORDELIA

 

Good my lord, you have begot me, bred me, loved me. I return those duties back as are right fit-- obey you, love you, and most honor you.

 

ZOOM OUT:

 

Why have my sisters husbands if they say they love you all? Haply when I shall wed, that lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry half my love with him, half my care and duty.

 

LEAR

 

But goes this with thy heart?

 

CORDELIA

 

Ay, good my lord.

 

LEAR

 

So young, and so untender?

 

CORDELIA

 

So young, my lord, and true.

 

LEAR

 

Thy truth then be thy dower; for by the sacred radiance of the sun, the mysteries of Hecate and the night, by the operation of the orbs from whom we do exist and cease to be, here I disclaim all my paternal care, propinquity, and property of blood. As a stranger to my heart and me hold thee from this for ever!

 

KENT has been growing steadily more distressed as this progresses, as have BURGUNDY, FRANCE, GLOUCESTER, and ALBANY. GONERIL, REGAN, CORNWALL, and EDMUND are unmoved.

 

KENT

 

Good my liege--

 

LEAR

 

Peace, Kent-- come not between a dragon and his wrath. (to CORDELIA) Hence, and avoid my sight!

 

CORDELIA turns aside, silent tears welling in her eyes.

 

I loved her most, and thought to set my rest on her kind nursery. So be my grave my peace as I here give her father’s great heart from her.

 

The shot encompasses all in the frame once more as LEAR settles his gaze on CORNWALL and ALBANY.

 

LEAR

 

Cornwall and Albany, with my two daughters’ dowers digest the third. I do invest you jointly in my power and the large effects that troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly course, with reservation of a hundred knights by you to be sustained, shall our abode make with you by due turns. Only...we shall retain the name and all additions to a king. The sway, revenue, and execution of the rest, belovéd sons, be yours; which to confirm, this crownet part betwixt you.

 

KENT

 

Royal Lear, whom I have ever honored as my king, loved as my father, followed as my master--

 

LEAR

 

The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.

 

KENT

 

Let it fall, rather-- be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad. What wilt thou do, old man? Think’st thou that duty shall dread to speak when power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound when majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom, and in thy best consideration check this hideous rashness. Answer my life judgement, thy youngest daughter does not love thee least.

 

LEAR

 

Kent, on thy life, no more!

 

KENT

 

My life I never held but as a pawn, to wage against thine enemies, nor fear to lose it, thy safety being the motive.

 

LEAR

 

Out of my sight!

 

KENT

 

See better, and let me still remain the true blank of thine eye.

 

LEAR

 

Now, by Apollo--

 

KENT

 

Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.

 

LEAR stands abruptly, robes swirling as he flies for KENT, ready to strike, shouting his next lines as ALBANY and FRANCE step in as if to restrain him. KENT stumbles back, steadied by GLOUCESTER.

 

LEAR

 

Vassal! Recreant!

 

KENT

 

Do! Kill thy physician! And the fee bestow upon the foul disease!

 

The tableau is a tense one. KENT and LEAR have locked eyes, both incensed, both trembling-- LEAR from rage, KENT from the strain of restraint. FRANCE and ALBANY, flanking LEAR, look uneasy. GLOUCESTER, one hand on KENT’S arm, looks vaguely faint.

 

KENT

(quietly, desperately)

 

Revoke thy doom, or whilst I can vent clamor from my throat I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.



LEAR

 

Hear me; on thy allegiance hear me! Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow, and with strayed pride come between our sentence and our power, our potency made good take thy reward: five days we do allot thee for provision to shield thee from the disasters of the world, and on the sixth to turn thy hated back upon our kingdom. If on the seventh day thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death.

 

KENT, and others, stare in disbelief.

 

LEAR

 

Away! By Jupiter, this shall not be revoked!

 

KENT

 

Why, fare thee well, King ; since thus thou wilt appear, friendship lives hence, and banishment is here.

 

KENT turns his back on LEAR and walks over to CORDELIA, taking her by the shoulders and turning her to face him.

 

KENT

 

The gods to their protection take thee, maid, that rightly thinks, and hast most justly said.

 

Still holding CORDELIA, KENT turns to GONERIL and REGAN, comforting gaze turning hard and cold.

 

KENT

 

And your large speeches may your deeds approve, that good effects may spring from words of love.

 

KENT turns to face all assembled.

 

KENT

 

Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu. He’ll shape his old course in a country new.

 

KENT strides out of hall, unaccompanied. There is a beat of silence while LEAR haltingly retakes his throne and CORDELIA discreetly wipes away tears. GLOUCESTER glances first to her, then to LEAR, and then to BURGUNDY. LEAR, seeing this, is seemingly startled awake from a stupor.

 

LEAR

 

My lord of Burgundy. We first address towards you. What in the least will you require in present dower with our daughter, or else cease your quest of love?

 

BURGUNDY

 

Royal majesty, I crave no more than what your highness offered; nor will you tender less.

 

LEAR

 

Right noble Burgundy, when she was dear to us we did hold her so; but now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands. If aught within that little seeming substance, with our displeasure pieced, may fitly like your grace, she’s there, and she is yours.

 

BURGUNDY

 

I know no answer.

 

LEAR

 

Will you with those infirmities she owes, unfriended, new adopted to our hate, dowered with our curse and strangered with our oath, take her or leave her?

 

BURGUNDY

 

Pardon me, royal sir. Election makes not up in such conditions.

 

LEAR

 

The leave her be, sir, for I tell you all her wealth.

 

The camera pans from the grim, set face of LEAR to a crestfallen, but silent CORDELIA. BURGUNDY watches then both for a beat, then stands and bows his head to LEAR. He moves to take CORDELIA by the hand, kissing it lightly.

 

BURGUNDY

 

I am sorry, then, that you have so lost a father that you must lose a husband.

 

BURGUNDY gives a last bow to the room, and walks out: slowly, but without a backward glance. LEAR turns to FRANCE, eyes burning with contempt.

 

LEAR

 

For you, great King, I would not from your love make such a stray to match you where I hate, therefore beseech you to avert your liking a more worthier way than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed to acknowledge hers.

 

CORDELIA

 

I yet beseech your majesty, if for I want that glib and oily art to speak and purpose not-- since what I well intend, I’ll do’t before I speak-- that you acknow it is no vicious blot, no unclean action or dishonored step that hath deprived me of your grace and favor, but even the want of that for which I am richer-- a still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue as I am glad I have not, though not to have it hath lost me in your liking.

 

LEAR

 

Go to, go to. Better thou hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better.

 

FRANCE

 

Is it no more but this-- a tardiness in nature, that leaves the history unspoke that it intends to do?

 

FRANCE rises, and takes CORDELIA by the hand.

 

FRANCE

 

Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor; thee and thy virtues here I seize upon. Be it lawful, I take up what’s cast away. ( Quietly ) Gods, gods, ‘tis strange that from their cold’st neglect my love should kindle to inflamed respect. ( More firmly, pitching his voice at LEAR ) Thy dowerless daughter, King, thrown to my chance, is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.

 

LEAR

 

Thou hast her, France. Let her be thine, for we have no such daughter.

 

LEAR strides from his throne, followed quickly by FOLLOWERS and ALBANY. Various glances are exchanged: GONERIL eyes her departing husband with contempt; REGAN and CORNWALL look long and cool into each other’s eyes before the latter turns to follow LEAR’s entourage; GLOUCESTER gazes back at CORDELIA, face unreadable, before turning away. The last to leave is EDMUND, who moves with self-assured grace after his father. He is watched, hawk-like, by both GONERIL and REGAN. Finally, only the sisters and FRANCE remain. CORDELIA meets her sisters’ eyes, gaze solemn, but steady.



CORDELIA

 

Ye jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you.

 

CORDELIA steps forward, and the frame narrows, zooming claustrophobically in on the three sisters in a triangular tableau: two against one.  

 

CORDELIA

 

I know well what you are, but like a sister am most loath to call your faults as they are named. Use well our father. To your professèd bosoms I commit him.

 

REGAN

 

Prescribe not us our duty.

 

GONERIL

 

Let your study be to content your lord, who hath received you at fortune’s alms. You have obedience scanted, and well are worth the worst that you have wanted.

 

CORDELIA

 

Time shall unfold what pleated cunning hides, who covert faults at last with shame derides. Well may you prosper.

 

FRANCE

 

Bid thy sisters farewell, Cordelia, though unkind. Thou losest here, a better where to find.  

 

FRANCE puts his arm around CORDELIA’S shoulders as they exit the hall. GONERIL and REGAN are left alone, faces unreadable.  

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: GONERIL’S CHAMBER, LEAR’S CASTLE

 

GONERIL is seated at a vanity table, clad only in her shift, brushing her hair. The mirror reflects her tired face, as well as the large, elegant bed taking up most of the opposite wall. ALBANY is lying face-down on it, heavy blankets bunched lightly around his waist, wearing only a thin shirt; he appears to be deeply asleep.

 

The chamber door creaks loudly as it is nudged open; the slim figure in the doorway, silhouetted by the candle it holds, hisses softly, while GONERIL sets her brush down, casting a glance from the door to the bed in obvious irritation. ALBANY shifts slightly, but does not wake up. REGAN, clutching a shawl around her shoulders, also in night clothes, steps carefully into the chamber, chastened, but with eyes burning indignantly. She takes a seat in the vanity stool as GONERIL rises to throw a look at her husband, and turns to look at her sister expectantly.  

 

GONERIL

(sighing, speaking softly)

 

I think our father will hence tonight.

 

REGAN

 

That’s most certain, and with you. Next month with us.

 

GONERIL moves to stand behind REGAN, beginning to brush her hair.  



GONERIL

 

You see how full of changes his age is. The observation we have made of it hath been little.

 

REGAN

 

He always loved our sister most, and with what poor judgement he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.

GONERIL

 

‘Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.

 

REGAN

 

The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash.

 

GONERIL

 

Then must we look to receive from his age not alone the imperfection of long-engrafted condition, but therewithal unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them. Pray, let’s hit together. If our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.

 

REGAN

 

We must do something, and i’th’ heat.

 

GONERIL

 

We shall further think on’t.

 

GONERIL finishes REGAN’S hair and gently caresses the top of her head. REGAN leans into the touch for a moment, before heaving herself up. The sisters exchange a charged glance before REGAN turns to pad quietly out, leaving her candle on the vanity. GONERIL lazily, almost dreamily, bends to blow it out. The last thing we see is her profile in extreme CU before the screen goes dark, cut through with a single trail of wafting smoke.  

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: EDMUND’S CHAMBER, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

Though it is daylight outside, EDMUND’S chamber is still fairly dark. The desk has been cleared; the letter is tucked into EDMUND’S belt, and EDMUND himself is leaning far back in his chair, lazily twirling his dagger between his fingers. A large family tree is spread open on the desk, just beyond his crossed feet; during the following soliloquy, beginning with “thou, nature,” he plays with the dagger and intermittently throws it at the tree before rocking forward to retrieve it.

 

EDMUND

 

Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law my services are bound. (Toss: the dagger has clipped the edge of the scroll, missing any names by a long shot. EDMUND reaches forward to recover it, disgusted.) Wherefore should I stand  in the plague of custom and permit the curiosity of nations for that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines lag of a brother? Why ‘bastard’? Wherefore ‘base,’ when my dimensions are as well compact, my mind as generous, and my shape as true as honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us with ‘base, baseness, bastardy -- (Toss: it hits the line between GLOUCESTER’S name and his father’s) -- who in the lusty stealth of nature take more composition and fierce quality than doth within a stale, dull-eyed bed go to the creating a whole tribe of fops, got ‘tween sleep and wake? (Toss: it hits EDMUND’S own name, which looks hastily, messily added, as though EDMUND drew it there himself) Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund as to th’ legitimate. Well, my legitimate, I must have your land. If this letter speed and my invention thrive, Edmund the base shall top the legitimate. I grow. I prosper. Now, gods, stand up for bastards! (Toss: it hits EDGAR’S name, obscuring it from view even in CU)

 

INT. DAY: HALLWAY OUTSIDE LIBRARY, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

GLOUCESTER rounds a corner and strides into the hall; in the background, a SERVANT can be seen exiting with his cloak. A very faint whistling can just be made out, which grows louder as he speaks.



GLOUCESTER

(muttering to himself)

 

Kent banished thus, and France in choler parted, and the King gone tonight, subscribed his power, confined to exhibition-- all this done upon the gad?

 

EDMUND, reading the letter, saunters into the hallway from his room offscreen. He pulls up short upon sighting GLOUCESTER, stopping his whistling abruptly, and hurriedly shoves the letter in his pocket.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Edmund, how now? What news?

 

EDMUND

(hurriedly, feigning nervousness)

 

So please your lordship, none.  

 

GLOUCESTER

(with growing suspicion)

 

Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

 

EDMUND

 

I know no news, my lord.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

No? What needs that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself.

 

EDMUND

(lowering his head in contrition)

 

I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o’er-read; for so much as I have perused, I find it not to your liking.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Give me the letter, sir.

 

EDMUND

 

I shall offend either to detain or to give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Let’s see.

 

EDMUND

(handing GLOUCESTER the letter with great reluctance)

 

I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as an assay or taste of my virtue.

 

GLOUCESTER

(reads aloud over voice-overs of EDMUND and EDGAR, whispering the words)

 

‘This policy of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever and live the beloved of your brother.’ Hmm...conspiracy…? ‘Sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue’-- my son! Had he a hand to write this, a heart and brain to breed it in? (Fixes EDMUND with a severe look) You know the character to be your brother’s?

 

EDMUND

 

If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his, but in respect of that, I would fain think it were not--

 

GLOUCESTER

 

It is his.

 

EDMUND

 

It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the contents.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?

 

EDMUND

 

Never, my lord...but I have often heard him maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage the revenue.

 

GLOUCESTER

(with growing rage)

 

O villain, villain-- his very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain, unnatural, detested, brutish villain-- worse than brutish! Abominable villain! Where is he?

 

EDMUND

 

I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you should run a certain course; where if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him he hath wrote this to feel my affection to your honor, and to no further pretence of danger.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

He cannot be such a monster.

 

EDMUND

 

Nor is not, sure.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

To his father-- heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out, wind me into him. I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.

 

EDMUND

 

I shall seek him, sir, presently: convey the business as I see means, and acquaint you withal.

 

GLOUCESTER

(darkly musing)

 

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us…. Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.

 

GLOUCESTER and EDMUND stand apart for one tense moment before GLOUCESTER pulls EDMUND to him in a rough embrace. He then turns away, shaking his head and muttering to himself once more as he disappears down the hall.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished, his offence honesty! Strange, strange.

 

EDMUND watches his father leave, smirking once he is out of sight. He turns and enters the dimly lit, dark-wooded library, leaving the door only slightly ajar. Whistling once again, he wanders over to one of the shelves and pulls out a book at random. It is a book of astrology. He flips through it disinterestedly as he leans against an armchair, pausing at a star map that he begins to trace with his fingers. He speaks slowly, musingly.

 

EDMUND

 

My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. (Snorts a laugh) Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. I--

 

He is interrupted by the quiet squeaking of the door. EDGAR steals carefully into the room, his eyes downcast; he does not notice EDMUND. His clothing is dark, his movements almost hesitant. There is something uneasy in his demeanor that should manifest itself as a sort of nervous tension. A slow, predatory smile breaks over EDMUND’S face as he turns to another page near the end of the book.

 

EDMUND

(voice-over)

 

And pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam. (Aloud) --O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! (Sings, softly) Fa, sol, la, mi….

 

EDGAR jumps upon hearing EDMUND’S voice, but relaxes almost immediately as he crosses to EDMUND’S side. EDMUND throws a casually affectionate arm across his shoulders before turning his head to study his book with rapt attention.

 

EDGAR

 

How now, brother Edmund? (Peers at the book, then at EDMUND’S face) What serious contemplation are you in?

 

EDMUND

(seriously)

 

I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

 

EDGAR

(somewhat skeptical)

 

Do you busy yourself with that?

 

EDMUND

 

I promise you, the effects he writ of succeed unhappily, as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent, death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what!

 

EDGAR opens his mouth to speak, but is abruptly cut off. EDMUND snaps his book shut, tosses it carelessly onto a nearby couch, and takes EDGAR by the shoulders, facing him, at once concerned and urgent. As EDMUND gets more animated in his following speech, EDGAR gets quieter, more fearful.



EDMUND

 

Come, when saw you my father last?



EDGAR

 

...The night gone by.

 

EDMUND

 

Spake you with him?

 

EDGAR

 

Two hours together.

 

EDMUND

 

Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word or countenance?

 

EDGAR

 

None at all.

 

EDMUND

 

Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him, and at my entreaty forbear his presence till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would scarce allay.

 

EDGAR

(in slow shock)

 

Some villain hath done me wrong.

 

EDMUND

(leads EDGAR to the door)

 

That’s my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging. Pray ye, go! (Pulls a spare key from a cord around his neck and presses it into EDGAR’S hand) There’s my key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.

 

EDGAR

 

Armed, brother--?

 

EDMUND

 

Brother, I advise you to the best. I am no honest man if there be any good meaning towards you. (Pulls EDGAR close to whisper in his ear) I have told you what I have seen and heard but faintly: nothing like the image and horror of it. (Pulls back to speak more loudly) Pray you, away.

 

EDGAR

(turns to leave, then turns back and grabs desperately for EDMUND’S hand)

 

Shall I hear from you anon?

 

EDMUND

(clasps EDGAR’S hand strongly)

 

I do serve you in this business.

 

EDMUND pulls EDGAR in again and kisses him on the lips. They are locked in this tableau for but a moment-- EDMUND stock-still, EDGAR trembling violently-- before EDGAR turns and runs towards EDMUND’S chamber. EDMUND watches him go, then slides down the wall, laughing almost to the point of tears, wiping first his lips, then his eyes. Zoom in for a close CU.

 

EDMUND

 

A credulous father, and a brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty my practices ride easy. I see the business. Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit. All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.

 

EDMUND, still in CU, reaches inside his shirt and pulls out the cord. A pendant is on it: a rough-hewn wooden cross, strung upside down, with something resembling a stag’s antler branching off of the bottom of it. EDMUND gently caresses this as his laughter lowers to a soft chuckle, and his eyes drift skyward.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: ALBANY’S STUDY, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

GONERIL is seated at ALBANY’S desk, rifling through sheafs of documents. None of them seem particularly interesting, but occasionally she will hand one to the liveried and bespectacled OSWALD, standing at her shoulder with a self-assured, easy grace that seems out of place on a servant. They work silently for awhile. When GONERIL speaks, it is out of the blue; OSWALD nearly drops the paper he is perusing before regaining his composure.

 

GONERIL

 

Did my father strike my gentleman for the chiding of his fool?

 

OSWALD

 

Ay, madam.

 

GONERIL

(sighs exasperatedly, slams a paper down in frustration)

 

By night and day he wrongs me. Every hour he flashes into one gross crime or other. I’ll not endure it. (GONERIL glances out the window, face hard and set) When he returns from hunting I will not speak with him.

 

A ruckus of noise can be heard from outside: hunting horns, the barking of dogs, the stamping of horses’ hooves, the shouts of men. OSWALD turns his attention from the window to GONERIL, but she stands and places a hand on his chest before he can speak.

 

GONERIL

 

Put on what weary negligence you please, you and your fellow servants. If you come slack of your former services you shall do well; the fault of it I’ll answer. If he dislike it, let him to our sister, whose mind and mine I know in that are one. Remember what I tell you.

 

OSWALD

 

Well, madam.

 

GONERIL

 

And let his knights have colder looks among you. What grows of it, no matter. Advise your fellows so. (OSWALD nods; the noise outside grows louder, as the hunting party begins to move inside) Go prepare for dinner.

 

OSWALD bows, grazing GONERIL’S fingertips with his lips as he does so; the look on his face is one of horror, shock, and rapt pleasure. He strides from the room, snapping something to a few SERVANTS hovering outside the door. GONERIL watches him go, running her thumb absently, contemptuously, over her kissed fingers. The voice of LEAR can be heard offscreen; GONERIL’S face grows cold and angry as she hears it.

 

LEAR

(offscreen)

 

Let me not stay a jot for dinner! Go you, sir, get it ready!

 

SLOW CU:

 

GONERIL sits hurriedly at the desk, scrabbling for a pen and ink, sifting furiously through drawers for a fresh sheet of paper. Her next lines are muttered to herself.



GONERIL

 

I’ll write straight to my sister to hold my course. Idle old man! Still would manage those authorities that he hath given away! Now, by my life, old fools are babes again, and must be used with checks as flatteries, when they are seen abused.



GONERIL, having found paper, inks the pen and sets it down. We see her write “dear sister” before the screen goes dark.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: BACK OF STABLES, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

KENT has darkened his grey hair and beard to black. His beard is longer, his face newly sunburnt. Music plays over this sequence; we do not hear the words he speaks to a plainly dressed STABLEHAND. A bargain of sorts is in negotiation; KENT gives the STABLEHAND a few coins, and glances warily about as the other man begins to unwrap his cloak.

 

FADE TO:



INT. DAY: ARMORY, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

The KNIGHTS disarm in a ruckus of laughter, talking, shouting, and some singing; no distinct words can be made out. A drinking game seems to be starting in one corner of the armory. There are few SERVANTS in the space; those that are do not seem inclined to help the KNIGHTS in any way.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: GREAT HALL, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

KENT is now wearing the STABLEHAND’S cloak and old clothing, looking every inch the rough commoner. He is alone but for a bustle of SERVANTS preparing a meal; the sounds of LEAR and his men can faintly be heard from the courtyard outside. He is mumbling words to himself, in various tones and accents. The camera tracks him as he wanders the room in this manner, unheeded by the SERVANTS. He eventually pauses by the double doors, pensive.

 

KENT

 

If but as as well I other accents borrow that can my speech diffuse, my full intent may carry through itself to that full issue for which I razed my likeness.

 

LEAR

(offscreen)

 

Where’s my fool, ho?

 

KENT freezes, draws in a breath. His hand finds his pocket and pulls an old pendant from it; cupped in his fist, it is invisible to us. He holds it close to his mouth as he speaks.

 

KENT

 

Now, banished Kent, if thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned, so may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st, shall find thee full of labour.

 

The doors open with a bang to admit LEAR and his newly-disarmed entourage. LEAR himself is dressed for the hunt, bereft of his royal vestments and walking with more of a spring in his step. His hair is wild, his eyes bright, his hands rubbing together agitatedly.

 

LEAR

 

I think the world’s asleep. Seeing KENT in the doorway, he stops abruptly. How now, what art thou?

 

KENT

(voice disguised)

 

A man, sir.

 

LEAR

 

What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?

 

KENT

 

I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear judgement, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish.

 

LEAR

 

What art thou?

 

KENT

 

A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.

 

LEAR

 

If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou’rt poor enough. What wouldst thou?

 

KENT

 

Service.

 

LEAR

 

Who wouldst thou serve?

 

KENT

 

You.

 

LEAR

 

Dost thou know me, fellow?

 

KENT

 

No, sir, but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.

 

LEAR

 

What’s that?

 

KENT

 

Authority.

 

LEAR

 

What services canst do?

 

KENT

 

I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.  

 

A pause as LEAR and KENT exchange a long, charged look. LEAR seems to be searching for something even he cannot name in KENT’S eyes, while KENT remains, perhaps with a bit of a struggle, impassive, with the peasant guise’s bluff, self-assured plainness. At last, LEAR, evidently satisfied with what he sees, nods and takes KENT by the arm.

 

LEAR

 

Follow me. Thou shalt serve me, if I like thee no worse after dinner. (LEAR glances around, and a SERVANT pointedly turns his back-- LEAR does not notice) Dinner, ho, dinner! (LEAR turns back to KENT) I will not part from thee yet.

 

Another SERVANT enters with a stack of empty trenchers, looking a bit lost. LEAR, catching sight of him, hurries haltingly over, dragging KENT with him.

 

LEAR

 

Where’s my knave, my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.

 

The SERVANT sets his trenchers down and gapes a bit, before KENT moves to lead him away. OSWALD, weary irritation seaming his face, strides into the hall and glances around, letting his gaze touch and pass LEAR before moving to speak quietly to the young BOYS bearing wine for the knights. When LEAR turns to address him, he ignores the words.

 

LEAR

 

You, you, sirrah! Where’s my daughter?

 

OSWALD

(turning indolently around)

 

So please you--  

 

OSWALD turns back to the boys for a moment before leaving in the direction of the kitchens. LEAR stares after him, dumbfounded.

 

LEAR

 

What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back! (KENT reenters with the SERVANT, and LEAR turns to them) How now, where's that mongrel?

 

KENT

 

He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.  

 

LEAR

 

Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?

 

SERVANT

(nervously)

 

Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner he would not.  

 

LEAR

 

Would not ?

 

SERVANT

 

My lord, I know not what the matter is, but to my judgement your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont. There’s a great abatement of kindness appears as well in the general dependants as in the Duke and your daughter.  

 

LEAR

 

Sayest thou so?

 

SERVANT

 

I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken, for my duty cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.  

 

LEAR

 

Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception. I have perceived a most faint neglect of late, which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness. I will look further into’t. But where’s this fool? I have not seen him these two days.

 

SERVANT

 

Since my young lady’s gone into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away--

 

LEAR

 

No more of that, I have noted it. Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her, and call hither my fool.

 

The SERVANT bows and turns to exit the hall; he is caught and briefly cuffed by OSWALD when he reaches the door. OSWALD turns away and begins to stride back through the hall, once again paying LEAR and KENT no heed.

 

LEAR

 

O, you, sir, you, come hither. (OSWALD pauses dramatically in his step and turns back to LEAR, suppressing a sigh) Who am I, sir?    

 

OSWALD

 

My lady’s father.  

 

LEAR

 

My lady’s father? My lord’s knave, you whoreson dog, you slave, you cur!   

 

OSWALD

 

I am none of these, my lord, I beseech your pardon.  

 

LEAR

 

Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?   

 

Without warning, LEAR flashes out a hand, catching OSWALD across the mouth. A bit of blood is drawn. OSWALD, putting one shaking hand up to cover the wound, stumbles back from LEAR as he tries desperately to regain his composure.

 

OSWALD

 

I’ll not be struck, my lord--!

 

KENT puts out a foot to trip the retreating OSWALD, who goes sprawling, sputtering indignantly and gaping at KENT. KENT  then kicks him, as LEAR moves closer, fascinated.

 

KENT

 

Nor tripped neither, you base football-player. (A pause-- the only sound made by any of the three is OSWALD’S labored breathing) Away, sir. If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry; but away if you have wisdom.  

 

OSWALD rises gingerly, eyeing KENT as though he expects to be struck again. His exit is hasty, a flighty retreat, all semblance of cold aloofness gone from his demeanor. LEAR, obviously impressed, clasps KENT strongly on the shoulder.

 

LEAR

 

Friendly knave, I thank thee. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll love thee. There’s earnest of thy service.

 

LEAR hands KENT a few coins bearing his own image. During the above dialogue, another figure has entered through the kitchens, causing a bit of a stir that, as yet, has gone unnoticed by LEAR and KENT-- this is the FOOL. He is dressed in ragged motley, and wears a hooded, heavily patched brown cloak with a felt coxcomb sewn to the top of the hood. Bells are strung to his wrists, a bauble carved in his likeness is stuck into his belt, and a tabor, with a pipe tied to it, is slung over his shoulder. He is juggling several grapes in one hand, eating them out of the air as they come down. With his free hand, he deftly unties his cloak as he approaches KENT from behind.

 

FOOL

 

Let me hire him, too! (The FOOL taps KENT on the shoulder, making him jump, and thrusts the cloak towards him) Here’s my coxcomb.

 

LEAR

 

How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?

 

FOOL

(to KENT)

 

Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.

 

KENT

 

Why, fool?

 

FOOL

 

Why? Why, for taking one’s part that’s out of favor. Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt catch cold shortly. There, take my coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two on’s daughters and done the third a blessing against his will. If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb. (A pause as the FOOL turns to LEAR, as though seeing him for the first time) How now, nuncle? Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters.

 

LEAR

 

Why, my boy?

 

FOOL

 

If I gave them my all living I’d keep my coxcombs myself. There’s mine; beg another off thy daughters.

 

LEAR

 

Take heed, sirrah-- the whip.

 

FOOL

 

Truth’s a dog must to kennel. He must be whipped out when Lady Brach may stand by the fire and stink.

 

LEAR

 

A pestilent gall to me!

 

FOOL

(to KENT)

 

Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.

 

KENT

 

Do.

 

FOOL

(to LEAR)

 

Mark it, nuncle. (The FOOL turns back to KENT) ‘Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest, ride more than thou goest, learn more than thou trowest, set less than thou throwest. Leave thy drink and thy whore, and keep in-a-door, and thou shalt have more than two tens to a score.’

 

KENT

 

This is nothing, fool.

 

FOOL

 

Then ‘tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer; you gave me nothing for it. (To LEAR) Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?

 

LEAR

 

Why, no, boy. Nothing can be made of nothing.

 

FOOL

(to KENT)

 

Prithee, tell him so much the rent of his land comes to. He will not believe a fool.

 

LEAR

 

A bitter fool.

 

FOOL

 

Dost know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?

 

LEAR

 

No, lad. Teach me.

 

FOOL

(sings, possibly accompanies himself on the tabor or pipe)

 

‘That lord that counselled thee to give away thy land, come, place him here by me; do thou for him stand. The sweet and bitter fool will presently appear, the one in motley here, the other found out there.’

 

LEAR

 

Dost thou call me fool, boy?

 

FOOL

 

All thy other titles thou hast given away. That thou wast born with.

 

KENT

(to LEAR)

 

This is not altogether fool, my lord.

 

FOOL

 

No, faith-- lords and great men will not let me! If I had a monopoly out, they would have part on’t, and ladies, too, they will not let me have all the fool to myself-- they’ll be snatching. Give me an egg, nuncle, and I’ll give thee two crowns.

 

LEAR

 

What two crowns shall they be?

 

FOOL

 

Why, after I have cut the egg i’th’ middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’th’ middle and gavest away both parts, thou borest thine ass o’th’ back o’er the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so. (Sings) ‘Fools had ne’er less wit in a year, for wise men are grown foppish. They know not how their wits do wear, their manners are so apish.’

 

LEAR

 

When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?

 

FOOL

 

I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mother; for when thou gavest them the rod and puttest down thine own breeches…. (Sings) ‘Then they for sudden joy did weep, and I for sorrow sung, that such a king should play bo-peep, and go the fools among.’ Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie. I would fain learn to lie.

 

LEAR

 

An you lie, we’ll have you whipped.

 

FOOL

 

I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and sometime I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind of thing than a fool...and yet I would not be thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides and left nothing in the middle.  

 

GONERIL stalks into the hall from within the castle proper, frowning. She moves as a woman with a purpose, remaining unmoved by the SERVANTS scrabbling to clear her path to LEAR.

 

FOOL

 

Here comes one of the parings.

 

LEAR

 

How now, daughter, what makes that frontlet on?

 

FOOL

 

Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning. Now thou art an O without a figure. I am better than thou art, now. I am a fool; thou art nothing. (GONERIL gives the FOOL a withering look) Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing. (Sings) Mum, mum, he that keeps neither crust nor crumb, weary of all, shall want some.’ That’s a shelled peascod.

 

GONERIL

 

Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool, but other of your insolent retinue do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth in rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir, I had thought by making this well-known unto you to have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful, by what yourself too late have spoke and done, that you protect this course, and put it on by your allowance. If you should, the fault would not scape censure, nor the redress sleep which in the tender of a wholesome weal might in their working do you that offence, that else were shame, that then necessity must call discreet proceedings.

 

FOOL

(to LEAR)

 

For, you trow, nuncle, (sings) ‘the hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long that it had its head bit off by its young; so out went the candle, and we were left darkling.’

 

LEAR

(to GONERIL)

 

Are you our daughter?

 

GONERIL

 

Come, sir, I would you would make use of that good wisdom whereof I know you are fraught, and put away these dispositions that of late transform you from what you rightly are.

 

FOOL

 

May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? (Sings) ‘Whoop, jug, I love thee!’

 

LEAR, seemingly seized by a sudden fury, stalks haltingly away from GONERIL, moving towards the center of the hall. The SERVANTS eye him warily, as does KENT, who moves forward as if to help, and pauses, unease evident in his every movement. Only the FOOL seems unconcerned; he brings out his bauble and makes it mimic LEAR’S pacing and spasmodic movements, an inexplicably serene look on his face.

 

LEAR

 

Does any here know me? This is not Lear. Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his eyes? Either his motion weakens, or his discernings are lethargied-- sleeping or waking, ha? ‘Tis not so. Who is it that can tell me who I am?

 

FOOL

 

Lear’s shadow.

 

LEAR

 

I would learn that, for by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge and reason I should be false persuaded I had daughters!

 

FOOL

 

Which they will make an obedient father.

 

LEAR

(abruptly, to GONERIL)

 

Your name, fair gentlewoman?

 

GONERIL

 

Come, sir, this admiration is much of the savour of other your new pranks. I do beseech you understand my purposes aright, as you are old and reverend, should be wise. Here you do keep a hundred knights and squires, men so disordered, so debauched and bold that this our court, infected with their manners, shows like a riotous inn or brothel. The shame itself doth speak for instant remedy. Be thou desired, by her that else will take the thing she begs, a little to disquantity your train, and the remainder that shall still depend to be such men may besort your age, that know themselves and you.

 

LEAR

 

Darkness and devils! (Turns, enraged, to his KNIGHTS) Saddle my horses, call my train together!-- (To GONERIL) Degenerate bastard, I’ll not trouble thee. Yet have I left a daughter.

 

The hall is in turmoil. The KNIGHTS that exit brush harshly past a few of the SERVANTS on their way out, and the two groups seem very close to fighting outright. The FOOL laughs softly, a sound that nearly escapes notice, one of either fear or madness or both. He then attaches himself to the wary KENT. In the midst of the noise, ALBANY enters from the castle proper, making for GONERIL and LEAR with an expression both alarmed and wearily, resignedly subdued. He, too, goes unnoticed.

 

GONERIL

 

You strike my people, and your disordered rabble make servants of their betters!

 

LEAR

 

Woe that too late repents--! (LEAR spies ALBANY, and rounds on him in a fury) O, sir, are you come? Is it your will that we-- prepare my horses! (Two KNIGHTS exit hastily) Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, more hideous when thou show’st thee in a child than the sea-monster--!

 

ALBANY

(quietly)

 

Pray, sir, be patient--

 

LEAR

(to GONERIL)

 

Detested kite, thou liest! My train are men of choice and rarest parts, that in the most exact regard support the worships of their name. O most small fault, how ugly didst thou in Cordelia show, that wrenched my frame of nature from the fixed place, drew from my heart all love, and added to the gall! O Lear, Lear, Lear! Beat at this gate that let thy folly in and thy dear judgements out!--

 

ALBANY

 

My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant of what hath moved you.

 

LEAR

 

It may be so, my lord. Hark, nature, hear: dear goddess, suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful. Dry up her organs of increase, and from her derogate body never spring a babe to honour her. If she must teem, create her child of spleen, that it may live and be a thwart disnatured torment to her. Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, with cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks, turn all her mother’s pains and benefits to laughter and contempt, that she may feel-- (A pause, as LEAR stares at GONERIL long and hard, contempt washing over the horror on his face) That she may feel how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child. --Go, go, my people! Away!

 

LEAR turns and strides out of the hall, followed by KENT and the rest of the KNIGHTS. Of LEAR’S train, only the FOOL remains; he whistles softly, wandering over to the door and dithering there, frowning at LEAR’S retreating form, invisible to us. GONERIL gives the stunned SERVANTS an icy glare, startling them back into work. ALBANY turns to GONERIL in consternation.

 

ALBANY

 

Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

 

GONERIL

 

Never afflict yourself to know the cause, but let his disposition have that scope that dotage gives it.

 

As GONERIL speaks, LEAR stumbles back inside, looking both confused and enraged. Within the shadow of the door, the FOOL hums decisively.

 

LEAR

 

What, fifty of my followers at a clap? Within a fortnight?

 

ALBANY

 

What’s the matter, sir?

 

LEAR

 

I’ll tell thee. (To GONERIL) Life and death! I am ashamed that thou hast power to shake my manhood thus, that these hot tears, that break from me perforce and should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee! Untented woundings of a father’s curse pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes, beweep this cause again I’ll pluck you out and cast you, with the waters that you make, to temper clay. Is’t come to this? Yet have I left a daughter who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable. When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails she’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find that I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think I have cast off forever; thou shalt, I warrant thee!

 

LEAR storms out again, muttering to himself. The FOOL, once again, stays behind, watching GONERIL and ALBANY with poorly disguised fascination.

 

GONERIL

 

Did you mark that?



ALBANY

 

I cannot be so partial, Goneril, to the great love I bear you--

 

GONERIL

 

Content you, sir. What, Oswald, ho! (GONERIL catches sight of the FOOL, and whirls toward him, lifting a hand as though to strike) You, more knave than fool, after your master!



FOOL

(bowing cheekily and skipping backwards out the door)

 

Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry, take the fool with thee. (Sings) ‘ A fox when one has caught her, and such a daughter should sure to the slaughter, if my cap would buy a halter. So, the fool follows after.’

 

GONERIL

 

This man hath good counsel-- a hundred knights? ‘Tis politic and safe to let him keep a hundred knights, yes, that on every dream, each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, he may enguard his dotage with their powers and hold our lives in mercy-- Oswald, I say!



ALBANY

(to himself)

 

Well, you may fear too far.

 

GONERIL, of course, has heard this, and the look she gives ALBANY is venomous. ALBANY seems to wilt under her gaze, casting his eyes downward in resignation.

 

GONERIL

 

Safer than trust too far. Let me still take away the harms I fear, not fear still to be taken. I know his heart. What he that uttered I have writ my sister. If she sustain him and his hundred knights when I have showed th’ unfitness--

 

During the above speech OSWALD slinks back into the hall, looking rather like a kicked dog. He sports a split lip from his altercation with LEAR and KENT, and his steward’s chain has snapped. GONERIL, unaware of the occurrence of the fight, cannot mask her surprise for a moment. ALBANY appears to take no notice of OSWALD’S entrance.

 

GONERIL

 

How now, Oswald? What, have you writ that letter to my sister?



OSWALD

 

Ay, madam.

 

GONERIL

 

Take you some company, and away to horse. Inform her full of my particular fears, and thereto add such reasons of your own as may compact it more. Get you gone, and hasten your return.

 

OSWALD bows in silence before exiting the hall, shouting something indistinct as he makes for the stables. GONERIL watches him leave, then turns to ALBANY with an appraising look. A beat of silence passes between them.



GONERIL

 

My lord, this milky gentleness and course of yours, though I dislike not, yet under pardon you’re much ataxed for want of wisdom than praised for harmful mildness.

 

ALBANY

 

How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell. Striving to better aught, we mar what’s well.

 

GONERIL

 

Nay, then--!

 

ALBANY

 

Well, well, th’event.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: STABLES, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

LEAR’S KNIGHTS, most of them re-armored, are saddling their horses. Some, just outside, prepare a cart. There is much noise as the train hastily makes ready to leave.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: OUTER GATE, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

LEAR, KENT, and the FOOL are gathered  just outside the gate, watching the KNIGHTS begin to make their way down the high road from ALBANY’S castle. The FOOL plays softly upon his pipe as LEAR hands a packet of letters to KENT.

 

LEAR

 

Go you before to Gloucester with these letters. Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you know than comes from her demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there before you.

 

KENT

 

I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.

 

KENT, having taken the letters, bows with a fist over his heart before striding up the rough terrain to meet the long line of KNIGHTS, one of whom is leading a riderless horse behind him. The camera pans out briefly to catch KENT mounting this horse and spurring it into a gallop, overtaking the line, before closing back in on the LEAR and the FOOL, who abruptly stops playing.

 

FOOL

 

If a man’s brains were in his heels, were’t not in danger of kibes?

 

LEAR

 

Ay, boy.

 

FOOL

 

Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall ne’er go slipshod. (LEAR laughs) Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly, for though she’s as like this as a crab is like an apple, yet I con what I can tell.

 

LEAR

 

What canst thou tell, my boy?

 

FOOL

 

She’ll taste as like this as a crab doth to a crab. Thou canst not tell why one’s nose stands in the middle of his face?

 

LEAR

 

No.

 

FOOL

 

Why, to keep one’s eyes on either side ‘s nose, that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

 

LEAR

(abruptly)

 

I did her wrong; I will forget my nature. So kind a father!

 

FOOL

 

So kind, to give his house to his daughter, and leave his horns without a case.

 

LEAR

 

To take’t again by force-- monster ingratitude!

 

FOOL

 

If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time.

 

LEAR

 

How’s that?

 

FOOL

 

Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

 

LEAR

(to himself)

 

O, let me be not mad, not mad, sweet heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad.

 

A KNIGHT, who has been driving the cart, makes his way over to LEAR. We see the cart stopped at the end of the train, in the shot’s background.

 

LEAR

 

Be my horses ready?

 

KNIGHT

 

Ready, my lord.

 

LEAR

(to FOOL)

 

Come, boy.

 

LEAR begins to make his way up to the cart, irritatedly shoving off the KNIGHT when he tries to assist him in the climb. The FOOL, watching them, raises his eyebrows and waggles his head in mock defiance, then glances towards the lens of the camera. He does a double-take, as though surprised to see an audience behind it, but slowly smiles; however, the expression freezes and slips. It is as though he has sensed the audience laughing with him and is not at all pleased about the fact.

 

FOOL

(airily, with a note of warning)

 

She that is a maid now, and laughs at my departure, shall not be a maid long, except things be cut shorter.

 

The FOOL turns his back to the camera after holding its “gaze” for a poignant moment. He pulls out his pipe and begins to play as he saunters up the road to join LEAR at the cart, playing a more melancholy tune than before.

 

FADE TO:

Chapter Text

EXT. NIGHT: GARDEN GAZEBO, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

EDMUND sits inside the gazebo, eyes closed, lounging back against the bench, humming the same tune the FOOL was just playing. The night is eerily quiet and still, the calm before a storm, and EDMUND appears to be waiting for something or someone to arrive. He does not react to the footsteps outside the gazebo, nor does he open his eyes when a plainly dressed servant-- CURAN--  slips quietly inside.

 

EDMUND

 

Save thee, Curan.



CURAN

 

And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and his duchess will be here with him tonight.

 

EDMUND

 

How comes that?



CURAN

 

I know not. (A pause, as CURAN seems to wait for EDMUND to react) You have heard the news abroad? --I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-bussing arguments.

 

EDMUND sits bolt upright, hearing this, and eyes CURAN with suspicion.

 

EDMUND

 

Not I. Pray you, what are they?



CURAN

 

Have you heard of no likely wars towards twist the two Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?

 

EDMUND

 

Not a word.



CURAN

(shrugs)

 

You may, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.   

 

CURAN nods, but does not bow, and exits as quietly as he entered. Slow CU on EDMUND, who sits stock-still, seemingly stunned, for a moment before rising abruptly to pace the length of the gazebo.

 

EDMUND

 

The Duke be here tonight? The better...best! This weaves itself perforce into my business.

 

EDMUND stalks from the gazebo, out into the seemingly empty garden. The rising moon is covered by scatterings of cloud, and the night air is touched by a chill; the dead leaves and flowers are damp, and EDMUND’S breath is just barely visible. Lights can be seen gleaming through some of the windows on the first floor of the house, but the second floor is dark. As he speaks, EDMUND makes his way toward a particular window close to the back of the house and above the garden gate-- his own.

 

EDMUND

 

My father hath set guard to take my brother, and I have one thing of a queasy question which must ask  briefness. Wit and fortune work--!

 

Reaching the window, EDMUND leans down and picks up a handful of small pebbles from the ground. He throws one at his window, and misses, sending the pebble straight through the open shutters of a window two away from his own-- EDGAR’S. EDMUND curses softly and tries again, clipping his own this time. The curtains shift rapidly, as though someone is retreating from the sill. EDMUND tosses another pebble, which goes straight through the cracked shutters. A shadow draws closer to the window.

 

EDMUND

(in a stage whisper)

 

Brother, a word! (Toss; this pebble, larger than the rest, hits one of the shutters heavily and dents it) Descend! (A pause; EDMUND throws his last pebble and rakes a hand through his hair in frustration) Brother, I say!

 

The shadow immediately disappears, and EDMUND rocks back on his heels, whistling softly, letting his right hand caress the hilt of his sword. After a moment’s pause, EDGAR creeps silently through the gate, but his form is indistinct; he keeps close to the shadows of the house as he approaches EDMUND warily. EDMUND, cat-like, springs forward and grasps EDGAR’S arm, drawing him sharply towards the garden’s back wall. When EDGAR cries out in alarm, EDMUND claps a hand over his mouth and keeps it there, pulling his brother close.

 

EDMUND

 

My father watches. O, sir, fly this place. Intelligence is given where you are hid, but you have now the good advantage of the night. Tell me, have you not spoken ‘gainst the Duke of Cornwall aught? He’s coming hither now, in the night, i’th haste, and Regan with him. Have you nothing said upon his party against the Duke of Albany? Advise yourself.

 

EDGAR

(faintly)

 

I am sure on’t, not a word--

 

The sounds of voices can suddenly be heard from within the house, rising to inform GLOUCESTER of a commotion in the garden. Another light, closer to the garden gate, comes on. EDMUND pushes EDGAR away from him and draws his sword, making EDGAR leap back to avoid it.

 

EDMUND

 

I hear my father coming. Seem to defend yourself. (Shouts) Yield, come before my father! Light ho, here!



EDGAR has been backing away towards the wall, but EDMUND lunges forward to grab his sleeve and whisper in his ear.

 

EDMUND

 

Fly, brother. (Shouts) Torches, torches! (To Edgar, in a whisper) So-- (EDMUND places another kiss on EDGAR’S lips) --farewell.

 

The voices grow louder, and the bobbing flickers of torchlight can be seen approaching the garden. EDGAR grabs for the thorny vines growing over the wall and begins to climb, while EDMUND strikes the stone beneath him with the flat of his blade, giving a shout. EDGAR disappears over the other side of the wall, and EDMUND turns tightly away.

 

EDMUND

 

Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion of my more fierce endeavour. (EDMUND slices at his arm with his sword, hissing as blood immediately begins to soak the torn sleeve of his doublet) I have seen drunkards do more than this in sport. (Shouts) Father, father! Stop, stop! Ho, help!

 

GLOUCESTER, armed, a dressing gown thrown hastily over his nightclothes, bursts into the garden with about a dozen SERVANTS, half of whom bear weapons; the other half carry torches. ALL pull up short upon sighting EDMUND.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Now, Edmund, where is the villain?

 

EDMUND

 

Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out, mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon to stand ‘s auspicious mistress.  

 

GLOUCESTER

 

But where is he?

 

EDMUND

(moving close to show GLOUCESTER his arm)

 

Look, sir, I bleed--

 

GLOUCESTER

(impatiently)

 

Where is the villain, Edmund?

 

EDMUND

(gestures over the wall)

 

Fled this way, sir, when by no means he could--

 

GLOUCESTER

(to SERVANTS)

 

Pursue him, go after!

 

The SERVANTS immediately exit through the garden gate, several of them whistling loudly. The ferocious barking of dogs can be heard, joining the sounds of clanking blades and running feet. The camera zooms back in to focus on GLOUCESTER, who moves to grip EDMUND by the upper arm. He doesn’t seem fazed by the blood beginning to stain his own clothes. The scene should feel claustrophobic, aggressive, yet somehow intimate.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

By no means what?

 

EDMUND

 

Persuade me to the murder of your lordship, but that I told him the revenging gods ‘gainst parricides did all their thunders bend, spoke with how manifold and strong a bond the child was bound to the father. Sir, in fine, seeing how loathly opposite I stood to his unnatural purpose, in fell motion with his prepared sword he charges home my unprovided body, lanced mine arm; but when he saw my best alarumed spirits bold in the quarrel’s right, roused to the encounter, or whether ghasted by the noise I made or else...I know not. Full suddenly he fled.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Let him fly far. Not in this land shall he remain uncaught, and found, dispatch. By the authority of the noble Duke my master, I will proclaim it: that he which finds him shall deserve our thanks, bringing the murderous caitiff to the stake; he that conceals him, death.

 

EDMUND

 

When I dissuaded him from his intent and found him pitched to do it, with curst speech I threatened to discover him. He replied, (voice-over with EDGAR in a whisper) ‘thou unpossessing bastard, dost thou think if I would stand against thee, could the reposure of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee make thy words faithed? No, what I should deny-- as this I would, ay, though thou didst produce my very character-- I’d turn it all to thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice, and thou must make a dullard of the world if they thought not the profits of my death were very pregnant and potential spurs to make thee seek it.’

 

GLOUCESTER

(lets go of EDMUND’S arm, turning angrily away)

 

Strange and fastened villain! Would he deny his letter? Ha! I never got him.

 

The sounds of trumpets from the front gate of the house startles both GLOUCESTER and EDMUND-- it is CORNWALL’S fanfare. EDMUND discreetly binds a handkerchief about his arm, and GLOUCESTER puts one hand to his brow.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Hark, the Duke’s trumpets-- I know not why he comes. (A pause, as GLOUCESTER ponders in silence before taking EDMUND by both shoulders, speaking abstractedly) All ports I’ll bar. The villain shall not scape; the Duke must grant me that. (Suddenly engaged, GLOUCESTER meets EDMUND’S eyes) And of my land, loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means to make thee capable--  

 

CORNWALL

(offscreen)

 

How now, my noble friend?

 

CORNWALL and REGAN, accompanied by the silent-footed CURAN, enter the garden. CURAN, unnoticed by all but EDMUND, exits back toward the house. CORNWALL, giving a nod to EDMUND, takes GLOUCESTER by the arm and embraces him firmly, and brings REGAN up to join him with a gesture. REGAN casts a surreptitious glance at EDMUND, which he ignores.

 

CORNWALL

 

Since I came hither, which I can call but now, I have heard strange news.

 

REGAN

 

If it be true, all vengeance comes too short which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?

 

GLOUCESTER

(bowing to REGAN slightly)

 

Madam, my old heart is cracked.

 

REGAN

 

What, did my father’s godson seek your life?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Ay, lady. O, lady, shame would have it hid.

 

REGAN

 

Was not he companion with the riotous knights that tend upon my father?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I know not, madam. ‘Tis too bad, too bad!

 

EDMUND

 

Yes, madam, he was.

 

REGAN

 

No marvel, then, though he were ill affected. ‘Tis they have put him on the old man’s death, to have the spoil and waste of his revenues. I have this present evening from my sister been well informed of them, and with such cautions that if they come to sojourn at my house I’ll not be there.

 

CORNWALL

 

Nor I, assure thee, Regan. Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father a childlike office.

 

EDMUND

 

‘Twas but my duty, sir.

 

GLOUCESTER

(to CORNWALL)

 

He did betray his practice, and received this hurt you see striving to apprehend him.

 

CORNWALL

 

Is he pursued?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Ay, my good lord.

 

CORNWALL

 

If he be taken, he shall never more be feared of doing harm. Make your own purpose how in my strength you please. For you, Edmund, whose virtue and obedience doth this instant so much commend itself, you shall be ours. Natures of such deep trust we shall much need. You we first seize on.

 

EDMUND

 

I shall serve you truly, however else.

 

GLOUCESTER

(to CORNWALL)

 

For him I thank your grace.

 

CORNWALL

 

You know not why we came to visit you--

 

REGAN

 

This out-of-season threat’ning dark-eyed night-- occasions, noble Gloucester, of some poise, wherein we must have use of your advice. Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister, of differences which I least thought it fit to answer from our home. The several messengers from hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend, lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow your needful counsel to our business, which craves the instant use.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I serve you, madam. Your graces are right welcome.

 

GLOUCESTER bows again before turning to exit the garden, followed by REGAN and CORNWALL. EDMUND lingers for a moment, in a pensive sort of silence, before moving to join the rest. Far in the distance, the howling of the dogs reaches a fever pitch, joined by the cry of a wolf.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: FRONT GATE, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

OSWALD, carrying a traveler’s satchel, walks rather uncertainly to the gate of GLOUCESTER’S house, accompanied by three SERVANTS of GONERIL’S. All four men lead horses. KENT, horseless and still in his peasant’s guise, enters from the direction of the stables, seemingly bent on ignoring OSWALD and his party, until OSWALD hands the reins of his horse to one of the SERVANTS and moves to intercept KENT.

 

OSWALD

 

Good dawning to thee, friend. Art of this house?

 

KENT

(continuing to walk)

 

Ay.

 

OSWALD

 

Where may we set our horses?

 

KENT

 

I’th’ mire.

 

OSWALD

 

Prithee, if thou lov’st me, tell me.

 

KENT

 

I love thee not.

 

OSWALD

(affronted)

 

Why, then, I care not for thee!

 

KENT

 

If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold I would make thee care for me.

 

OSWALD

 

Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.

 

KENT

 

Fellow, I know thee.

 

OSWALD

 

What dost thou know me for?

 

KENT

 

A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave; a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and son and heir of a mongrel bitch, whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of th’ addition.

 

OSWALD

 

What a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that’s neither known of thee nor knows thee--!

 

KENT

 

What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me! Is it not two days ago since I beat thee and tripped up thy heels before the King? Draw, you rogue, you whoreson, cullionly barber-monger, draw!

 

KENT draws his sword; OSWALD backs away in shock before turning away to walk, disgusted, towards the house.

 

OSWALD

 

Away. I have nothing to do with thee.

 

KENT

(moving to grab OSWALD)

 

Draw, you rascal. You come with letters against the King, and take Vanity the puppet’s part against the royalty of her father. Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado your shanks-- draw, you rascal, come your ways!

 

OSWALD

 

Help, ho, murder, help!

 

KENT

(rapping OSWALD about the side of the head with the flat of his sword)

 

Strike, you slave! Stand, rogue! Stand, you neat slave, strike!

 

OSWALD

 

Help, ho--!

 

EDMUND, sword drawn, half-dressed, rushes out of the door with a shout, followed by CORNWALL, REGAN, and GLOUCESTER, all of whom are similarly disheveled. EDMUND knocks the hilt of his sword down onto KENT’S hand, forcing him to let go of OSWALD, who staggers back towards the others, one hand clapped to his temple, shock on his face. KENT draws himself up as if preparing for another go, and EDMUND, sword cautiously up, steps between the two.

 

EDMUND

 

How now, what’s the matter?

 

KENT

 

With you, goodman boy. If you please, come, I’ll flesh ye. Come, young master.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Weapons? Arms? What’s the matter here?

 

CORNWALL

 

Keep peace, upon your lives. He dies that strikes again. (A pause, as CORNWALL looks KENT and OSWALD severely in the eye) What’s your difference? Speak.

 

OSWALD

 

I am scarce in breath, my lord.

 

KENT

 

No marvel, you have so bestirred your valour, you cowardly rascal. Nature disclaims in thee, a tailor made thee--

 

CORNWALL

 

Thou art a strange fellow-- a tailor make a man?

 

KENT

 

Ay, a tailor, sir. A stone-cutter or a painter could not have made him so ill though he had been but two hours at the trade.

 

CORNWALL

(losing patience)

 

Speak yet. How grew your quarrel?

 

OSWALD

 

This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of his black beard--

 

KENT

 

Thou whorseon zed, thou unnecessary letter-- (To CORNWALL) -- my lord, if you’ll give me leave I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar and daub the walls of a jakes with him. (To OSWALD)Spare my black beard,’ you wagtail?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Peace, sir--!

 

CORNWALL

 

You beastly knave, have you no reverence?

 

KENT

 

Yes, sir, but anger has a privilege.

 

CORNWALL

(exasperated)

 

Why art thou angry?

 

KENT

 

That such a slave as this should wear a sword, that wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these, like rats, oft bite those holy cords in twain which are too entrenched to unloose, smooth every passion that in the natures of their lords rebel; renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks with every gall and vary of their masters, knowing naught, like dogs, but following. (OSWALD cracks a brief smile, and KENT whirls on him in a fury) A plague upon your epileptic visage! Smile you my speeches as if I were a fool? Goose, an I had you on Sarum plain I’d send you cackling home to Camelot!

 

CORNWALL

 

What, art thou mad, fellow?

 

GLOUCESTER

(to KENT)

 

How fell you out? Say that.

 

KENT

 

No contraries hold more antipathy than I and such a knave.

 

CORNWALL

 

Why dost thou call him knave? What’s his offence?

 

KENT

 

His countenance likes me not.

 

CORNWALL

 

Nor perchance does mine, nor his, nor hers.

 

KENT

 

Sir, ‘tis my occupation to be plain: I have seen better faces in my time than stands on any shoulder that I see before me at this instant.

 

CORNWALL

 

This is some fellow who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect a saucy roughness and constrains the garb quite from his nature. He cannot flatter, he. He must be plain, he must speak truth. An they will take’t, so; if not, he’s plain. These kinds of knaves I know, which in this plainness harbor more craft and corrupter ends than twenty silly-ducking observants that stretch their duties nicely. (To OSWALD) Come, what was the offence you gave him?

 

OSWALD

 

I never gave him any. It pleased the King his master very late to strike at me upon his misconstruction, when he, conjunct, and flattering his displeasure, tripped me from behind; being down, insulted, railed, and put upon him by such a deal of man that worthied him, got praises of the King for him attempting who was self-subdued, and in the fleshment of this dread exploit drew on me here again.

 

KENT

 

None of these rogues and cowards but Ajax is their fool--

 

CORNWALL

(shouts to SERVANTS offscreen)

 

Bring forth the stocks, ho!-- (To KENT) You stubborn knave, you reverend braggart, we’ll teach you.

 

KENT

 

I am too old to learn. Call not your stocks for me. I serve the King, on whose employment I was sent to you. You should do small respect, show too bold malice against the grace and person of my master, stocking his messenger.

 

CORNWALL

(more impatiently)

 

Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life and honour, there he shall sit till noon.

 

REGAN

 

Till noon?-- Nay, till night, my lord, and all night, too.

 

KENT

 

Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog you could not use me so!

 

REGAN

 

Sir, being his knave, I will.

 

Four of CORNWALL’S SERVANTS bring on the stocks, glancing between CORNWALL and KENT, both irate, awaiting their order.

 

CORNWALL

 

This is a fellow of the selfsame nature our sister speaks of-- come, bring--

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Let me beseech your grace not to do so. His fault is much, and the good King his master will check him for it. Your purposed low correction is such as basest and contemned wretches for pilferings and most common trespasses are punished with. The King must take it ill that he’s so slightly valued in his messenger, to have him thus restrained.

 

CORNWALL

 

I’ll answer that.  

 

Saying so, the four SERVANTS move to surround KENT, who appears unmoved by their presence.

 

REGAN

 

My sister may receive it much worse to have her gentleman abused, assaulted, for following her affairs. (To SERVANTS) Put in his legs.

 

The SERVANTS clap KENT into the stocks, exiting after locking him in. REGAN and CORNWALL follow them back into the house, along with EDMUND, who offers OSWALD an arm. Only GLOUCESTER is left standing before the stocked KENT.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I am sorry for thee, friend. ‘Tis the Duke’s pleasure, whose disposition, all the world well knows, will not be rubbed nor stopped. I’ll entreat for thee.

 

KENT

 

Pray, do not, sir. I have watched and travelled hard. Some time I shall sleep out; the rest I’ll whistle. A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels. Give you good morrow.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

The Duke’s to blame in this…’twill be ill took.

 

GLOUCESTER gives KENT one final, pitying glance before he turns and exits into the house, shaking his head slowly. KENT, stretching as much as he is able, pulls the packet of letters from his pocket.

 

KENT

 

Good King, that must approve the common say: thou out of heaven’s benediction com’st to the warm sun. (A pause as KENT fiddles with the string on the package) Approach, thou beacon to this under globe, that by thy comfortable beams I may peruse this letter. I know ‘tis from Cordelia, who hath now fortunately been informed of my obscured course, and shall find time for this enormous state, seeking to give losses their remedies. All weary and o’erwatched,  take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold this shameful lodging. Fortune, good night. Smile once more; turn thy wheel.

 

KENT tucks chin to chest and secrets the letters away into his pocket once more. As the morning sun begins to cast its light upon him, he falls into a deep sleep.

 

FADE TO:



Chapter Text

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

The following shots are disorientingly out of focus, played over eerie music. The camera pans quickly around a swath of trees, most of them devoid of their autumn-brown leaves. The ground is muddy, leaf-strewn, and speckled with frost. In the distance, the barking of dogs grows fainter. All sound is distorted, echoing as though coming from a large, empty hall.

 

INTERCUT:

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

The sound of running feet crunching over the fallen leaves comes loudly, with a hint of a reverb. Shaky CU on the lower half of EDGAR’S body, dodging trees and crashing wildly through the undergrowth.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

Another flash pan around the forest, this time taking in the horizon line. The evening is cloudy, mist gathering at the farther edges of the trees with no way to determine the direction of the sun. The camera should swing sharply, making the shadows stretch and contort.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

EDGAR’S face is visible in CU-- he is terrified, face slashed where branches have whipped him, covered with mud, bleeding from the mouth, hair disheveled. His harsh breathing plays over the shot as the perspective abruptly shifts to the ground before him, as though he is running with the camera. A thick branch looms alarmingly close, and flashes out of sight, like it has been ducked under.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

Another pan around the trees, shuddering as the sound of a breaking branch echoes like a gunshot.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

Parts of EDGAR’S frame are visible, but sporadically; only the sound of his running is a constant. Suddenly the running stops, and a crash is heard; the camera tumbles wildly over undergrowth and sky before slowing to an eerie near-stillness, moving slowly to catch a glimpse of EDGAR’S body, lying prostrate against the leaves. He has fallen, his arms braced beneath his shoulders, his back heaving as he tries to catch his breath. His face is pressed into the ground, invisible to the camera.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

A slower pan around the forest, stopping to center on a large, lightning-blasted tree trunk. The trunk has fallen against a crop of boulders, sheltering a hollow beneath it.

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

EDGAR pushes himself laboriously up, staggers slightly, and begins to sprint again. The screen fades to black as the fallen tree comes within sight and EDGAR throws himself over it.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

In slow motion, EDGAR, having landed heavily on his feet, falls to his knees, bracing one hand against a boulder, and glances around one more time before sitting down. The music shifts to a sadder tenor. We only see the upper half of EDGAR’S body in CU; he cranes his neck to look back over one shoulder, pauses for a moment, and turns back to stare directly into the camera. His hair hides much of his face, but his eyes, haunted and ringed with black shadows, looking nearly demonic, are clearly visible. The spell is broken as he turns to look over his other shoulder, clutching his thin shirt tightly to his chest with one scratched and muddy hand. Fade to black as EDGAR slumps forward with a shaky sigh, head coming to rest on his knees.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. EVENING: FOREST

EDGAR’S face is in extreme CU, with only the eyes and nose consistently visible. While he speaks his eyes dart about wildly, his breath catching in his throat.  

 

EDGAR

 

I heard myself proclaimed, and by the happy hollow of a tree escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place that guard and most unusual vigilance does not attend my taking. (Pause, an uneasy breath) Whiles I may scape I will preserve myself... and am bethought to take the basest and most poorest shape that ever penury in contempt of man brought near to beast.

 

Pan out to EDGAR’S full body, now in a crouching position. With one shaking hand he reaches out and gathers a fistful of mud and leaves, crushing it. He rubs it over his hands and into his face as he continues to speak, with the intensity of his speech rising to a fever pitch.

 

EDGAR

 

My face I’ll grime with filth-- blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots, and with presented nakedness outface the winds and persecutions of the sky--!

 

EDGAR violently rips off his jerkin and belt, tearing his shirt in the process. He pauses, panting raggedly, staring at the garments in his hands as though he has never seen them before. Shaking his head slightly, he drops them. When he next speaks the words are hurried, with a strange note almost resembling desperate, mad glee thrumming uneasily through them

 

EDGAR

(frenzied, low)

 

The country gives me proof and precedent of Bedlam beggars who, with roaring voices (jerkily pushes up the sleeves of his shirt, picks up a wickedly spiked hawthorn branch, turning it ponderously over in his hands), strike in their numbed and mortified bare arms-- pins, wooden pricks, nails sprigs of rosemary…(EDGAR clutches the branch to his chest, reminiscent of a frightened child) and with this horrible object from low farms, poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes and mills, sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers enforce their charity.

 

A pause. EDGAR drops his head to his chest, hiding his face from view, and begins to rock back and forth on his heels. Shakily he crosses himself with the branch and holds it out, as though begging for money.

 

EDGAR

(in the voice of Poor Tom)

 

‘Poor Turlygod! Poor Tom!’

 

Another pause as EDGAR drops his head onto his outstretched arm, listing sideways as he begins to laugh softly, with a sobbing quality to it.

 

EDGAR

(in his own voice)

 

That’s something yet! (Pause as EDGAR straightens up to stare at the branch, face darkening as the music hits a low climax) Edgar I nothing am.

 

The following sequence is in slow motion. EDGAR, gazing fixedly at the branch, snaps it in half. The camera slowly begins to zoom in as he stabs one side of it into his arm and rips it downwards through the flesh. He screams, the sound a jarring echo, and bends double over the limb in pain. When he straightens the jagged holes from the thorns, as well as the scratches on his hands, are clearly visible, weeping blood as he clumsily pushes his clothing into a gap between the boulders. He staggers to a standing position and strips off his shirt, dragging the thorns over his chest and back with one hand while the other pulls at his breeches. He no longer screams, but instead begins to laugh again as the new wounds bleed. Still laughing, newly naked, clothing lying torn and stained upon the ground, tears streaming down his face, he falls to his knees as he takes the thorns to the side of his neck.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. EVENING: FRONT GATE, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

LEAR and a KNIGHT approach GLOUCESTER’S gate, conversing quietly. The FOOL follows a few steps behind, looking rather bored and put out, while the rest of LEAR’S train disappears in the direction of the stables. The following conversation occurs in the background of the general noise.

 

LEAR

 

‘Tis strange that they should so depart from home and not send back my messenger.

 

KNIGHT

 

As I learned, the night before there was no purpose of his remove.

 

LEAR, the KNIGHT, and the FOOL pass through the gate and, upon seeing the still-sleeping KENT in the stocks, pull up short. The FOOL’S mouth drops open in a mixture of shock and amazement. KENT, hearing the approaching footsteps, slowly wakes and gives the party a stiff, brisk nod.

 

KENT

 

Hail to thee, noble master.

 

LEAR

(bemused)

 

How! Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?

 

FOOL

(laughing delightedly)

 

Ha, ha, look, he wears cruel garters! Horses are tied by the heads, dogs and bears by th’ neck, monkeys by th’ loins, and men by th’ legs. When a man’s over-lusty at legs, then he wears wooden nether-stocks.

 

LEAR

(to KENT)

 

What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook to set thee here?

 

KENT

 

It is both he and she; your son and daughter.

 

LEAR

 

No.

 

KENT

 

Yes.

 

LEAR

 

No, I say.

 

KENT

 

I say yea.

 

LEAR

(with growing agitation)

 

No, no, they would not.

 

KENT

(patience becoming strained)

 

Yes, they have .

 

LEAR

 

By Jupiter, I swear no--!

 

KENT

 

By Juno, I swear ay.

 

LEAR

(desperately)

 

They durst not do’t-- they would not, could not do’t.’Tis worse than murder, to do upon respect such violent outrage. Resolve me with all modest haste which way thou mayest deserve or they propose this usage, coming from us.

 

KENT

 

My lord, when at their home I did commend your highness’ letters to them, ere I was risen from the place that showed my duty kneeling, came there a reeking post stewed in his haste, half breathless, panting forth from Goneril his mistress salutations, delivered letters spite of intermission, which presently they read, on whose contents they summoned up their meiny, straight took horse, commanded me to follow and attend the leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks; and meeting here the other messenger, whose welcome I perceived had poisoned mine-- being the very fellow that of late displayed so saucily against your highness-- having more man than wit about me, drew. He raised the house with loud and coward cries. Your son and daughter found this trespass worth this shame which here it suffers.

 

FOOL

(to LEAR)

 

Winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that way. But for all this thou shalt have as many dolours for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.

 

LEAR

 

O, how this mother swells up toward my heart! Histerica passio , down, thou climbing sorrow, thy element’s below-- where is this daughter?

 

KENT

 

With the Earl, sir, within.

 

LEAR

 

Follow me not; stay there.

 

LEAR turns abruptly and makes for the house. The camera zooms in to focus on the bewildered KNIGHT, KENT, and the FOOL, who is now leaning against the wooden posts of the stocks, seemingly unmoved by how close KENT’S face is to his. LEAR, however, can still be seen in the background, gesticulating wildly at a SERVANT who answers the door until he is admitted entrance.

 

KNIGHT

(to KENT)

 

Made you no more offense than what you speak of?

 

KENT

 

No. How chance the King comes with so small a train?

 

FOOL

 

An thou hadst been set i’th’ stocks for that question, thou hadst well deserved it.

 

KENT

 

Why, Fool?

 

FOOL

 

We’ll set thee to school an ant, to teach thee there’s no labouring in the winter. All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and there’s not a nose among a hundred but can smell him that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following it; but the great one that goes up the hill, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it. (Sings) ‘That sir that serves for gain and follows but for form, will pack when it begins to rain and leave thee in the storm.

 

The camera closes in on the FOOL’S face. The next verse of his song is quiet, sung seemingly to himself, and his gaze, centered on the ground by KENT’S feet, is abstracted, almost troubled.

 

FOOL

 

‘But I will tarry, the fool will stay, and let the wise man fly. The knave turns fool that runs away, the fool no knave, pardie.’

 

Pan out. The moment is abruptly broken as the FOOL drops into a crouch to look KENT in the eyes, a vaguely mocking, yet pitying look on his face. For his part, KENT is curious, and not altogether pleased.

 

KENT

 

Where learnt you this, Fool?

 

FOOL

(ironically)

 

Not i’th’ stocks, fool.

 

The slam of a door startles everyone onscreen. LEAR, followed closely by an apologetic, somewhat disheveled GLOUCESTER, storms over to the small party, fury evident on his face. He begins to pace, beating an open palm with his fist as he does.

 

LEAR

 

Deny to speak with me? They are sick, they are weary, they have travelled all the night? Mere insolence, ay, the images of revolt and flying off! Fetch me a better answer.

 

GLOUCESTER

(hesitantly)

 

My dear lord, you know the fiery quality of the Duke: how unmovable and fixed he is in his own course--

 

LEAR

(beating at the air in frustration)

 

Vengeance, death, plague, confusion! What ‘fiery quality’? Gloucester, Gloucester, I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.

 

LEAR

(rounding on GLOUCESTER in amazement)

 

‘Informed them’? Dost understand me, man?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Ay, my good lord--

 

LEAR

 

The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear father would with his daughter speak, commands, tends service. Are they informed of this? My breath and blood-- (A pause as LEAR curses under his breath, then snorts a laugh) Fiery. The Duke? Tell the hot Duke that-- (Another pause; LEAR stops pacing, all semblance of fight gone from his now tired and defeated visage) No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well. We are not ourselves when nature, being oppressed, commands the mind to suffer with the body. I’ll forbear, and am fallen out with my more headier will, to take the indisposed and sickly fit for the sound man. (Another pause; a new coldness, bred of growing realization, creeps across LEAR’S face) Death to my state. Wherefore should he sit here? This act persuades me that this remotion of the Duke and her is practice only. (TO GLOUCESTER) Give me my servant forth. Go tell the Duke and ‘s wife I’d speak with them-- now, presently. Bid them come forth and hear me, or at their chamber door I’ll beat the drum till it cry sleep to death.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I would have all well betwixt you.

 

GLOUCESTER, a hand over his heart, bows slowly before returning to the house. LEAR, letting out a low moan, puts both hands to his face.

 

LEAR

 

O, my heart, my heart!

 

FOOL

(pulling his bauble from his belt and fiddling absently with it)

 

Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she put ‘em i’th’ paste alive. She rapped them o’th’ coxcombs with a stick (Beats viciously at the air with his bauble, jumping about and impersonating a cantankerous fishwife) , and cried ‘Down, wantons, down!’

 

The door opens again, and the FOOL immediately stops his antics, returning the bauble to his belt and settling himself upon the ground as though he had never even moved. CORNWALL and REGAN, both looking a bit the worse for wear for their late night, make their way over to LEAR, who has gone still. GLOUCESTER and several of CORNWALL’S SERVANTS follow behind. In the shadow of the doorway, EDMUND, unnoticed by the company, moves to watch.

 

LEAR

 

Good morrow to you both.

 

CORNWALL

(coolly polite)

 

Hail to your grace.

 

At a nod from CORNWALL, the SERVANTS move to free KENT from the stocks. He stands, shakily, a pained grimace crossing his face before he forcibly steels his countenance to a blank. The FOOL, missing nothing, smirks briefly.

 

REGAN

 

I am glad to see your highness.

 

LEAR

 

Regan, I think you are. I know what reason I have to think so. If thou shouldst not be glad I would divorce me from thy mother’s shrine, sepulchring an adultress. (To KENT) Oh, are you free? Some other time for that. (KENT, accompanied by one of the SERVANTS, exits into the house; they are met by EDMUND at the door, which closes quietly behind them) Beloved Regan, thy sister is naught. O, Regan, she hath tied sharp-toothed unkindness like a vulture here. I can scarce speak to thee. Thou’lt not believe of how deplored a quality-- O, Regan!

 

REGAN

 

I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope you less know how to value her desert than she to slack her duty.

 

LEAR

 

Say, how is that?

 

REGAN

 

I cannot think my sister in the least would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance she hath restrained the riots of your followers, ‘tis on such ground and such wholesome end as clears her from all blame.

 

LEAR

 

My curses on her!

 

REGAN

 

O, sir, you are old. Nature in you stands on the very verge of her confine. You should be ruled and led by some discretion that discerns your state better than you yourself. Therefore I pray that to our sister you do make return; say you have wronged her.

 

LEAR

(incredulous)

 

Ask her forgiveness? Do you mark how this becomes the house? (LEAR kneels stiffly, a great irony in the motion) ‘Dear daughter, I confess that I am old. Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg that you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food--’

 

REGAN

(with rising anger, tightly controlled)

 

Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks. Return you to my sister.

 

LEAR

(rising to his feet)

 

Never, Regan. She hath abated me of half my train, looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue most serpent-like upon the very heart. (Suddenly seized by a fury) All the stored vengeances of heaven fall upon her ungrateful top! Strike her young bones, you taking airs, with lameness!

 

CORNWALL

 

Fie, fie, sir.

 

LEAR

 

You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames into her scornful eyes. Infect her beauty, you fen-sucked fogs drawn by the pow’rful sun to fall and blast her pride!

 

REGAN

(stunned)

 

O blest gods! So will you wish on me when the rash mood--

 

LEAR

 

No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse. Thy tender-hafted nature shall not give thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but thine do comfort and not burn. ‘Tis not in thee to grudge my pleasures and to oppose the bolt against my coming in. Thou better know’st the offices of nature, bond of childhood, effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude. Thy half of the kingdom thou hast not forgot, wherein I thee endowed.

 

REGAN

 

Good sir, to th’ purpose.

 

LEAR

 

Who put my man i’th’ stocks?

 

The sound of an unfamiliar trumpet fanfare outside the gate shatters the tenuous peace. CORNWALL steps forward, agitated, motioning a SERVANT to check the gate.

 

CORNWALL

 

What trumpet’s that?

 

The SERVANT reenters through the gate with OSWALD, who surreptitiously scans the yard for KENT, and visibly sags with relief to find him absent.

 

REGAN

 

I know’t, my sister’s. This approves her letter that she would soon be here. (To OSWALD) Is your lady come?

 

LEAR

 

This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride dwells in the sickly grace of her he follows. (LEAR moves forward to strike OSWALD across the mouth; OSWALD cries out) Out, varlet, from my sight!

 

CORNWALL

 

What means your grace?

 

GONERIL, unaccompanied, dressed to ride, moves gracefully through the gate, eyeing LEAR and the gathered company severely. OSWALD takes a small step towards her as she draws nearer the company, but GONERIL takes no notice.

 

GONERIL

 

Who struck my servant? (Moves to take REGAN’S hand) Regan, I have good hope thou didst not know on’t.

 

LEAR

 

Who comes here? O heavens, if you do love old men, if your sweet sway allow obedience, make it your cause! Send down and take my part. (To GONERIL) Art not ashamed to look upon this beard? (REGAN moves to clasp GONERIL’S hand, perturbed) O, Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?

 

GONERIL

 

Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended? All’s not offence that indiscretion finds and dotage terms so.

 

LEAR

 

O sides, you are too tough! Will you yet hold?-- How came my man in the stocks?

 

CORNWALL

 

I set him there, sir; but his own disorders deserved much less advancement.

 

LEAR

 

You? Did you?

 

REGAN

 

I pray you, father, being weak, seem so. If till the expiration of your month you will return and sojourn with my sister, dismissing half your train, come then to me.

 

LEAR

 

Return to her, and fifty men dismissed? No. Rather I abjure all roofs, and choose to be a comrade with the wolf and owl, to wage against the enmity of the air necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her? Why, the hot-blooded France that dowerless took our youngest born-- I could as well be brought to knee his throne and, squire-like, pension beg to keep base life afoot.

 

GONERIL

 

At your choice, sir.

 

LEAR

(attempting restraint)

 

I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad. I will not trouble thee, my child. Farewell. We’ll no more meet, no more see one another. But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter--! Or rather a disease that lies within my flesh, which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil, a plague-sore in my corrupted blood-- but I’ll not chide thee. Let shame come when it will. Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure. I can be patient, I can stay with Regan-- I and my hundred knights.

 

REGAN

 

Not altogether so, sir. I look not for you yet, nor am provided for your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister; for those that mingle reason with your passion must think you are old, and so-- but she knows what she does.

 

LEAR

(incredulously)

 

Is this well-spoken now?

 

REGAN

(with caustic calm)

 

I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers? Is it not well? What should you need of more, yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger speaks against so great a number? How in one house should many people under two commands hold amity? ‘Tis almost impossible.

 

GONERIL

 

Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance from those that she class servants, or from mine?

 

REGAN

 

Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack you, we could control them. If you will come to me, I entreat you bring but five and twenty. To no more will I give place or notice.

 

LEAR

 

I gave you all.

 

REGAN

 

And in good time you gave it--

 

LEAR

 

Made you my guardians, my depositaries, but kept a reservation to be followed with such a number. What? Must I come to you with five and twenty, Regan? Said you so?

 

REGAN

 

And speak it again, my lord. No more with me.

 

LEAR

 

Those wicked creatures yet do seem well-favored when others are more wicked. Not being the worst stands in some rank of praise. (To GONERIL) I’ll go with thee. Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, and thou art twice her love.

 

GONERIL

 

Hear me, my lord. What need you five and twenty, ten, or five, to follow in a house where twice so many have a command to tend you? What needs one?

 

LEAR

 

O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars are in the poorest things superfluous. Allow not nature more than nature needs, man’s life is cheap as beast’s. For true need-- you heavens, give me that patience, patience I need. You see me here, you gods, a poor old fellow, as full of grief as age, wretched in both. If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts against their father, fool me not so much to bear it tamely. Touch me with noble anger, and let not women’s weapons, water-drops, stain my man’s cheeks. No, you unnatural hags, I will have such revenges on you both that all the world shall-- I will do such things-- what they are, yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth! You think I’ll weep? No. I’ll not weep.

 

A low rumble of thunder punctuates the frenzy of LEAR’S speech. The wind has picked up, the clouds overhead have grown alarmingly dark, and several of the SERVANTS look to the sky in apprehension. The FOOL flinches slightly, obviously spooked and trying to hide it. LEAR appears unmoved.

 

LEAR

 

I have full cause of weeping, but this heart shall break into a hundred thousand flaws ere I’ll weep.

 

Zoom in on LEAR, the rage on his face giving way to fear. He turns slowly to face the FOOL, while the KNIGHT, just barely visible in the blurred background, moves towards LEAR with a look of concern.

 

LEAR

(a plaintive whisper)

 

O, Fool, I shall go mad.

 

Without another word, LEAR, now in three-quarter shot, stumbles out the gate, his bent back rounding a corner and disappearing from view. GLOUCESTER, glancing nervously between CORNWALL, REGAN, GONERIL, and the gate, follows LEAR out, and the KNIGHT follows him out. A moment later he returns with KENT, and the two converse urgently while the FOOL shakes himself and rises, overtaking GLOUCESTER on his way to the gate. Another louder rumble of thunder sounds, and CORNWALL glances anxiously at the clouds. The SISTERS watch the spectacle of exits, their faces unreadable.



CORNWALL

 

Let us withdraw. ‘Twill be a storm.

 

REGAN

 

This house is little. The old man and his people cannot be well bestowed.

 

GONERIL

 

‘Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest, and must needs taste his folly.

 

REGAN

 

For his particular I’ll receive him gladly, but not one follower.

 

CORNWALL

 

So am I purposed. (A pause as CORNWALL glances about the largely empty yard) Where is my lord of Gloucester?

 

REGAN

 

Followed the old man forth.

 

GLOUCESTER reenters the yard through the still-open gate, wearing a perturbed expression.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

The King is in high rage.

 

CORNWALL

 

Whither is he going?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I know not.

 

REGAN

 

‘Tis best to give him way. He leads himself.



GLOUCESTER

 

Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds do sorely rustle. For many miles about there’s scarce a bush.

 

REGAN

 

O sir, to willful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors. He is attended with a desperate train, and what they many incense him to, being apt to have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.

 

CORNWALL

 

My Regan counsels well. Shut up your doors, my lord. ‘Tis a wild night.

 

The SERVANTS and OSWALD make their way into the house, followed by GONERIL. CORNWALL puts an arm around REGAN before they, too, make their way within door. Only GLOUCESTER remains outside, gazing worriedly at the gate, but a loud clap of thunder forces him to hurry inside.



FADE TO:



Chapter Text

EXT. NIGHT: HEATH

 

The camera pans around a harsh cloudscape, lashed by lightning and rain. The heath seems never-ending, overgrown tussocks of grass buffeted by the howling winds. LEAR, traversing the heath, appears from a distance, a small, bedraggled figure, ragged robes whipping about his unsteady frame. The FOOL follows behind, an even smaller shape, hunched against the wind and cold and evidently struggling to keep up. As they move closer in frame, the FOOL’S song is heard on voice-over.

 

FOOL

(voice-over, sings)

 

‘Fathers that wear rags do make their children blind, but fathers that bear bags shall see their children kind. Fortune, that arrant whore, ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.’

 

LEAR soldiers on, standing impossibly tall despite his weaving, staggering gait, paying no heed to anything but the path before him. The FOOL stumbles and falls, remaining motionless on the ground for a moment before heaving himself back to his feet to run, bent nearly double, back to LEAR’S side.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: HEATH

 

KENT stands alone on the leeward side of a hill on the heath, somewhat sheltered from the storm, but he draws his cloak more tightly about his shoulders nevertheless. He scans the landscape, brows furrowed, searching for something out of sight. A shout makes him turn, one hand going to the dagger at his belt. Another shout, louder, and a bobbing light becomes visible at the crest of the hill. The lightly armored frame of the KNIGHT appears out of the gloom, and KENT replaces his dagger in his belt as the KNIGHT gingerly makes his way down to the valley of the rain shadow.

 

KENT

 

Where’s the King?

 

KNIGHT

 

Contending with the fretful elements; bids the wind blow the earth into the sea or swell the curled waters ‘bove the main, that things might change or cease; tears his white hair, strives in his little world of man to outstrom the conflicting wind and rain. This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch, unbonneted he runs, and bids what will take all.

 

KENT

 

But who is with him?

 

KNIGHT

 

None but the Fool, who labours to outjest his heart-struck injuries.

 

KENT

(drawing closer to the KNIGHT as if to divulge a secret)

 

I do know you, sir, and dare upon the warrant of my note commend a dear thing to you. There is division, although as yet the face of it be covered with mutual cunning, ‘twixt Albany and Cornwall. From France there comes a power into this scattered kingdom, who already, wise in our negligence, have secret feet in some of our best ports, and are at point to show their open banner. Now to you: if on my credit you dare build so far to make your speed to Dover, you shall find some that will thank you, making just report of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow the King hath cause to plain. I am a gentleman of blood and breeding, and from some knowledge and assurance offer this office to you.

 

A jagged flash of lightning lights the screen up in blinding white, startling them both. A gust of wind nearly puts out the KNIGHT’S lamp, and the ensuing clap of thunder makes him shudder, glancing warily over his shoulder before moving deeper into the rain shadow.

 

KNIGHT

 

I will talk further with you.

 

KENT

(hands the KNIGHT his leather satchel, and the cord about his neck, which is strung with a ring)

 

Nay, do not. For confirmation that I am much more than my out-wall, open this purse, and take what it contains. If you shall see Cordelia-- as fear not but you shall-- show her this ring and she will tell you who your fellow is, that yet you do not know. (Another, more distant lightning strike, followed by a softer grumble of thunder) I will go seek the King.

 

KNIGHT

 

Give me your hand. (The KNIGHT and KENT clasp hands strongly before the KNIGHT passes KENT his lamp) I’ll this way, and you that. He that first lights on him holla the other.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: HEATH

 

LEAR, facing the camera in three-quarter shot, staggers to the top of a grassy rise as the storm rages around him. A jagged fork of lightning splits the sky, accompanied by a deafening roar of thunder; the FOOL, barely a step behind LEAR, falls to the ground with a cry of shock, hands over his ears like a frightened child. At the base of the rise, the rough-hewn door of a hovel carved into its inside is open a mere crack, allowing us to glimpse a ragged, naked figure, thin and shivering, crouched inside. This is EDGAR, in the guise of Poor Tom, but he pulls the door closed with frantic urgency before we can glimpse his face; he could be, should be, any ordinary beggar. CU on LEAR’S face as rain and tears stream down his furrowed cheeks. He turns his face to the sky, seemingly oblivious to all around him, and shouts, his voice struggling not to be lost in the fury of the storm.

 

LEAR

 

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow, you cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our steeples! You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, singe my white head! And thou all-shaking thunder, smite flat the thick rotundity of the world, crack nature’s mould, all germens spill at once that make ingrateful man.

 

FOOL

(still prostrate, he grabs the hem of LEAR’S robes)

 

O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rain-water out o’ door. Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters blessing. (In voice-over) Here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.

 

LEAR

(to the sky)

 

Rumble thy bellyful; spit, fire, spout, rain. Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters. I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness; I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children, you owe me no subscription. Then let fall your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,: a poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man... but yet I call you servile ministers, that have with two pernicious daughters join'd your high engender'd battles 'gainst a head so old and white as this. O! O! 'tis foul!

 

FOOL

 

He that has a house to put's head in has a good head-piece. (Sings) ‘The cod-piece that will house before the head has any, the head and he shall louse; so beggars marry many. The man that makes his toe what he his heart should make shall of a corn cry woe, and turn his sleep to wake--’ For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.

 

LEAR

 

No. I will be the pattern of all patience. I will say nothing.

 

LEAR sits down where he is, right on the edge of the rise. KENT, carrying a sputtering lamp, appears at the base of the rise. The FOOL spots him and jumps to his feet, ready to call out, but a loud crack of thunder forces him to the ground again, using LEAR’S bent back as a shield. KENT has wrapped a scarf about his face beneath the hood of his cloak; he keeps his face turned away from the driving rain.

 

KENT

 

Who’s there?

 

FOOL

 

Marry, here’s grace and a codpiece-- that’s a wise man and a fool.

 

KENT

(climbing the rise and dropping to a crouch beside LEAR)

 

Alas, sir, sit you here? Things that love night love not such nights as these; the wrathful skies gallow the very wanderers of the dark, and make them keep their caves. Since I was man, such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder, such groans of roaring wind and rain I never remember to have heard. Man's nature cannot carry th’ affliction nor the fear.

 

LEAR

 

Let the great gods, that keep this dreadful pother o'er our heads, find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch that hast within thee undivulged crimes unwhipped of justice; hide thee, thou bloody hand; thou perjured, and thou simular man of virtue that art incestuous. Caitiff, to pieces shake, that under covert and convenient seeming hast practised on man's life: close pent-up guilts, rive your concealed centres, and cry these dreadful summoners grace. I am a man more sinned against than sinning.

 

KENT

 

Alack, bare-headed! Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel. Some friendship will it lend you 'gainst the tempest. Repose you there; while I to this hard house-- more hard than the stones whereof 'tis raised; which even but now, demanding after you, denied me to come in--return and force their scanted courtesy.

 

LEAR

 

My wits begin to turn. (To the FOOL, who has begun to shiver) Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold? I am cold myself. (To KENT) Where is this straw, my fellow? The art of our necessities is strange, that can make vile things precious. (To the FOOL) Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart that's sorry yet for thee. (To KENT) Come, bring us to this hovel.

 

KENT takes LEAR by the arm and helps him to rise, beginning to lead him down towards the hovel. The FOOL remains at the top of the rise, sitting with his hands on his knees, head hanging low as the rain beats relentlessly down. A flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder make him flinch, and over the rain and wind his laughter-- soft, low, and more than a little desperate-- can barely be made out. He brings his pipe to his lips with a trembling hand and blows a few notes, then breaks off, almost seeming to sob. The song that follows is haunting, haunted, nearly lost in the storm.

 

FOOL

(sings, waveringly)

 

‘He that has and a little tiny wit, with hey, ho, the wind and the rain, must make content with his fortunes fit, for the rain it raineth every day.’ (Laughs again, louder) This is a brave night to cool a courtesan.

 

The FOOL glances up into the camera. Slow CU on his face as the earlier fear melts into a small, strange half-smile.

 

FOOL

 

I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go. ‘When priests are more in word than matter; when brewers mar their malt with water; when nobles are their tailors' tutors; no heretics burn'd, but wenches' suitors; when every case in law is right; no squire in debt, nor no poor knight; when slanders do not live in tongues; nor cutpurses come not to throngs; when usurers tell their gold i' the field; and bawds and whores do churches build; then shall the realm of Albion come to great confusion: then comes the time, who lives to see't, that going shall be used with feet.’ This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time.



FADE TO BLACK:

 

INT. NIGHT:  HALLWAY OUTSIDE LIBRARY, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

GLOUCESTER, carrying a candle, makes his way down the hall from the direction of the library, speaking rapidly; his speech becomes clear to us as he approaches. EDMUND, looking tired and not altogether interested in the musings of his father, glances surreptitiously at the walls and over his shoulder. At some distance, the offscreen voices of REGAN, GONERIL, and (to a lesser extent) CORNWALL can barely be made out.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Alack, alack, Edmund, I like not this unnatural dealing. When I desire their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house, charged me, on pain of their displeasure neither to speak of him, entreat for him, nor any way sustain him.

 

EDMUND

 

Most savage and unnatural!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Go to; say you nothing. There's a division betwixt the Dukes; and a worse matter than that: I have received a letter this night--'tis dangerous to be spoken--I have locked the letter in my closet. These injuries the King now bears will be revenged home. There's part of a power already landed: we must incline to the king. I will seek him, and privily relieve him: go you and maintain talk with the duke, that my charity be not of him perceived. If he ask for me. I am ill, and gone to bed. Though I die for it, as no less is threatened me, the king my old master must be relieved. There is some strange thing toward, Edmund. Pray you, be careful.

 

GLOUCESTER embraces EDMUND, briefly, before continuing down the hall. From EDMUND’S perspective, we watch as he is handed a cloak and a lamp by a SERVANT, who gestures strongly, seemingly concerned. EDMUND turns away, back in the direction of the library and the guest rooms, seemingly deep in thought. He speaks as he walks, quietly, not precisely cognizant of the camera, but instead striving to remain unheard as the arguments of REGAN and GONERIL grow more distinct.

 

EDMUND

 

This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the Duke instantly know; and of that letter too.

This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me that which my father loses; no less than all. The younger rises when the old doth fall.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: OUTSIDE OF TOM’S HOVEL, HEATH

 

KENT, still holding LEAR’S arm, leads him to the door of Tom’s hovel, which remains firmly closed. The FOOL follows closely behind; both he and KENT wear expressions of concern. LEAR, oblivious to their silent solicitation, lets his free hand drift absently over his heart, a vacant expression on his face.

 

KENT

 

Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter. The tyranny of the open night’s too rough for nature to endure.

 

LEAR

 

Wilt break my heart?

 

KENT

 

I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter here.

 

LEAR

 

Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm invades us to the skin. So 'tis to thee; but where the greater malady is fix'd, the lesser is scarce felt. When the mind's free, the body's delicate. The tempest in my mind doth from my senses take all feeling else save what beats there: filial ingratitude! Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand for lifting food to't? But I will punish home. No, I will weep no more.-- In such a night to shut me out! Pour on; I will endure. O Regan, Goneril! Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,-- O, that way madness lies. Let me shun that. No more of that.

 

KENT

(more desperately)

 

Good my lord, enter.

 

LEAR

 

Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease. This tempest will not give me leave to ponder on things would hurt me more. (To the FOOL) In, boy, go first. (LEAR kneels, and speaks then as if to himself; the FOOL hesitates, glancing between LEAR and KENT uneasily) You houseless poverty-- (To the FOOL, more firmly) Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll go in and sleep. (KENT pushes the door to the hovel open, gently motioning the FOOL to enter, though he himself remains outside, watching LEAR) Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, how shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you from seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en too little care of this. Take physic, pomp. Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, that thou mayst shake the superflux to them, and show the heavens more just.

 

A sudden commotion from inside the hovel: a ragged shout, followed by the FOOL’S panicked scream and a string of irate gibberish. KENT turns to the slightly open door in alarm as the sound of the FOOL’S racing footsteps and heaving breaths near the entrance. LEAR stands, perturbed.

 

EDGAR

(offscreen, in the voice of Poor Tom)

 

Fathom and a half! Fathom and a half! Poor Tom!

 

FOOL

 

Come not in here, nuncle, there’s a spirit!  

 

The FOOL cries out again as he suddenly hits the ground; EDGAR, still hidden within the shadows of the hovel, has tackled him and pinned his legs. The FOOL, gasping over EDGAR’S intelligibly growled words, reaches a desperate hand out to KENT, who tries in vain to pull him out by the underarms.

 

FOOL

 

Help me, help me!

 

KENT

(shouting into the hovel)

 

Who’s there?

 

FOOL

 

A spirit, a spirit! He says his name’s Poor Tom!

 

KENT

 

What are thou that dost grumble there i’th’ straw? Come forth!

 

The FOOL is released with an explosive movement, and he falls forward into KENT’S arms as EDGAR, a blur, bursts from the hovel with a scream of his own that quickly devolves into an animalistic snarl as he crouches before the company. He is  stark naked, covered head to toe in mud. Open wounds gape angry and raw on nearly every part of his body, and he wraps both arms around himself, long fingernails tearing into the skin of his shoulders as he stares at KENT wildly, shaking.

 

EDGAR

 

Away! The foul fiend follows me. Through the sharp hawthorn blow the cold winds. Ha! Go to thy cold bed and warm thee!

 

LEAR

(slowly)

 

Hast thou given all to thy two daughters? And art thou come to this?

 

EDGAR

 

Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o'er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inched bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor. (To LEAR) Bless thy five wits! Tom's a-cold,--O, do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, star-blasting, and taking! Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes: there could I have him now (EDGAR slaps at various parts of his body on every repetition of “there,” as though he is swatting at insects) --and there, and there again.

 

LEAR

 

What? Have his daughters brought him to this pass? (To EDGAR) Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all? (EDGAR, in lieu of making a reply, moves to lie on his side, reaching towards the FOOL’S sodden cloak with a pained whimper) Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air hang fated o’er men’s faults fall on thy daughters!

 

KENT

(to LEAR)

 

He hath no daughters, sir!

 

LEAR

 

Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature to such a lowness but his unkind daughters. (To EDGAR, as LEAR stiffly kneels beside him and rests a hand on his shoulder) Is it the fashion that discarded fathers should have thus little mercy on their flesh? Judicious punishment: ‘twas this flesh begot those pelican daughters.

 

EDGAR

(sings)

 

Pillicock sat on pillicock hill, alow, alow, lo, lo.

 

FOOL

(sadly, pointed at camera)

 

This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.

 

EDGAR

(pulling himself to a seated position and grabbing LEAR’S lapel)

 

Take heed o’th’ foul fiend: obey thy parents; keep thy word justly; swear not; commit not with man’s sworn spouse: set not thy sweet heart on proud array. (A low, keening wail) Tom’s a-cold.  

 

LEAR

 

What hast thou been?

 

EDGAR

 

A serving-man...proud in heart and mind; that curled my hair; wore gloves in my cap; served the lust of my mistress' heart, and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven: one that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly: and in woman out-paramoured the Turk. False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders' books, and defy the foul fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind, says (Sings) heigh no nonny. (With frantic energy, to the air beyond the company) Dauphin, my boy, my boy, cessez! Let him trot by.

 

LEAR

(rises, stares down at EDGAR)

 

Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! Here's three on 's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. (LEAR, in a frenzy, begins to tear at his clothes) Off, off, you lendings! Come, unbutton here!

 

FOOL

(moves to grab LEAR’S arm)

 

Prithee, nuncle, be content! ‘Tis a naughty night to swim in. Now a little fire in a wild field were like an old lecher’s heart-- a small spark, all the rest on ‘s body’s cold.

 

Pan out to catch a glimpse of a bobbing light approaching the group. It is GLOUCESTER, struggling to make his way across the heath, waving his free arm and shouting, the words lost in the wind.

 

FOOL

(tugging harder on LEAR’S now-stilled arm)

 

Look, here comes a walking fire.

 

EDGAR hisses and spits in GLOUCESTER’S direction, scrambling along the ground to crouch behind a shocked KENT.



EDGAR

 

This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock. He gives the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the hare-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth. (Sings) ‘Swithin footed thrice the wold; a met the night-mare and her nine-fold; bid her alight, and her troth plight, and, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!’

 

KENT

 

Who’s there? What is’t you seek?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

What are you there? Your names?

 

EDGAR

 

Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stock- punished, and imprisoned; who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his body, (Sings) ‘horse to ride, and weapon to wear; but mice and rats, and such small deer, have been Tom's food for seven long year.’

 

GLOUCESTER, having reached the party, stares at LEAR in shock. EDGAR darts out from behind KENT to kneel in the center of the rest, throwing out a hand as if in warning and baring his teeth at GLOUCESTER.

 

EDGAR

(to GLOUCESTER)

 

Beware my follower. (Turns and addresses the air beside him, moving his hand to grip the rain and empty space in a choke hold) Peace, Smulkin; peace, thou fiend!  

 

GLOUCESTER

(to LEAR)

 

What, hath your grace no better company?

 

EDGAR

 

The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman; Modo he’s called, and Mahu--

 

GLOUCESTER

(to LEAR)

 

Our flesh and blood is grown so vile, my lord, that it doth hate what gets it.

 

EDGAR

(curls up on the ground, burying his face from view)

 

Poor Tom’s a-cold.

 

GLOUCESTER

(to LEAR)

 

Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer to obey in all your daughters' hard commands. Though their injunction be to bar my doors and let this tyrannous night take hold upon you, yet have I ventured to come seek you out, and bring you where both fire and food is ready.

 

LEAR

 

First let me talk with this philosopher. (To EDGAR) What is the cause of thunder?

 

KENT

 

Good my lord, take his offer; go into th’ house.

 

LEAR

(to EDGAR)

 

What is your study?

 

EDGAR

 

How to prevent the fiend and to kill vermin.

 

LEAR

 

Let me ask you one word in private.

 

LEAR pulls EDGAR to his feet and takes him off the side, speaking quietly to him. The FOOL, silently, turns to observe the conversation, leaving KENT and GLOUCESTER alone in the foreground. Slow CU.

 

KENT

(to GLOUCESTER)

 

Importune him to go, my lord. His wits begin t’ unsettle.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Canst thou blame him? His daughters seek his death. O, that good Kent, he said it would be thus, poor banished man! Thou say'st the king grows mad; I'll tell thee, friend, I am almost mad myself. I had a son, now outlaw'd from my blood; he sought my life, but lately, very late. I loved him, friend; no father his son dearer. Truth to tell thee, the grief hath crazed my wits. What a night's this! (To LEAR) I do beseech your grace--

 

LEAR

(turns, startled)

 

O, cry you mercy. (To EDGAR) Noble philosopher, your company.

 

EDGAR

(subdued, listing unsteadily towards the leery FOOL)

 

Tom’s a-cold.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

In, fellow, there in the hovel; keep thee warm.

 

LEAR

 

Come, let’s in all.

 

GLOUCESTER hands his lamp to KENT, whose own lamp has long since blown out. The two converse lowly for a moment as LEAR reaches fretfully out towards EDGAR. GLOUCESTER gently turns LEAR aside and leads him into the hove. KENT, meanwhile, gives EDGAR, who has dropped to a squatting position and is trailing one bleeding hand listlessly through the mud, a long look, before entering the hovel himself. The FOOL, too, watches EDGAR for a moment, the same odd smile touching his lips, though now it is tinged with sorrow. Almost absently, he takes his bauble from his belt and sticks it into the mud, so that the next pass of EDGAR’S fingers brush it. His shoulders sag as he finally enters the hovel. EDGAR drops his head into his hands, knotting trembling and battered fingers into his matted hair. When he speaks, it is still in the voice of Tom, dark and low and yet curiously childlike.

 

EDGAR

 

Child Roland to the dark tower came, his word was still ‘Fie, fo, and fum; I smell the blood of a British man.’

 

After a moment of silence, a rumble of thunder sounds. EDGAR picks up the bauble and cradles it to his chest as he enters the hovel, and lets the wind slam the heavy door closed.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: LIBRARY, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

The house is silent, eerily so. CORNWALL paces agitatedly, back and forth across the center of the room, hands clasped behind his bowed head in thought. EDMUND, seated in an armchair, watches his movements closely. His hands rest in white-knuckled fists on his knees, but his face is placid, betraying no emotion.

 

CORNWALL

 

I will have my revenge ere I depart this house.

 

EDMUND

 

How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of.

 

CORNWALL

(stops pacing, turns to look EDMUND in the eye)

 

I now perceive, it was not altogether your brother's evil disposition made him seek his death, but a provoking merit, set a-work by a reprovable badness in himself.

 

EDMUND

 

How malicious is my fortune, that I must repent to be just! (EDMUND hands CORNWALL a letter with its seal broken and hastily remade) This is the letter he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent party to the advantages of France. O heavens, that his treason were not, nor I the detector!

 

CORNWALL

(taking the letter and hauling EDMUND to his feet with a clasp to the shoulder)

 

Go with me to the Duchess.

 

EDMUND

 

If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.

 

CORNWALL

 

True or false, it hath made thee Earl of Gloucester. Seek out where thy father is, that he may be ready for our apprehension.

 

EDMUND

(voice-over)

 

If I find him comforting the king, it will stuff his suspicion more fully. (Aloud to CORNWALL) I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.

 

CORNWALL

(claps EDMUND heartily upon the shoulder)

 

I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt find a dearer father in my love.

 

CORNWALL, a hand still upon EDMUND’S back, makes for the library door. At the threshold, EDMUND turns his head back, gazing steadily into the camera. A small smile curls over his lips.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: TOM’S HOVEL

 

The hovel is larger than it appears from the outside. The earthen walls are cracked with dripping roots and plants, and a pile of branches, of varying sizes, rests beside a small, crookedly dug fire pit. EDGAR has wrapped himself in a dirty shepherd’s blanket and sits with his knees to his chest against the back wall. To his left, the FOOL gently pulls off LEAR’S sodden robes and urges him to sit. KENT and GLOUCESTER, standing with hunched shoulders by the door, clasp hands.

 

GLOUCESTER

(hands KENT a box of matches)

 

Here is better than the open air; take it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can; I will not be long from you.

 

KENT

 

All the power of his wits have given way to his impatience: the gods reward your kindness!

 

GLOUCESTER, giving LEAR a final concerned glance, checks the oil in his lamp and exits the hovel. KENT crouches down to build up the fire; with hesitant movements, EDGAR moves to help, deftly sorting the branches by size.

 

EDGAR

(muttering under his breath)

 

Frateretto calls me; and tells me Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent; beware the foul fiend.

 

Pan over to the FOOL and LEAR, leaving KENT and EDGAR slightly out of focus in the background.

 

FOOL

 

Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman.

 

LEAR

 

A king, a king!

 

FOOL

 

No, he's a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son; for he's a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before him.

 

LEAR

 

To have a thousand with red burning spits come hissing in upon 'em--!

 

EDGAR

(to LEAR, softly)

 

Bless thy five wits.

 

PAN OUT:

 

KENT

(to LEAR)

 

O, pity! Sir, where is the patience now that you so oft have boasted to retain?

 

CUT TO:

 

EDGAR’S face in CU. An expression of dull horror resides upon his face; furiously, he brings a hand to his face and swipes at the tears welling in his eyes.

 

EDGAR

(voice-over in his own voice)

 

My tears begin to take his part so much they mar my counterfeiting.

 

PAN OUT:

 

LEAR

(stabbing at the air)

 

The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me.

 

EDGAR

(in the voice of Poor Tom)

 

Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt, you curs! (Chants) ‘Be thy mouth or black or white, tooth that poisons if it bite; mastiff, grey-hound, mongrel grim, hound or spaniel, brach or lym, or bobtail tike or trundle-tail, Tom will make them weep and wail: for, with throwing thus my head, dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.’ Do de, de, de. Cessez! Come, march to wakes and fairs and market-towns. (Voice-over in EDGAR’S voice) Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.

 

LEAR

 

Then let them anatomize Goneril, and Regan; see what breeds about their hearts. Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts? (LEAR, shaking off the FOOL, stands and makes his stumbling way to EDGAR, picking him up by both arms and examining him closely) You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments: you will say they are Persian attire: but let them be changed.

 

KENT

(gently separating EDGAR and LEAR)

 

Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.

 

LEAR

 

Make no noise, make no noise. Draw the curtains. (LEAR mimes closing drapes on each repetition of ‘so’) So, so. We'll go to supper i'th’ morning. (LEAR lies down beside the sputtering fire to sleep)

 

CUT TO:

 

The FOOL’S face in CU.

 

FOOL

(slowly, sadly)

 

And I’ll go to bed at noon.

 

The FOOL moves to lie at LEAR’S feet, shivering. EDGAR gently places the bauble against the FOOL’S chest and folds his arms over it. Then he retrieves the blanket, placing it over LEAR, before settling into a crouch to watch the two of them. GLOUCESTER enters to the sound of rushing rain, and EDGAR twitches, but keeps his head bowed.

 

GLOUCESTER

(to KENT)

 

Come hither, friend. Where is the King my master?

 

KENT

 

Here, sir, but trouble him not; his wits are gone.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms. I have o'erheard a plot of death upon him. There is a litter ready. Lay him in 't and drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet both welcome and protection. Take up thy master. If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life, with thine and all that offer to defend him, stand in assured loss. Take up, take up; and follow me, that will to some provision give thee quick conduct.

 

KENT, moving with some urgency, moves to pick a dazed LEAR up in his arms. He does not appear to notice the FOOL, but EDGAR cries out and snatches the blanket back, tucking it around the FOOL so that only the top of his head is visible.  KENT exits the hovel with GLOUCESTER, making their way towards a litter just barely visible outside the door. Once more, the wind pushes the door closed. EDGAR sighs, and begins to gently stroke the FOOL’S hair, singing softly.

 

EDGAR

(in his own voice)

 

‘Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd? Thy sleep be in the corn, and for one blast of thy minikin mouth thy sheep shall take no harm.

 

The following soliloquy is read over the next series of intercut shots.

 

EDGAR

(voice-over, in his own voice)

 

When we our betters see bearing our woes, we scarcely think our miseries our foes. Who alone suffers suffers most i' the mind, leaving free things and happy shows behind. But then the mind much sufferance doth o'er skip, when grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship. How light and portable my pain seems now, when that which makes me bend makes the king bow. He childed as I fathered.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: HEATH

 

KENT and GLOUCESTER lift LEAR into the litter; around them are a large group of LEAR’S KNIGHTS and GLOUCESTER’S SERVANTS. KENT moves to embrace GLOUCESTER before swinging up beside the cloaked and hooded driver. GLOUCESTER watches the party drive off into the gloom before turning and walking away.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: FRONT HALL, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

CORNWALL and EDMUND meet REGAN and GONERIL, speaking to them urgently. All faces are grim, disfigured by the flickering shadows cast by the hall’s dimly-lit torches.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: HEATH

 

GLOUCESTER walks, stoically upright against the rain, which is beginning to abate. In the distance, the lights of his estate can just barely be made out.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: TOM’S HOVEL

 

EDGAR holds the FOOL’S hand, bauble clasped between them, as the FOOL’S ragged breathing gradually slows and stops. Face blank, eyes dark with unshed tears, EDGAR bends to place a kiss on the FOOL’S white brow and eyelids, closing them, before easing the bauble from his hand and casting it onto the dying fire.

 

FADE TO BLACK:

 

INT. NIGHT: FRONT HALL, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

CORNWALL, EDMUND, REGAN, and GONERIL stand some distance before a lone chair in the hall, along with several of GONERIL and CORNWALL’S SERVANTS. The atmosphere is tense, expectant. All of the torches have been lit anew, but the chair remains in shadow.

 

CORNWALL

(to GONERIL)

 

Post speedily to my lord your husband. Show him this letter. The army of France is landed. (GONERIL gives a nod to several SERVANTS, who bow and exit towards the kitchens; CORNWALL turns to the rest) Go seek the traitor Gloucester. Pinion him like a thief, and bring him before us. (The remaining SERVANTS exit)

 

REGAN

 

Hang him instantly!

 

GONERIL

 

Pluck out his eyes.

 

CORNWALL

 

Nay. Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our sister company. The revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your

beholding. Advise the duke, where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us.  

 

OSWALD, dressed to ride, enters from the direction of the kitchens.

 

CORNWALL

 

How now; where’s the King?

 

OSWALD

 

My lord of Gloucester hath convey'd him hence. Some five or six and thirty of his knights, hot questants after him, met him at gate; who, with some other of the lord’s dependants, are gone with him towards Dover, where they boast to have well-armed friends.

 

CORNWALL

(impatiently)

 

Get horses for your mistress. (OSWALD dips his head, not quite a bow, and exits)

 

GONERIL

 

Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.

 

CORNWALL

 

Farewell, dear sister, and my lord of Gloucester. (EDMUND takes GONERIL’S arm, leading her towards the back wing of bedrooms) Though well we may not pass upon his life without the form of justice, yet our power shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men may blame, but not control. (A commotion at the front door) Who's there-- the traitor?

 

The front door is kicked in with a bang, and one of CORNWALL’S SERVANTS strides forward. Two more follow, each gripping one of a struggling GLOUCESTER’S arms. The door hits the wall and swings back, slamming closed. GLOUCESTER is brought before CORNWALL and REGAN, who spits at his feet.

 

REGAN

 

Ingrateful fox, ‘tis he.

 

CORNWALL

(to SERVANTS)

 

Bind fast his corky arms.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

What means your graces? Good my friends, consider you are my guests. Do me no foul play--   

 

CORNWALL

(to SERVANTS)

 

Bind him, I say, to this chair!

 

REGAN

(overlapping CORNWALL)

 

Hard, hard! O filthy traitor!       

 

The FIRST SERVANT cuffs GLOUCESTER about the head, and swings the chair forward. The SECOND and THIRD force GLOUCESTER into the chair, binding his hands to the arm rests with their belts. Amidst the frenzy of movement, REGAN moves sinuously forward to pluck at GLOUCESTER’S beard.

 

GLOUCESTER

(outraged)

 

By the kind gods, ‘tis most ignobly done--!      

 

CORNWALL

(striking GLOUCESTER across the mouth)

 

Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?

 

REGAN

 

Be simple, answerer, for we know the truth.       

 

CORNWALL

 

And what confederacy have you with the traitors late footed in the kingdom--

 

REGAN

 

--To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king? Speak.        

 

GLOUCESTER

(haltingly)

 

I have a letter guessingly set down, which came from one that's of a neutral heart, and not from one opposed.      

 

CORNWALL

 

Cunning--

 

REGAN

 

And false.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

CORNWALL

 

Where hast thou sent the King?      

 

GLOUCESTER

 

To Dover.

 

REGAN

 

Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charged at peril--  

 

CORNWALL

(with slight impatience)

 

Wherefore to Dover, let him answer that first.     

 

GLOUCESTER

(to REGAN)

 

Because I would not see thy cruel nails pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister in his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs. The sea, with such a storm as his bare head in hell-black night endured, would have buoy'd up, and quench'd the stelled fires. Yet, poor old heart, he helped the heavens to rain. If wolves had at thy gate howl'd that stern time, thou shouldst have said 'Good porter, turn the key,' all cruels else subscribed. But I shall see the winged vengeance overtake such children.

 

CORNWALL

 

See't shalt thou never. Upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot. (To SERVANTS) Fellows, hold the chair.  

 

The FIRST and THIRD SERVANTS quickly move to the back of the chair, holding it solidly in place; the FIRST tightens GLOUCESTER’S restraints as he moves, making GLOUCESTER cry out in shock. The SECOND servant draws back, looking nervous. CORNWALL pulls his dagger from its sheath, the blade glinting in the torchlight as he approaches GLOUCESTER, who struggles to escape his bonds in vain.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

He that will think to live till he be old, give me some help! O cruel! O you gods--! (CORNWALL stabs out one of GLOUCESTER’S eyes, flings it to the floor, and crushes it with his heel; GLOUCESTER screams)

 

REGAN

 

One side will mock another; t’other, too, if you see vengeance.

 

SECOND SERVANT

(to CORNWALL)

 

Hold your hand, my lord! I have served you ever since I was a child; but better service have I never done you than now to bid you hold.

 

REGAN

 

How now, you dog!

 

SECOND SERVANT

(to REGAN)

 

If you did wear a beard upon your chin, I'd shake it on this quarrel. (To CORNWALL) What do you mean?

 

CORNWALL

 

Villain, thou shalt find--



SECOND SERVANT

 

Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger.

 

The SECOND SERVANT draws his sword as rushes CORNWALL, who, unbeknownst to REGAN, takes a blow to the abdomen before meeting the blade with his dagger. REGAN whirls to face the FIRST SERVANT and grips his arm hard enough to leave nail marks.



REGAN

 

Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus! (REGAN runs at the SECOND SERVANT and stabs him in the back; he falls to his knees, reaching towards GLOUCESTER)

 

SECOND SERVANT

(to GLOUCESTER)

 

O, I am slain, my lord! Yet have you one eye left to see some mischief on him. (REGAN stabs him again) O! (The SERVANT pitches forward onto his face, dead)

 

CORNWALL

 

Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly! (CORNWALL stabs out GLOUCESTER’S other eye) Where is thy lustre now?



GLOUCESTER

(on the verge of fainting)

 

All dark and comfortless. Where's my son Edmund? Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature, to quit this horrid act!

 

REGAN

 

Out, treacherous villain! Thou call'st on him that hates thee. ‘Twas he that made the overture of thy treasons to us, who is too good to pity thee.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

GLOUCESTER

(in abject horror)

 

O, my follies! ...Then Edgar was abused. Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!

 

REGAN

(to the FIRST SERVANT)

 

Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell his way to Dover. (The FIRST SERVANT roughly unties GLOUCESTER and leads him towards the kitchens, as REGAN turns to CORNWALL, noting the bloom of blood with some concern) How is't, my lord? How look you?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

CORNWALL

 

I have received a hurt: follow me, lady. (To the THIRD SERVANT) Throw this slave upon the dunghill. (The THIRD SERVANT bears the body of the SECOND after the FIRST; CORNWALL staggers suddenly, doubling over with his hand to the wound) Regan, I bleed apace. Untimely comes this hurt! Give me your arm.

 

REGAN puts an arm around CORNWALL and leads him towards the bedroom wing. Her face is invisible to us.

Chapter Text

The following soliloquy is read over the next series of intercut shots, ending with “blasts.”

 

EDGAR

(voice-over, in his own voice)

 

Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd, than still contemn'd and flatter'd. To be worst, the lowest and most dejected thing of fortune, stands still in esperance, lives not in fear: the lamentable change is from the best; rhe worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then, thou unsubstantial air that I embrace! The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst owes nothing to thy blasts.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: KITCHENS, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

The THIRD SERVANT speaks lowly to a matronly COOK, who approaches the hunched figure of GLOUCESTER with a bowl of flax and egg and a cloth.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: GUEST BEDROOM, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

REGAN, sitting in on a vanity stool beside the bed, holds CORNWALL’S hand as he dies. A single tear traces a slow path down her cheek. The scene takes on a hazy, dream-like quality; the real and imagined intertwine, become one. In the shadows of the doorway, EDMUND observes the scene, his face impassive.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. NIGHT: ROAD TO DOVER

 

The THIRD SERVANT leads the blind GLOUCESTER, his eyes newly bandaged and bleeding, along the road. They move haltingly, painfully so, and the SERVANT constantly scans the road, looking for something we cannot see.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. NIGHT: GUEST BEDROOM, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

The image of EDMUND moves to kneel beside REGAN, taking her hand from CORNWALL’S to hold it in his own. With the backs of his fingers, he gently traces the track of her tear, gazing deeply into her eyes.

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. DAY: ROAD TO DOVER

 

EDGAR in CU, having just spoken the word “blasts” in voice-over, abruptly stops walking, glancing around with no small amount of suspicion. Pan out to a full view of the road. The sky is overcast, the landscape still soaked through from the storm. Some of the mud has been washed from EDGAR’S frame; the rest appears on its way to becoming permanently engrained. The wounds on his arms appear infected, smeared with ashes, but the others have scabbed over, apart from a new cut across his cheek, still weeping blood. He wears the shepherd’s blanket around his shoulders. From behind, GLOUCESTER and the THIRD SERVANT make their careful way over the rough road. EDGAR moves to an outcropping of rock, trying to make their faces out.

 

EDGAR

 

Who comes here…? My father, parti-eyed? World, world, O world! But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, life would not yield to age! (EDGAR clambers down from the rocks, beginning to creep hesitantly towards GLOUCESTER)

 

ZOOM TO:

 

GLOUCESTER

(pushing the THIRD SERVANT off)

 

Away, get thee away; good friend, be gone. Thy comforts can do me no good at all; thee they may hurt.

 

THIRD SERVANT

 

Alack, sir, you cannot see your way--

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I have no way, and therefore want no eyes. I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seen our means secure us, and our mere defects prove our commodities. Dear son Edgar, the food of thy abused father's wrath--! Might I but live to see thee in my touch, I'ld say I had eyes again.

 

THIRD SERVANT

(spotting EDGAR)

 

How now? Who’s there?

 

PAN OUT:



EDGAR

(frozen, speaks in voice-over, in his own voice)

 

O gods! Who is't can say 'I am at the worst'? I am worse than e'er I was.

 

THIRD SERVANT

 

‘Tis poor mad Tom.

 

EDGAR

(voice-over, in his own voice)

 

And worse I may be yet.

 

THIRD SERVANT

(calls to EDGAR)

 

Fellow, where goest?

 

GLOUCESTER

(mumbling)

 

Is it a beggar-man?

 

THIRD SERVANT

 

Madman, and beggar, too.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

He has some reason, else he could not beg. In the last night's storm I such a fellow saw, which made me think a man a worm. My son came then into my mind; and yet my mind was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.

 

EDGAR

(voice-over, in his own voice)

 

How should this be? Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow, angering itself and others. (Aloud, in the voice of Poor Tom) Bless thee, master!

 

GLOUCESTER

(in an undertone)

 

Is that the naked fellow?

 

THIRD SERVANT

(matching pitch)

 

Ay, my lord.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Then, prithee, get thee gone. If for my sake thou wilt o'ertake us, hence a mile or twain in the way toward Dover, do it for ancient love, and bring some covering for this naked soul, who I'll entreat to lead me.

 

THIRD SERVANT

 

Alack, sir, he is mad!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind. Do as I bid thee-- (Backing off, subdued) or rather...do thy pleasure. Above the rest, be gone.

 

THIRD SERVANT

 

I'll bring him the best 'parel that I have, come on't what will.

 

The THIRD SERVANT presses one of GLOUCESTER’S trembling hands between his own before walking back the way they had come. GLOUCESTER stands uncertainly, turning his head towards the sound of EDGAR’S voice as he mumbles softly.

 

GLOUCESTER

(waveringly)

 

Sirrah! Naked fellow!

 

EDGAR

(in the voice of Poor Tom)

 

Poor Tom’s a-cold! (Mutters in angry desperation under his breath; in his own voice, rendered unrecognizable by the rasp) I cannot daub it farther! (Trails off with weary resignation, face settling into the now-familiar fevered mask of Tom) And yet I must.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Come hither, fellow.

 

EDGAR moves hesitantly towards GLOUCESTER, the tempo of his steps quickening and slowing erratically. Gently, almost reverently, he reaches out to touch the bandages on GLOUCESTER’S eyes with shaking fingers.

 

EDGAR

(whispers, in the voice of Poor Tom)

 

Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Know'st thou the way to Dover?

 

EDGAR

 

Both stile and gate, horse-way and footpath. Poor Tom hath been scared out of his good wits: bless thee, good man's son, from the foul fiend! (Rapidly increases the speed of his speech, letting his volume drop in rambling as he touches some of the ashes on his arms to the bandaged sockets of GLOUCESTER’S eyes) Five fiends have been in poor Tom at once; of lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididence, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of stealing; Modo, of murder; Flibbertigibbet, of mocking and mowing, who since possesses chambermaids and waiting-women. So bless thee, master!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues have humbled to all strokes. That I am wretched makes thee the happier. Heavens deal so still. Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, that slaves your ordinance, that will not see because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly. So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?

 

EDGAR

 

Ay, master.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

There is a cliff, whose high and bending head looks fearfully in the confined deep. Bring me but to the very brim of it, and I'll repair the misery thou dost bear with something rich about me. (Focus the shot on GLOUCESTER’S grim, bloodied face, in slight CU) From that place I shall no leading need.

 

EDGAR

 

Give me thy arm. Poor Tom shall lead thee.

 

Slow zoom out as EDGAR, one hand grasping GLOUCESTER’S forearm, the other about his back, stiffly begins to lead GLOUCESTER down the road.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: FRONT HALL, ALBANY’S CASTLE

 

GONERIL, escorted by EDMUND, enters through the front door. The two are at ease with each other; GONERIL laughs lightly at something said by EDMUND, too low for us to hear. His teeth gleam in a smile, but there is a predatory sheen to his eyes that GONERIL either fails to notice or ignores.

 

GONERIL

 

Welcome, my lord: I marvel our mild husband has not met us on the way. (OSWALD enters the hall from a room further within the castle, adjusting his spectacles in a perturbed manner) Now, where’s your master?

 

OSWALD

 

Within, madam, but never was man so changed. I told him of the army that was landed; he smiled at it. I told him you were coming; his answer was 'the worse:' of Gloucester's treachery, and of the loyal service of his son, when I informed him, then he called me sot, and told me I had turned the wrong side out. What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him; what like, offensive.

 

GONERIL

(to EDMUND)

 

Then shall you go no further. It is the cowish terror of his spirit that dares not undertake. He'll not feel wrongs which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way may prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother. Hasten his musters and conduct his powers. I must change arms at home, and give the distaff into my husband's hands. This trusty servant shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear, if you dare venture in your own behalf, a mistress's command.

 

GONERIL pulls the wedding ring from her finger and unclasps an unadorned chain from her throat. Quickly she strings the ring onto the chain and holds it out to EDMUND, the gesture strong and sure.

 

GONERIL

(to EDMUND)

 

Wear this. Spare speech. (EDMUND takes the token, gently fingering the length of the chain) Decline your head. (He does) This kiss, if it durst speak, would stretch thy spirits up into the air. (GONERIL moves to kiss EDMUND’S cheek, then reconsiders and pecks him soundly on the lips) Conceive, and fare you well.

 

EDMUND

(catches GONERIL’S hands and kisses it, half-smiling as he meets her eyes)

 

Yours in the ranks of death.

 

EDMUND bows to GONERIL, deeply, with a sort of irony in the movement that makes OSWALD twitch with suppressed indignation. EDMUND exits through the front door, and GONERIL, hawk-like, watches him leave. Slow CU on her face.

 

GONERIL

(voice-over)

 

My most dear Gloucester. O, the difference of man and man! To thee a woman's services are due.

 

CUT OUT TO:

 

Sharp footsteps approach the pair; OSWALD draws himself to attention.

 

OSWALD

 

Madam, here comes my lord. (Bows and exits)

 

GONERIL

(voice-over)

 

My fool usurps my body. (Aloud, miffed) I have been worth the whistling.

 

ALBANY casts his eyes towards neither GONERIL nor the retreating OSWALD as the former speaks; instead, he moves to the window by the door. He turns to lean back against the sill, pulling a document and a pair of spectacles from his pocket and beginning to read. Still he avoids GONERIL’S eyes. Focus in on the two as they speak, creating a claustrophobic tableau in three-quarter shot.

 

ALBANY

(airily)

 

O Goneril, you are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face. I fear your disposition. That nature, which contemns its origin, cannot be bordered certain in itself. She that herself will sliver and disbranch from her material sap, perforce must wither, and come to deadly use.

 

GONERIL

 

No more! The text is foolish--

 

ALBANY clenches the fist holding the paper sharply, the sudden crack of the parchment making GONERIL flinch with surprise. Eyes bright with rage, ALBANY pushes himself off the sill to stalk towards GONERIL, gripping her upper arm roughly.

 

ALBANY

 

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile, filths savour but themselves. What have you done? Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform'd? A father, and a gracious aged man, whose reverence even the head-lugged bear would lick, most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded. Could my good brother suffer you to do it? A man, a prince, by him so benefacted? If that the heavens do not their visible spirits send quickly down to tame these vile offences, it will come, humanity must perforce prey on itself, like monsters of the deep.

 

GONERIL

(sneering contempt)

 

Milk-liver'd man, that bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs, who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning thine honour from thy suffering, where's thy drum? France spreads his banners in our noiseless land, whiles thou, a moral fool, sits still, and criest--

 

ALBANY

(coldly, letting go of GONERIL’S arm with disgust)

 

See thyself, devil. Proper deformity seems not in the fiend so horrid as in woman.

 

GONERIL

(growing incensed)

 

O vain fool--!

 

ALBANY

(turns his back)

 

Thou changed and self-cover'd thing, for shame. Bemonster not thy feature. Were't my fitness to let these hands obey my blood, they are apt enough to dislocate and tear thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend, a woman's shape doth shield thee.

 

GONERIL

 

Marry your manhood, mew--

 

A harried-looking MESSENGER, wearing the colours of CORNWALL, enters through the front door, pulling the focus. Pan out to view the hall at large: GONERIL stiff and livid in the center of the room, ALBANY two paces away with his back to her, face forcibly composed, unable to hide the tension in his body. The MESSENGER pulls up short, obviously discomfited.

 

ALBANY

 

What news?

 

MESSENGER

(with some trepidation)

 

Good my lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead: slain by his servant going to put out the other eye of Gloucester.

 

ALBANY

(turning abruptly to face the MESSENGER)

 

Gloucester’s eyes?

 

MESSENGER

 

A servant that he bred, thralled with remorse, opposed against the act, bending his sword to his great master, who thereat enraged flew on him, and amongst them felled him dead, but not without that harmful stroke, which since hath pluck'd him after.

 

ALBANY

 

This shows you are above, you justicers, that these our nether crimes so speedily can venge. But, O poor Gloucester! Lost he his other eye?

 

MESSENGER

 

Both, both, my lord. (To GONERIL, holding a letter) This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer. 'Tis from your sister.

 

CUT TO:

 

GONERIL’S face in medium CU

 

GONERIL

(voice-over)

 

One way I like this well...but being widow, and my Gloucester with her, may all the building in my fancy pluck upon my hateful life. Another way the news is not so took. (Aloud as her face settles into a calm smile; pan out as she takes the letter from the MESSENGER) I’ll read and answer.

 

GONERIL exits towards an interior room of the castle. ALBANY’S shoulders sag in a silent sigh as soon as she is out of sight; he draws himself back up briskly as he moves to escort the MESSENGER to the front door.

 

ALBANY

 

Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

 

MESSENGER

 

Come with my lady hither.

 

ALBANY

(in confusion)

 

He is not here.

 

MESSENGER

 

No, my good lord. I met him back again.

 

ALBANY

 

Knows he the wickedness?

 

MESSENGER

 

Ay, my good lord; 'twas he inform'd against him, and quit the house on purpose that their punishment might have the freer course.

 

ALBANY

(softly)

 

Gloucester, I live to thank thee for the love thou showed’st the king, and to revenge thine eyes. (Takes the MESSENGER by the shoulder, redirecting him to an antechamber) Come hither, friend. Tell me what more thou know'st.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: FRENCH MILITARY CAMP, DOVER

 

CORDELIA, highly agitated, stalks out of the command tent. She wears boots, breeches and a homespun shirt a bit too large on her girlish frame, under a tightly laced leather jerkin: a far cry from the delicate princess she was before. Two military OFFICERS follow her out. The camp itself is large and lively; the party walks past SOLDIERS training, OFFICERS bent over field tables and maps and messages, MILITARY WIVES carrying baskets of medical supplies and rations, the KING OF FRANCE assisting in the inspection of cannon, an ENSIGN repairing the company flag while telling a story to a group of wide-eyed POWDER BOYS. All of these scenes blur into the background as the camera’s focus centers on CORDELIA.

 

CORDELIA

 

Alack, 'tis he! Why, he was met even now as mad as the racked sea: singing aloud, crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds, with burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow in our sustaining corn. The centuries send forth. Search every acre in the high-grown field, and bring him to our eye. (The OFFICERS salute in acknowledgment, exiting towards their battalions) What can man's wisdom in the restoring his bereaved sense? He that can help him take all my outward worth.

 

An on-foot MESSENGER, traveler’s cloak and infantry uniform caked with drying mud, speaks briefly to the two SENTRIES at the entrance to the camp in the background of the previous speech. Resolutely he marches towards CORDELIA, his face grim and haggard.

 

MESSENGER

 

News, madam. The British powers are marching hitherward.

 

CORDELIA

 

'Tis known before; our preparation stands in expectation of them. (With a gesture, CORDELIA dismisses the messenger; medium CU on her face as he takes his leave) O dear father, it is thy business that I go about; therefore great France my mourning and important tears hath pitied. No blown ambition doth our arms incite, but love, dear love, and our aged father's right. Soon may I hear and see him!

 

Pan out to a wide shot. The sound of drums and shouts as the two battalions charged to seek LEAR depart reverberates through the camp. CORDELIA, an isolated, tiny figure amidst the flurry of activity, bows her head in prayer.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: GUEST BEDROOM, GLOUCESTER’S HOUSE

 

REGAN sits at the vanity with her eyes closed, braiding her hair. Her body and reflected face are all we see.

 

REGAN

 

But are my brother’s powers set forth?

 

OSWALD

(offscreen)

 

Ay, madam.

 

REGAN

 

Himself in person?

 

OSWALD

 

Madam, with much ado. Your sister is the better soldier.

 

REGAN opens her eyes, the camera panning out with her as she turns sharply to face OSWALD, who stands by the door, nervously twisting his steward’s chain about his fingers.

 

REGAN

 

Lord Edmund spake not with your lord at home?

 

OSWALD

 

No, madam.

 

REGAN

 

What might import my sister’s letters to him?

 

OSWALD

 

Madam, I know not.

 

REGAN

 

'Faith, he is posted hence on serious matter. It was great ignorance, Gloucester's eyes being out, to let him live. Where he arrives he moves all hearts against us. Edmund, I think, is gone, in pity of his misery, to dispatch his ‘nighted life; moreover, to descry the strength o' the enemy.

 

OSWALD

(hesitantly)

 

I must needs after with my letters, madam.

 

REGAN

 

Our troops set forth to-morrow. Stay with us. The ways are dangerous.

 

OSWALD

 

I may not, madam. My lady charged my duty in this business.

 

REGAN

 

Why should she write to Edmund? Might not you transport her purposes by word? Belike, something…(REGAN, making a dismissive gesture, stands, moves to take OSWALD’S face in her hands) I know not what. I'll love thee much. Let me unseal the letter.

 

OSWALD

(visibly discomfited)

 

Madam, I’d rather--

 

REGAN

 

I know your lady does not love her husband. I am sure of that-- and at her late being here she gave strange oeillades and most speaking looks to noble Edmund. I know you are of her bosom.

 

OSWALD

 

I, madam?

 

REGAN

(releases OSWALD, forcing him to retreat a pace)

 

I speak in understanding. You are; I know't. Therefore I do advise you take this note. My lord is dead. Edmund and I have talked, and more convenient is he for my hand than for your lady's. You may gather more. (Slips her own wedding ring from her finger and drops it in OSWALD’S hand) If you do find him, pray you, give him this, and when your mistress hears thus much from you, I pray desire her call her wisdom to her. So, fare you well. (A beat) If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor, preferment falls on him that cuts him off.

 

An eager, almost hungry look flashes briefly in OSWALD’S eyes, but the camera tracks REGAN as she turns back to the vanity, securing her braided hair with a jeweled comb, her face that of stone.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: CLIFFS OF DOVER

 

The cliffs gleam white even under the clouds, stark against the roiling slate sea and silvery sea-foam that arcs into the air with each wave that crashes into the sheer cliff faces. A few bedraggled gulls wheel over the cliffs, darkly silhouetted, their cries echoing eerily as the camera cuts away to a rocky hill. EDGAR, carrying GLOUCESTER on his back and a long, sturdy branch in his hand, picks his labored way up to this plateau. He is now clad in peasant’s clothing and a worn black robe. GLOUCESTER’S eyes have been freshly bandaged. Having crested the hill, EDGAR rests for a moment, eyes slipping closed, before continuing onward. The ground at his feet is invisible to the camera. The cliffs could be miles away or right below.  The sea makes a low rushing music, falling into harmony with the wailing wind.



GLOUCESTER

 

When shall we come to the top of that same hill?

 

EDGAR

(in a voice halfway between Poor Tom’s and his own)

 

You do climb up it now. Look how we labour.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Methinks the ground is even.

 

EDGAR

 

Horrible steep. Hark, do you hear the sea?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

No, truly.

 

EDGAR

 

Why, then, your other senses grow imperfect by your eyes' anguish.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

So may it be, indeed. (A beat) Methinks thy voice is alter'd, and thou speak'st with better phrase and matter than thou didst.

 

EDGAR

(shakily)

 

You're much deceived. In nothing am I changed but in my garments.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Methinks you’re better spoken--

 

EDGAR

 

Come on, sir; here's the place.

 

EDGAR pauses, licks dry lips, gazes out with haunted eyes. The camera circles dizzily as he speaks, the sound of the sea growing louder, the images described taking form on the cliffs and in the water as EDGAR eventually becomes invisible, a lone, hushed voice in the void of the sea and sky.

 

EDGAR

 

How fearful and dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low! The crows and choughs that wing the midway air show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade! Methinks he seems no bigger than his head. The fishermen, that walk upon the beach, appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark, diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy almost too small for sight: the murmuring surge, that on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes, cannot be heard so high. (Abrupt cut to EDGAR’S face in extreme CU as he presses his eyes closed and takes a hasty step back) I'll look no more; lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight topple down headlong.

 

GLOUCESTER

(fervently)

 

Set me where you stand. (Zoom out slightly as EDGAR eases GLOUCESTER off his back, the resume slow zoom to extreme CU on GLOUCESTER’S face as tears track their way down below the bandages) O you mighty gods! This world I do renounce, and in your sights shake patiently my great affliction off! If Edgar live, O, bless him! Now, fellow, fare thee well.

 

EDGAR

(faintly, offscreen)

 

Gone, sir, farewell--

 

GLOUCESTER leans forward, a thin cry escaping his lips as he falls down, down, into the swirling vortex of sea and sky and stone-- and lands, heavily, on flat grass, face pressed into the dirt. Slow track from the rocky rise to the flat plateau on which EDGAR and GLOUCESTER have been standing for the duration of the scene. The cliffs gleam white in the distance, the roar of the waves inaudible. The camera settles back onto GLOUCESTER’S motionless face, zooming out slightly as EDGAR drops to his knees beside him.  

 

EDGAR

(murmuring in his own voice)

 

Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it...yet I know not how conceit may rob the treasury of life, when life itself yields to the theft. Alive...or dead? (Clears his throat, speaks in the rough accent of a Kentish seaman) Ho you, sir! Friend! Hear you, sir! Speak! (In his own voice) Thus might he pass indeed-- yet he revives. (In the seaman’s voice, as GLOUCESTER begins to stir) What are you, sir?

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Away, and let me die.

 

EDGAR

(in the seaman’s voice)

 

Hadst thou been aught but goss’mer, feathers, air, so many fathom down precipitating, thou hadst shivered like an egg. But thou dost breathe, hast heavy substance; bleed'st not, speak'st, art sound. Ten masts a-length make not the altitude which thou hast perpendicularly fell. Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

But have I fallen, or no?

 

EDGAR

 

From the dread summit of this chalky bourn. Look up a-height. The shrill-gorged lark so far cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Alack, I have no eyes. Is wretchedness deprived that benefit, to end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort when misery could beguile the tyrant's rage and frustrate his proud will.

 

EDGAR

 

Give me your arm. Up. (When GLOUCESTER refuses to move, EDGAR grabs one arm and lifts his unyielding body upright, keeping a firm hold about his shoulders) So. How is 't? Feel you your legs? You stand.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Too well, too well.

 

EDGAR

 

This is above all strangeness. Upon the crown o' the cliff, what thing was that which parted from you?

 

GLOUCESTER

(reticence giving way to confusion)

 

A poor unfortunate beggar.

 

EDGAR

 

As I stood here below, methought his eyes were two full moons. He had a thousand noses, horns whelked and waved like the enridged sea. It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father, think that the clearest gods, who make them honours of men's impossibilities, have preserved thee.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

I do remember now: henceforth I'll bear affliction till it do cry out itself 'Enough, enough,' and die. That thing you speak of, I took it for a man. Often would it say

'The fiend, the fiend!' He led me to that place.

 

EDGAR

 

Bear free and patient thoughts. But who comes here? (LEAR, naked and covered liberally with crooked garlands of thorned branches and wildflowers, singing softly, stumbles over the rise; EDGAR scrambles to his feet in shock) The safer sense will ne'er accommodate his master thus.

 

LEAR

 

No, they cannot touch me for coining! I am the King himself.

 

EDGAR

(whispers)

 

O side-piercing sight!

 

Throughout the following speech, LEAR interacts with the empty air around him as though the creatures described were perfectly visible.

 

LEAR

 

Nature's above art in that respect. There's your press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper. Draw me a clothier's yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece of toasted cheese will do 't. There's my gauntlet; I'll prove it on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird! (Spins abruptly to face EDGAR, sharp shrewdness warring with the fevering glint of madness in his eyes) Ha! Give the word.

 

EDGAR

(casting his eyes to the ground)

 

Sweet marjoram.

 

LEAR

 

Pass.

 

GLOUCESTER

(dawning realization and horror)

 

I know that voice.

 

LEAR

 

Ha! Goneril, Regan! They flattered me like a dog; and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say 'ay' and 'no' to everything that I said ‘ay' and 'no' too was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace at my bidding, there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they are not men of their words. They told me I was everything; 'tis a lie. I am not ague-proof.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

The trick of that voice I do well remember. Is’t not the king?

 

LEAR

(grabbing his manhood and waving it towards GLOUCESTER)

 

Ay, every inch a king! (Growing serious, retreating once more into his world of visions) When I do stare, see how the subject quakes. I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause? Adultery? Thou shalt not die for adultery. No,  the wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight. Let copulation thrive, for Gloucester's bastard son was kinder to his father than my daughters got 'tween the lawful sheets. To 't, luxury, pell-mell! For I lack soldiers. Behold yond simpering dame, whose face between her forks presageth snow, that minces virtue, and does shake the head to hear of pleasure's name; the fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to 't with a more riotous appetite. Down from the waist they’re centaurs, though women all above. But to the girdle do the gods inherit; beneath is all the fiends'. (With rising intensity) There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit, burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! (Spits on the ground twice, scraping at his face with trembling hands) Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination. There's money for thee.

 

GLOUCESTER

(staggering in the direction of LEAR’S voice)

 

O, let me kiss that hand!

 

LEAR

 

Let me wipe it first, it smells of mortality!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

O ruin'd piece of nature! This great world shall so wear out to nought. Dost thou know me?

 

LEAR

 

I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid! I'll not love. (Thrusts his hands, holding an invisible letter, towards GLOUCESTER’S face) Read thou this challenge; mark but the penning of it.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Were all the letters suns, I could not see one.

 

CUT TO:



EDGAR

(whispers, in his own voice)

 

I would not take this from report; it is, and my heart breaks at it.

 

CUT TO:

 

LEAR

 

Read.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

What, with the case of eyes?

 

LEAR

 

What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears! (Points in EDGAR’S direction, pulling GLOUCESTER to follow his movement) See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark in

thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Get thee glass eyes, and like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not. If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes. I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester. Thou must be patient. We came crying hither. Thou know'st the first time that we smell the air, we wail and cry. (Putting an arm around GLOUCESTER’S shoulders and collapsing to sit upon the ground) I will preach to thee: mark.

 

GLOUCESTER

(weeping into LEAR’S shoulder)

 

Alack, alack the day!

 

LEAR

 

When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools. (Staring towards the ground, the flash of lucidity gone) This is a good block. It were a delicate stratagem, to shoe a troop of horse with felt. I'll put 't in proof; and when I have stol'n upon these sons-in-law, then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

 

The galloping of horses’ hooves startles both EDGAR and GLOUCESTER, but LEAR appears not to have heard. One of the OFFICERS, accompanied by seven SOLDIERS, appears at the top of the rise. Silently he leaves his horse with one of the SOLDIERS, and approaches LEAR and GLOUCESTER, palms upturned in a sign of peace. The SOLDIERS, apart from the man leading the OFFICER’S horse, dismount and follow.

 

FIRST OFFICER

(gently)

 

Sir, your most dear daughter--

 

LEAR

 

No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even the natural fool of fortune. Use me well. You shall have ransom. (Putting his head in his hands, suddenly weary) Let me have a surgeon; I am cut to the brains.

 

FIRST OFFICER

 

You shall have anything.

 

LEAR

 

I will die bravely, like a bridegroom. (Regaining his vigor with almost manic speed, LEAR stumbles to his feet and claps the OFFICER on the back) What! I will be jovial! Come, come, I am a king, my masters, know you that?

 

FIRST OFFICER

 

You are a royal one, and we obey you.

 

LEAR

 

Then there's life in't. Nay, if you get it, you shall get it with running.

 

LEAR takes off running across the plateau, shoving EDGAR to the ground and laughing wildly. The SOLDIERS double back to their mounts and take off after him. With a sigh, the OFFICER reaches down to help EDGAR to his feet. EDGAR then moves to help GLOUCESTER rise, dutifully avoiding the OFFICER’S eyes. The OFFICER, in turn, watches his men. In the distance, the SOLDIERS surround LEAR, attempting to convince him to mount the OFFICER’S horse.

 

FIRST OFFICER

(in sad frustration, to the departed LEAR)

 

A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch-- past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one daughter, who redeems nature from the general curse which twain have brought her to.

 

EDGAR

(softly, in a Cornish accent)

 

Gentle sir--

 

FIRST OFFICER

(turning sharply to face EDGAR, who stands apart from GLOUCESTER)

 

What’s your will?

 

EDGAR

 

Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?

 

FIRST OFFICER

 

Most sure and vulgar. Everyone that can distinguish sound hears that.

 

EDGAR

 

But, by your favour, how near's the other army?

 

FIRST OFFICER

 

Near and on speedy foot. The main descriers stand on the hourly thought. Though that the queen on special cause is here, her army is moved on.

 

EDGAR

 

I thank you, sir. That’s all.

 

The OFFICER stands in silence for a moment, watching EDGAR and GLOUCESTER with something like pity in his hard eyes. He offers EDGAR a half-hearted salute before turning to stride towards LEAR and the SOLDIERS with a shout. Focus on GLOUCESTER and EDGAR as the sound in the background fades.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me. Let not my worser spirit tempt me again to die before you please!

 

EDGAR

 

Well pray you, father.

 

GLOUCESTER

(thrown off guard by the sudden change of accent)

 

Now, good sir, what are you?

 

EDGAR

(wearily)

 

A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows, who by the art of known and feeling sorrows am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand. I'll lead you to some biding.

 

GLOUCESTER

(feeling for EDGAR’S hand)

 

Hearty thanks. The bounty and the benison of heaven send thee boot to boot.

 

A ragged shout makes EDGAR jump, and he quickly grabs for GLOUCESTER’S hand. OSWALD, breathless, his sword drawn, runs up over the rise, slowing to a halt and smirking as he sizes the cowering figure of GLOUCESTER up and the implacable EDGAR.

 

OSWALD

 

A proclaimed prize! Most happy! That eyeless head of thine was first framed flesh to raise my fortunes. Thou most unhappy traitor, briefly thyself remember. The sword is out that must destroy thee.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

Now let thy friendly hand put strength enough to't--

 

EDGAR cuts GLOUCESTER off with a soft, vicious hiss, moving to stand in front of him. He stares defiantly at OSWALD, who draws himself up tall, evidently nettled.

 

OSWALD

 

Wherefore, bold peasant, darest thou support a published traitor? Hence, lest that the infection of his fortune take like hold on thee. Let go his arm.

 

EDGAR

(in a thick Somerset dialect)

 

‘Chill not let go, zir, without 'cagion.

 

OSWALD

 

Let go, slave, or thou diest!

 

EDGAR

 

Good gentleman, go your gate. Let poor volk pass. An ‘chud ha' bin zwaggered out of my life, 'twould not ha' bin zo long as 'tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th' old man. Keep out, ‘che vor’ ye, or I’s try whether your costard or my ballow be the harder, ‘chill be plain with you!

 

OSWALD

(outraged)

 

Out, dunghill!

 

EDGAR

 

‘Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come, no matter vor your foins!

 

EDGAR pushes GLOUCESTER to the side as OSWALD lunges at him. He throws himself flat on the ground, making OSWALD overstep and lose balance. EDGAR hooks his staff around the back of OSWALD’S leg and topples him onto his back. As OSWALD attempts to get up, EDGAR kicks out at OSWALD’S wrist, forcing him to drop his sword, before jumping to straddle OSWALD, pinning his arms by his side with his knees. With one hand, in slow CU, EDGAR grips OSWALD by the throat. The other hand retrieves the club, bringing it down onto OSWALD’S skull once, twice, three times. End in extreme CU on EDGAR’S face, eyes red-rimmed and wild, panting for breath, teeth bared in a snarl. Slowly, the low moans of OSWALD and the near-silent whimper of GLOUCESTER bring him back to himself. The fevered eyes slip closed. A single tear cuts a clear track through the salt, dirt, and blood on his cheek. Pan down to include OSWALD in CU, the left side of his forehead and eye socket shattered, bone glinting a dull white in the welter of blood.

 

OSWALD

(voice faint and slurred)

 

Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse. (Visibly struggling for breath, blood beginning to trickle from his mouth and ears, pupils fading to pinpricks) If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body, and give the letters which thou find'st about me to Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out upon the British party. O, untimely death! (Chokes once and dies, right eye open and staring; EDGAR staggers to his feet and spits in the shattered left socket)

 

EDGAR

(in his own voice, hoarsely)

 

I know thee well. A serviceable villain, as duteous to the vices of thy mistress as badness would desire.

 

CUT TO:

 

GLOUCESTER

(tremulously, slightly out of focus in the background)

 

What, is he dead?

 

EDGAR

 

Sit you down, father. Rest you. (To himself, as GLOUCESTER, taking a seat, fades into the background) Let's see these pockets. The letters that he speaks of may be my friends. (Crouches to search OSWALD’S pockets, pausing briefly to feel for a heartbeat) He's dead. I am only sorry he had no other deathsman. (Pulls a letter from OSWALD’S breast pocket, speaks in a low murmur) Leave, gentle wax; and, manners, blame us not. To know our enemies' minds, we'ld rip their hearts. Their papers is more lawful. (Reads, along with GONERIL’S voice in a whispered voice-over) ‘Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. You have many opportunities to cut him off. If your will want not, time and place will be fruitfully offered. There is nothing done, if he return the conqueror; then am I the prisoner, and his bed my gaol, from the loathed warmth whereof, deliver me, and supply the place for your labour. Your--wife, so I would say--your affectionate servant, Goneril.' (Crumples the letter in his fist, face and voice cold with rage) O undistinguished space of woman's wit! A plot upon her virtuous husband's life, and the exchange my brother! (To OSWALD, venomously) --Here in the sands I'll rake thee up, the post unsanctified of murderous lechers, and in the mature time with this ungracious paper strike the sight of the death-practised Duke. For him 'tis well that of thy death and business I can tell.

 

Slowly EDGAR rips the letter into small, even squares, placing them under OSWALD’S tongue. The horn of FRANCE rings out in the distance, followed by drums and the fainter, more ominous rumble of hooves. EDGAR moves to throw OSWALD’S body down the rise. Cut to GLOUCESTER, still seated. He glances uncertainly toward the sound of the approaching army and back in the direction of EDGAR’S voice, lips trembling.

 

GLOUCESTER

 

The king is mad. How stiff is my vile sense, that I stand up, and have ingenious feeling of my huge sorrows! Better I were distraught; so should my thoughts be severed from my griefs, and woes by wrong imaginations lose the knowledge of themselves.

 

Pan out as EDGAR, now empty-handed, strides back to GLOUCESTER.

 

EDGAR

(urgently)

 

Give me your hand. Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum. Come, father.

 

EDGAR takes GLOUCESTER by both hands and heaves him back onto his back, jogging lightly down the rise as the noise of the approaching army grows louder. Extreme CU on OSWALD’S body, right eye still staring, lying among the rocks, neck newly broken.

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. DAY: PLAINS OF DOVER

 

Driving music. Images flash by in extreme CU: horses, glinting swords, muskets, the rippling French flag, uniforms, SOLDIERS’ staring eyes. The horn is blown again, the sound echoing across the plains.

 

CUT TO:

 

INT. DAY: LEAR’S TENT, FRENCH CAMP

 

This shot is softly blurred, distorted by candlelight and shadows, hazy and tilting like a dream. CORDELIA and KENT stand beside each other, gazing down towards the camera, conversing in inaudible whispers. CORDELIA has removed her jerkin and exchanged the breeches for a soft woolen skirt; KENT remains in his peasant’s garb. A small, plainly dressed man-- the DOCTOR-- enters the tent and moves towards the camera. A small brass cup gleams dully in his hand.

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. DAY: BRITISH CAMP, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

Images pass quickly, creating an atmosphere of tense urgency. ALBANY gazes down at an old sword, face expressionless. EDMUND buckles greaves onto his shins. SOLDIERS in British colors stand for inspection. OFFICERS and CAVALRYMEN saddle their horses. An ENSIGN bandages his hands with sackcloth rags and chalk. GONERIL laces REGAN into a leather jerkin, similar to CORDELIA’S.  

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. DAY: PLAINS OF DOVER

 

In wide shot, the tiny figure of EDGAR, with GLOUCESTER still on his back, sprints across the vast countryside. In the distance, the British flag can just be made out.

 

CUT TO:

 

INT. DAY: LEAR’S TENT, FRENCH CAMP

 

Black screen. The music grows louder as CORDELIA’S voice asks faintly, “how does my royal lord?”  Sudden silence, and brightness. LEAR’S face in extreme CU as he opens his eyes, glances around. Pan out to the interior of the tent, as CORDELIA, KENT, and the DOCTOR look on anxiously. The space is small, a large portion of it taken up by the bed LEAR has been lying in. A field table covered with various herbs, potions, and medical supplies rests against the far wall. In the bed, LEAR, who has been bathed and dressed in a nightgown, struggles to sit up.

 

LEAR

 

You do me wrong to take me out o'th’ grave. Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears do scald like molten lead.

 

CORDELIA

 

Sir, do you know me?

 

LEAR

 

You are a spirit, I know. When did you die?

 

CORDELIA

(distraught)

 

Still, still far wide!

 

DOCTOR

(placating)

 

He's scarce awake. Let him alone awhile.

 

LEAR

 

Where have I been? Where am I? Fair daylight? I am mightily abused. I should e'en die with pity to see another thus. I know not what to say. I will not swear these are my hands. Would I were assured of my condition.

 

CORDELIA

(kneeling by LEAR’S bedside)

 

O, look upon me, sir, and hold your hands in benediction o'er me. (LEAR moves to kneel beside CORDELIA) No, sir, you must not kneel--

 

LEAR

 

Pray, do not mock me. I am a very foolish fond old man, fourscore and upward, and to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind. Methinks I should know you, and know this man...yet I am doubtful, for I am mainly ignorant what place this is, and all the skill I have remembers not these garments; nor I know not where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me. For as I am a man, I think this lady to be my child Cordelia.

 

CORDELIA

(weeping)

 

And so I am.

 

LEAR

 

Be your tears wet? Yes, 'faith. I pray, weep not. If you have poison for me, I will drink it. I know you do not love me; for your sisters have, as I do remember, done me wrong. You have some cause. They have not.

 

CORDELIA

 

No cause, no cause!

 

LEAR

 

Am I in France?

 

KENT

 

In your own kingdom, sir.

 

LEAR

(tiredly)

 

Do not abuse me.

 

DOCTOR

(to CORDELIA)

 

Be comforted, good madam. The great rage you see is killed in him, and yet it is danger to make him even o'er the time he has lost. Desire him to go in; trouble him no more till further settling.

 

CORDELIA

(to LEAR)

 

Will’t please your highness walk?

 

LEAR

 

You must bear with me. Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish.

 

Track CORDELIA and LEAR as they exit the tent, CORDELIA holding LEAR’S arm tightly.  

 

FADE TO:

Chapter Text

EXT. DAY: BRITISH CAMP, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

Outside the command tent, EDMUND paces before a group of OFFICERS. REGAN, watching with a sharp calm, stands slightly apart. The conversation seems to have been caught in its middle stages.

 

EDMUND

 

Know of the duke if his last purpose hold, or whether since he is advised by aught to change the course. He's full of alteration and self-reproving. Bring his constant pleasure.

 

Several OFFICERS exit towards another part of the camp, blurring into the background as REGAN sidles up to EDMUND, laying a hand on his arm to still his motion.

 

REGAN

 

Our sister's man is certainly miscarried.

 

EDMUND

 

‘Tis to be doubted, madam.

 

REGAN

(leading EDMUND aside)

 

Now, sweet lord, you know the goodness I intend upon you.

Tell me but truly--but then speak the truth-- do you not love my sister?

 

EDMUND

 

Ay, in honoured love.

 

REGAN

 

But have you never found my brother's way to the forfended place?

 

EDMUND

(hiding amusement)

 

That thought abuses you.

 

REGAN

 

I am doubtful that you have been conjunct and bosomed with her, as far as we call hers.

 

EDMUND

 

No, by mine honour, madam.

 

REGAN

 

I never shall endure her. Dear my lord, be not familiar with her.

 

EDMUND

(taking REGAN’S hand and kissing it)

 

Fear me not.  

 

Pan out to the remainder of the army, led by GONERIL and ALBANY on horseback, assembling just outside the camp. The OFFICERS move to join their regiments, , and EDMUND and REGAN quickly follow suit, retrieving their horses from two INFANTRY CAPTAINS. GONERIL and ALBANY dismount; all four come to meet before the army. The air between them fairly crackles with tension.

 

GONERIL

(voice-over, glaring at REGAN)

 

I had rather lose this battle than that sister should loosen him and me.

 

ALBANY

(to REGAN)

 

Our very loving sister, well bemet, for this I hear: the King is come to his daughter, with others whom the rigor of our state forced to cry out. (More quietly, growing reflective) Where I could not be honest, I never yet was valiant. For this business, it touches us as France invades our land; yet bold’s the King, with others whom I fear. Most just and heavy causes make oppose.

 

EDMUND

 

Sir, you speak nobly.

 

REGAN

(impatiently)

 

Why is this reasoned?

 

GONERIL

 

Combine together 'gainst the enemy; for these domestic and particular broils are not the question here.

 

ALBANY

 

Let us then determine with the ensign of war on our proceedings.




EDMUND

 

I shall attend you presently.

 

ALBANY and EDMUND mount their horses and  withdraw to speak to the regiment leaders at the front lines. REGAN, too, swings into her saddle, coolly meeting the eyes of GONERIL, who remains on the ground.

 

REGAN

 

Sister. You’ll go with us?

 

GONERIL

 

No.

 

REGAN

 

'Tis most convenient; pray you, go with us.

 

GONERIL

(voice-over)

 

O, ho, I know the riddle! (Aloud, with a small sigh) I will go.

 

A commotion in the INFANTRY RANKS startles GONERIL as she attempts to mount her horse; REGAN’S horse, spooked by the cries of the SOLDIERS, bucks a bit. The ranks part to reveal EDGAR, still in the peasant’s garb, slipping his way through. The mud has been washed off, but a beard renders his face largely unrecognizable. His hair has been tied back with a blade of grass, and he walks with a noticeable limp, using the staff for support. EDMUND, seeing the bedraggled figure, scoffs and turns away, but ALBANY seems intrigued. EDGAR pauses beside ALBANY’S horse and drops to one knee, bowing his head in deference.

 

EDGAR

(to ALBANY, in a Midlands accent)

 

If e'er your grace had speech with man so poor, hear me one word.

 

ALBANY

(to EDMUND)

 

I'll overtake you. ( EDMUND gives a shout, shooting forward with the SCOUTS, while the rest of the troops follow at a slightly slower pace; ALBANY turns to EDGAR) Speak.

 

EDGAR

(pulling OSWALD’S letter from an inner pocket of his robe)

 

Before you fight the battle, ope this letter. If you have victory, let the trumpet sound for him that brought it. Wretched though I seem, I can produce a champion that will prove what is avouched there. If you miscarry, your business of the world hath so an end, and machination ceases. (Makes to retreat) Fortune love you--

 

ALBANY

(swinging down to the ground and catching EDGAR’S arm, making him flinch)

 

Stay till I have read the letter.

 

EDGAR

 

I was forbid it. When time shall serve, let but the herald cry, and I'll appear again.

 

ALBANY

(confused)

 

Why, fare you well-- (EDGAR limps hastily away without another word, and ALBANY glances toward the letter with a frown) I will...o’erlook thy paper.

 

ALBANY opens the letter, but is prevented from reading it by the sound of a horse galloping towards him at full speed. EDMUND jerks the reigns, halting close enough to ALBANY that he is forced to jump back. EDMUND dismounts and pulls his helmet off, tucking it under his arm.

 

EDMUND

 

The enemy's in view. (Hands ALBANY a scrap of paper) Here is the guess of their true strength and forces by diligent discovery. Your haste is now urged on you.

 

ALBANY

(taking the paper and mounting again)

 

We will greet the time.

 

ALBANY takes off at a gallop, leaving EDMUND alone. Thoughtfully he strokes his horse’s neck as the camera zooms in to focus on him.

 

EDMUND

(musingly)

 

To both these sisters have I sworn my love, each jealous of the other as the stung are of the adder. (Obviously relishing the thought) Which of them shall I take? Neither? One? Or both? Neither can be enjoyed if both remain alive. To take the widow exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril...and hardly shall I carry out my side, her husband being alive. Now then, we'll use his countenance for the battle, which being done, let her who would be rid of him devise his speedy taking off. As for the mercy which he intends to Lear and to Cordelia, the battle done, and they within our power, shall never see his pardon; for my state stands on me to defend, not to debate.

 

The British horns ring out, answered by the French. EDMUND remains still for a brief moment, closing his eyes and fingering his amulet with a whispered prayer, before swinging onto his horse again, giving another shout as he makes for the armies.  

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: BATTLEFIELD, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

The French horn sounds again, louder. The troops appear at the top of a hill in wide shot, led by FRANCE and CORDELIA, who rides with LEAR behind her, arms about her waist. The GENERALS and ENSIGNS bearing the regimental flags flank the two on either side. CORDELIA shouts something, and is answered with a roar from the troops. The army thunders down the hill, towards a similar roar and rush from the British troops, battling uphill. The French forces bear down on the British ones, toppling horses and running INFANTRYMEN as their momentum carries them further down the hill. Muskets begin to go off on both sides, and screams pierce the air. One-- CORDELIA’S-- rises above the rest.

 

CUT TO:

 

Some distance down the hill, EDGAR half-carries, half-drags GLOUCESTER to a rocky outcropping. CORDELIA’S scream makes GLOUCESTER jump, and EDGAR stumbles, collapsing to one knee, face contorting in a grimace before pushing himself back up and guiding GLOUCESTER behind a gorse bush.

 

EDGAR

(in the Cornish accent)

 

Here, father, take the shadow of this tree for your good host; pray that the right may thrive. If ever I return to you again I'll bring you comfort.

 

GLOUCESTER

(clasping EDGAR’S hand tightly, tears streaming down his still-bandaged face)

 

Grace go with you, sir.

 

EDGAR darts off down the hill, leaving GLOUCESTER alone, shivering behind the bush. The sound of the battle rages on, but dies out as GLOUCESTER seemingly succumbs to his weariness, curling up beneath the bush. Slow zoom as the screen fades to black, only to be shattered by the sound of EDGAR’S voice, tense and low.

 

EDGAR

(as if from a great distance)

 

Away, old man. Give me thy hand. Away! (GLOUCESTER wakes, and the shot re-focuses, lighting on EDGAR crouching beside him, fear in his eyes) King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en. Give me thy hand. (GLOUCESTER closes his eyes again; EDGAR sighs through clenched teeth in frustration) Come on!

 

GLOUCESTER

 

No farther, sir. A man may rot even here.

 

EDGAR

 

What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither. Ripeness is all. Come on.

 

Without waiting for GLOUCESTER to reply, EDGAR hauls him to his feet and begins to make for the British camp. As they walk, the French horns sound a retreat signal. The British army roars.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: COMMAND TENT, BRITISH CAMP

 

Hurriedly, GONERIL pours the contents of a brass physician’s cup into a chalice of wine, mixing the contents with the thin blade of her ornamental dagger. She glances furtively at the tent’s flap all the while.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: OUTSIDE THE BRITISH CAMP, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

In the shadow of a boulder, GLOUCESTER sleeps again. EDGAR, kneeling, has his back to the camera. Carefully he slips out of his robe and black shirt, revealing the mess of scars on his back. The sound of fabric ripping is faint: thin strips of the shirt, with which he binds his hands.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. DAY: COMMAND TENT, BRITISH CAMP

 

REGAN and GONERIL, within the tent, watch ALBANY lead the troops into the camp. Silently they raise their chalices to their lips, a pitcher of wine on the field table between them. GONERIL lets her eyes, hooded and dark, slide to REGAN as they swallow in unison. REGAN permits herself a small smile as she takes another long drink.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: OUTSIDE THE BRITISH CAMP, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

EDGAR, now facing the camera in profile, has used another strip of the shirt to bind his ankle. Deftly he begins winding the remaining fabric about his face, leaving only his eyes visible. Around his throat, the face of the FOOL’S bauble, slightly charred and splintered, dangles from a cord made from the FOOL’S motley cloak. EDGAR pulls the robe back on, lets his empty stare wander. In the background, GLOUCESTER sleeps on, oblivious.

 

FADE TO:

 

EXT. DAY: BRITISH CAMP, PLAINS OF DOVER

 

An ARTILLERY CAPTAIN and several of his SOLDIERS lead LEAR and CORDELIA, bound, into the camp. EDMUND follows behind them, face blank, eyes gleaming smugly.

 

EDMUND

 

Some fellows take them away. Good guard until their greater pleasures first be known that are to censure them.

 

The SOLDIERS escort LEAR and CORDELIA away, the camera tracking their movement. Zoom in on LEAR and CORDELIA, clasping hands despite their bonds.

 

CORDELIA

 

We are not the first who with best meaning have incurred the worst.

For thee, oppressed King, am I cast down, myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown. Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?

 

LEAR

 

No, no. No. Come, let's away to prison. We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage. When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness; so we'll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news, and we'll talk with them too-- who loses and who wins, who's in, who's out, and take upon's the mystery of things as if we were God's spies; and we'll wear out in a walled prison packs and sects of great ones that ebb and flow by the moon. He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven and fire us hence like foxes.

 

CUT TO:

 

EDMUND motions the ARTILLERY CAPTAIN to him, holding a slip of parchment.

 

EDMUND

 

Come hither, captain. Hark. (Puts the note into the ARTILLERY CAPTAIN’S hand) Take thou this note, and go follow them to prison. One step I have advanced thee; if thou dost as this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way to noble fortunes. Know thou this: that men are as the time is. To be tender-minded does not become a sword. Thy great employment will not bear question. Either say thou'lt do 't, or thrive by other means.

 

ARTILLERY CAPTAIN

 

I’ll do’t, my lord.

 

EDMUND

 

About it; and write ‘happy’ when thou hast done. Mark, I say, instantly, and carry it so as I have set it down.

 

The ARTILLERY CAPTAIN salutes EDMUND and moves to follow his SOLDIERS. EDMUND watches him pensively for a moment before being startled to attention by the approach of ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, and an INFANTRY CAPTAIN. ALBANY claps EDMUND strongly on the shoulder, face unreadable.

 

ALBANY

 

Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain, and fortune led you well. You have the captives that were the opposites of this day's strife. We do require them of you, so to use them as we shall find their merits and our safety may equally determine.

 

EDMUND

 

Sir, I thought it fit to send the old and miserable king to some retention and appointed guard, whose age has charms in it, whose title more, to pluck the common bosom on his side and turn our impressed lances in our eyes which do command them. With him I sent the queen, my reason all the same, and they are ready tomorrow, or at further space, to appear where you shall hold your session.

 

ALBANY

(coldly)

 

Sir, by your patience, I hold you but a subject of this war, not as a brother.

 

REGAN

 

That's as we list to grace him. Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers, bore the commission of my place and person, the which immediate may well stand up and call itself your brother.

 

GONERIL

 

Not so hot. In his own grace he doth exalt himself, more than in your advancement.

 

REGAN

 

In my rights, by me invested, he compeers the best.

 

ALBANY

 

That were the most if he should husband you.

 

REGAN

(dismissively)

 

Jesters do oft prove prophets.

 

GONERIL

 

Holla! That eye that told you so looked but a-squint.

 

REGAN

(paling, swallowing thickly)

 

Lady, I am not well, else I should answer from a full-flowing stomach. (To EDMUND) General, take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. The walls are thine. Witness the world that I create thee here my lord and master.

 

GONERIL

 

Mean you to enjoy him?

 

ALBANY

 

The let-alone lies not in your good will.

 

EDMUND

 

Nor in thine, lord.

 

ALBANY

 

Half-blooded fellow, yes--

 

EDMUND

 

Let the drum strike, and prove my title good.

 

ALBANY

 

Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee on capital treason, and in thine attaint, (Indicates GONERIL) this gilded serpent. (To REGAN) For your claim, fair sister, I bar it in the interest of my wife. 'Tis she is subcontracted to this lord, and I, her husband, contradict your banns. If you will marry, make your loves to me. My lady is bespoke. (To EDMUND) Thou art armed, Gloucester. If none appear to prove upon thy head thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons-- (ALBANY throws one of his gauntlets down towards EDMUND’S feet)-- there is my pledge. I’ll prove it on thy heart, thou art nothing less than I have here proclaimed thee.

 

REGAN

(gags, turns abruptly aside with a hand to her mouth)

 

Sick, O, sick!

 

ALBANY

(to the INFANTRY CAPTAIN)

 

She is not well; convey her to my tent. (The INFANTRY CAPTAIN moves to take the shivering REGAN away)

 

EDMUND

(throwing down his own gauntlet)

 

There's my exchange. What in the world he is that names me traitor, villain-like he lies. Call by thy trumpet. He that dares, approach-- on him, on you, who not? I will maintain my truth and honour firmly.

 

ALBANY

(stares briefly into EDMUND’S eyes before nodding slightly, resigning himself to the challenge)

 

A herald, ho! (Suddenly reaches forward to grab EDMUND by the arm, speaking through clenched teeth into his ear) Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers, all levied in my name, have in my name took their discharge.

 

A HERALD, eyeing the thrown gauntlets with bemusement. ALBANY beckons to him, pulling a small, hastily written scroll from his pocket. A TRUMPETER follows, struggling slightly under the weight of the horn.

 

ALBANY

 

Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound, and read out this.

 

HERALD

(takes the scroll and reads)

 

'If any man of quality or degree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his defence.'

 

EDMUND

(agitated)

 

Sound! (The TRUMPETER blows) Again. (Blows again) Again!

 

At the third sound of the trumpet, EDGAR, black-masked, black-robed, and bare-chested, appears from within the ranks of the gathered SOLDIERS, standing some distance away from EDMUND, ALBANY, and the HERALD. He is armed only with his staff, but his eyes meet EDMUND’S without fear.

 

ALBANY

(to the HERALD)

 

Ask him his purposes, why he appears upon this call o'th’ trumpet.

 

HERALD

(to EDGAR)

 

What are you? Your name and quality, and why you answer this present summons?

 

EDGAR

(in a low voice touched with a Welsh accent)

 

Know that my name is lost, by treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit. Yet am I noble as the adversary I come to cope.

 

ALBANY

 

Which is that adversary?

 

EDGAR

 

What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?

 

EDMUND

(bemused)

 

Himself. What sayest thou to him?

 

EDGAR

 

Draw thy sword, that if my speech offend a noble heart thy arm may do thee justice. (Holds up his staff, as if daring EDMUND to laugh) Here is mine. Behold, it is the privilege of mine honour, my oath, and my profession. I protest, maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence. Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune, thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor-- false to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father; conspirant 'gainst this high illustrious prince; and from the extremest upward of thy head to the descent and dust below thy foot a most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'no,' this staff, this arm, and my best spirits, are bent to prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak, thou liest.

 

EDMUND

 

...In wisdom I should ask thy name, but, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, and that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes, what safe and nicely I might well delay by rule of knighthood I disdain and spurn. Back do I toss these treasons to thy head, with the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart, which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise, this sword of mine shall give them instant way where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!

 

The TRUMPETER plays a call to duel, and the SOLDIERS press closer, unconsciously forming a ring. EDMUND and EDGAR bow to each other, their eyes never losing contact.  EDMUND lunges at EDGAR, who jumps to the side, parrying the sword with the staff at a 90-degree angle. The staff quivers from the impact, and EDGAR strikes out with the bottom half of it, catching EDMUND between the legs. EDMUND drops to his knees with a moan, and EDGAR steps back, preparing to jab EDMUND in the throat. His injured leg catches in a dip in the ground, and he stumbles; EDMUND, seeing the opportunity, strikes out at EDGAR’S ankle, cutting it. EDGAR drops to one knee, head bowed. EDMUND stands, retreats a few paces, still bent over slightly. Suddenly EDGAR, gritting his teeth, plants the staff hard into the ground and swings himself up into the air, catching EDMUND around the side of the head with a kick. EDMUND staggers, turning to whip his blade through the air, biting deep into EDGAR’S arm, but EDGAR turns with the movement and traps EDMUND to him with the staff, angled diagonally across his collarbone, breaking it. EDMUND screams, and the “audience” gasps at the cracking sound. EDGAR, meanwhile, whisks EDMUND’S dagger from his belt and stabs him in the back, jerking the blade upward in an attempt to pierce his heart. EDMUND gasps, coughs, pitches forward. EDGAR, taking a step back, lets him fall, his blood soaking into the scarred skin of EDGAR’S chest.

 

GONERIL

(rushes to EDMUND’S side)

 

This is practise, Gloucester. By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer an unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished, but cozened and beguiled--

 

ALBANY cuts GONERIL off, striding to where she kneels and jerking her back by the hair. In his other hand he grips OSWALD’S letter, holding it to GONERIL’S throat as though it were a dagger.

 

ALBANY

 

Shut your mouth, dame, or with this paper shall I stopple it. (To EDMUND) Hold, sir, thou worse than any name, read thine own evil. (To GONERIL, voice dripping with contempt) Nay, no tearing, lady, I perceive you know it.

 

GONERIL

 

Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine. Who can arraign me for't?

 

ALBANY

 

Most monstrous! Know'st thou this paper?

 

GONERIL

 

Ask me not what I know.

 

GONERIL twists away from ALBANY’S slackened grasp, half-running offscreen toward her tent. The gathered SOLDIERS stare after her in shock. EDMUND, on the ground, chokes out a laugh, spitting out blood as he does so.

 

ALBANY

(to a CAVALRY CAPTAIN)

 

Go after her, she's desperate. Govern her. (The CAVALRY CAPTAIN quickly moves to follow GONERIL)

 

EDMUND

(to ALBANY, struggling to sit up as he pulls the focus)

 

What you have charged me with, that have I done, and more, much more. The time will bring it out. 'Tis past, and so am I. (Turns almost desperately to EDGAR) But what art thou that hast this fortune on me? If thou'rt noble, I do forgive thee.

 

EDGAR

(in his own voice, dropping heavily to his uninjured knee, taking EDMUND’S hand)

 

Let's exchange charity. I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund. If more, the more ignobly thou hast wronged me. (Removes the mask from his face, expression turning cold as his grip on EDMUND’S hand becomes tight enough to hurt) My name is Edgar, and thy father's son. The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make instruments to scourge us. The dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes.

 

EDMUND

(coughing up blood, reaching shakily up to stroke EDGAR’S cheek in awe)

 

Thou hast spoken truth. The wheel is come full circle. I am here.

 

ALBANY

(to EDGAR, taking a knee beside him)

 

Methought thy very gait did prophesy a royal nobleness. I must embrace thee. Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I did hate thee or thy father--

 

EDGAR

(turns away)

 

Worthy prince, I know’t.

 

ALBANY

 

Where have you hid yourself? How have you known the miseries of your father?

 

EDGAR

 

By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale, and when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst! The bloody proclamation to escape that followed me so near (More quietly, as though muttered to himself) --O, our lives' sweetness, that we the pain of death would hourly die rather than die at once!-- taught me to shift into a madman's rags, to assume a semblance that very dogs disdain'd...and in this habit met I my father with his bleeding rings, their precious stones new lost: became his guide, led him, begged for him, saved him from despair. Never (A sob) --O fault!-- revealed myself unto him until some half-hour past, when I was armed. Not sure, though hoping, of this good success, I asked his blessing, and from first to last told him my pilgrimage...but his flawed heart-- alack, too weak the conflict to support-- 'twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief, burst smilingly.

 

A beat of silence

 

EDMUND

 

This speech of yours hath moved me, and shall perchance do good. But speak you on-- you look as you had something more to say.

 

ALBANY

 

If there be more, more woeful, hold it in, for I am almost ready to dissolve, hearing of this.

 

EDGAR opens his mouth as though to continue, but a sudden shout cuts him off. The CAVALRY CAPTAIN, holding a small, bloodstained dagger, sprints into the circle.

 

CAVALRY CAPTAIN

 

Help, help!

 

ALBANY

(rising quickly)

 

What kind of help? What means that bloody knife?

 

CAVALRY CAPTAIN

 

'Tis hot, it smokes! It came even from the heart of-- O, she's dead!

 

EDGAR

(distantly, remaining on the ground)

 

Who dead?

 

ALBANY

 

Speak, man.

 

CAVALRY CAPTAIN

 

Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister by her is poisoned; she hath confessed it.

 

EDMUND

(mumbling)

 

I was contracted to them both; all three now marry in an instant.

 

Amidst the commotion, KENT, black dye scrubbed from his hair and beard, clad once more in his richer garments, moves through the ranks, coming to stand by the CAVALRY CAPTAIN. ALBANY, as yet, takes no note of him, though EDGAR does. The two seem to share a silent moment of understanding.

 

ALBANY

 

Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead. This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble, touches us not with pity. (The CAVALRY CAPTAIN goes off in the direction he came from; ALBANY, seeing KENT, steps forward to lay a hand on his shoulder) The time will not allow the compliment which very manners urges.

 

KENT

(in his own voice)

 

I am come to bid my king and master aye good night. Is he not here?

 

ALBANY

 

Great thing of us forgot--! (Rounding on EDMUND urgently) Speak, Edmund, where's the King? Cordelia?

 

The INFANTRY and CAVALRY CAPTAINS, bearing REGAN and GONERIL’S bodies, return, laying them beside EDMUND’S prostrate form. ALBANY glances towards them in contempt.

 

EDMUND

(coughing in earnest)

 

Yet Edmund was beloved. The one the other poison'd for my sake, and after slew herself. (Spits out blood) I pant for life. Some good I mean to do, despite of mine own nature. Quickly send-- be brief in it-- to th’ castle; for my writ is on the life of Lear and Cordelia. Nay, send in time.

 

ALBANY

(desperately, to the army at large)

 

Run, run, O, run!

 

EDGAR drops EDMUND’S hand and staggers to his feet, grabbing ALBANY by the shoulder and pulling him around to face him.

 

EDGAR

 

To who, my lord? Who hath the office? (A pensive beat) Send thy token of reprieve.

 

EDMUND

 

Well thought on! Take my sword-- (Coughs) -- the captain, give it the captain.

 

ALBANY

(to the ARTILLERY CAPTAIN)

 

Haste thee for thy life. (The ARTILLERY CAPTAIN takes EDMUND’S sword from the ground and runs off)

 

EDMUND

 

He hath commission from thy wife and me to hang Cordelia in the prison, and to lay the blame upon her own despair, that she fordid herself.

 

ALBANY

 

The gods defend her! (To several SOLDIERS) Bear him hence a while.

 

The SOLDIERS move to bear EDMUND from the ground, taking him offscreen towards the medical tent. A ragged sob echoes through the camp; LEAR, carrying a limp CORDELIA in his arms, stumbles into the circle, wild-haired and distraught. The ARTILLERY CAPTAIN follows, grim and hollow-eyed.

 

LEAR

 

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones! Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so that heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever! I know when one is dead, and when one lives, she's dead as earth! (LEAR lays CORDELIA down on the ground, kneeling beside her, desperately probing at her broken throat) Lend me a looking-glass. If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, why, then she lives.

 

KENT

(a tear welling in his eye)

 

Is this the promised end?

 

EDGAR

(whispers)

 

Or image of that horror.

 

ALBANY

 

Fall and cease.

 

LEAR

(plucking at the air above CORDELIA’S lips)

 

This feather stirs. She lives! If it be so, it is a chance which does redeem all sorrows that ever I have felt.

 

KENT

(kneeling beside LEAR)

 

O, my good master!

 

LEAR

 

Prithee, away.

 

EDGAR

(uncertainly)

 

‘Tis noble Kent, your friend--

 

LEAR

(enraged)

 

A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! I might have saved her; now she's gone for ever. (Sobbing anew) Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha! What is't thou say'st? Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. --I kill'd the slave that was a-hanging thee.

 

ARTILLERY CAPTAIN

 

‘Tis true, my lords. He did.

 

LEAR

 

Did I not, fellow? I have seen the day with my good biting falchion I would have made them skip. I am old now, and these same crosses spoil me. (To KENT) Who are you? Mine eyes are not o' the best, I'll tell you straight.

 

KENT

 

If fortune brag of two she loved and hated, one of them we behold.

 

LEAR

 

Are you not Kent?

 

KENT

 

The same, your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?

 

LEAR

 

He's a good fellow, I can tell you that. He'll strike, and quickly too. He's dead and rotten.

 

KENT

 

No, my good lord; I am the very man that from your first of difference and decay have followed your sad steps.

 

LEAR

 

You are welcome hither.

 

KENT

 

Nor no man else. All's cheerless, dark, and deadly. Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves, and desperately are dead.

 

LEAR

 

Ay, so I think.

 

ALBANY

(to EDGAR)

 

He knows not what he says: and vain it is that we present us to him.

 

EDGAR

 

Bootless.

 

One of the SOLDIERS who removed EDMUND’S body re-enters the circle nervously, sketching an uncertain bow to ALBANY.

 

SOLDIER

 

Edmund is dead, my lord--

 

ALBANY

 

That's but a trifle here. (To ALL)  You lords and noble friends, know our intent. What comfort to this great decay may come shall be applied; for us, we will resign during the life of this old majesty to him our absolute power: (To EDGAR and KENT) you to your rights:, with boot and such addition as your honours have more than merited. All friends shall taste the wages of their virtue, and all foes the cup of their deservings.

 

LEAR

 

And my poor fool is hanged. No, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, never, never, never-- (To KENT) Pray you, undo this button. (He does) Thank you, sir. Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, look there, look there-- O! (LEAR collapses over CORDELIA’S corpse, begins to convulse)

 

EDGAR

 

He faints-- (Drops to his knees, taking LEAR by the shoulders) My lord, my lord!

 

LEAR

(faintly)

 

Break, heart. I prithee, break-- (LEAR dies)

 

EDGAR

(voice small)

 

Look up, my lord.  

 

KENT

 

O, vex not his ghost, let him pass! He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer.

 

EDGAR

(a faint whisper)

 

He is gone indeed.

 

KENT

 

The wonder is he hath endured so long. He but usurp'd his life.

 

ALBANY

(to SOLDIERS)

 

Bear them from hence. Our present business is general woe. (To KENT and EDGAR) Friends of my soul, you twain rule in this kingdom, and the gored state sustain.

 

KENT

(softly)

 

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go. My master calls me. I must not say no.

 

Slowly, EDGAR stands, pulling the camera’s focus. He stares abstractedly down at LEAR’S body as he speaks, but a new resolve stiffens his frame. Cue exit music.

 

EDGAR

 

The weight of this sad time we must obey-- speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most. We that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long.

 

EDGAR, in voice-over, begins to hum the tune to the FOOL’S song “hey, ho, the wind and the rain.” Zoom out to wide shot as various CAPTAINS and SOLDIERS take up the bodies of REGAN, GONERIL, CORDELIA, and LEAR, bearing them away. KENT, almost dazedly,  pulls the ring from its cord about his neck, and moves to follow the procession, eyes fixed on LEAR, expression nearly peaceful. ALBANY remains for a moment, glancing between the procession and the stone-still EDGAR. Gently he puts a hand on EDGAR’S shoulder before turning to go. The FOOL’S voice joins EDGAR’S in voice-over. Slow CU on EDGAR as he removes the face of the bauble from his throat. Zoom in on the bauble, clutched in a scarred and bleeding hand.

 

FADE TO BLACK

 

END CREDITS