(In the prison at Gloucester castle. Cordelia paces her cell. Outside, a storm rages, filling the space with flashes of lightning. Under guard, Lear passes her cell bars.)
Father, do you know me?
(Guarded Lear stops.)
This tempest’s sounding gives me scant leave to ponder things that hurt me more.
Oh, I have taken little care of our Anglo subjects. Take note, men of pomp, to feel what wretches feel -- that you offer all affluence to them, and show the heavens more just.
Father, there is news. Albany arrives here. We have come under Goneril’s sway.
Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither. But we two alone shall sing like birds in a cage. So we shall live and sing and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and take upon ourselves the mystery of things as if we were god’s spies.
We must away.
Upon these sacrifices, my Cordelia, the gods themselves throw incense.
(Lear exits with the guards.)
(Watching after him.)
Gentle with my fair king, as his ailment softens the many blows.
Oh, that I had spoken differently on the day of my determination. Or that King Lear had but discerned the truth.
When he called me nothing, I did see my sisters blanch. When he did so treat the green bough, what fate the dry branch?
But so it was, had I mustered the words of flattery, I would be married still. And perhaps into a misbegotten twain.
My truth has kept me sane.
(hugs her breasts.)
Oh, my babes. Such treachery you will never know, at least.
We are not the first who, with the best intentions, incurred the worst.
Touch me with noble anger, and let not women’s weapons, these water drops, stain my royal cheeks!
You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames, touch Goneril’s face with her true nature. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, my thankless sisters.
(Cordelia hears the sounds of metal doors being unlocked.)
Leave us, guard.
Hark, it is Goneril, the would-be queen.
(Enter Goneril dressed like a queen and carrying a heavy ring of keys.)
Sister, I arrive to intercede on your behalf.
Then I am lost.
Albany is without. A useful husband in specific arenas.
And when he comes against Regan and Edmund? Where will you stand?
Regan our sister is dead.
By your hand?
A bad stomach.
Watch your tongue, sister.
(Laughs out loud.)
Only you control the words?
The blame is not mine. Britain I did not divide. The nation will survive only when unified.
Ha! You would rule then. Make your father’s kingdom a province of France.
Sister, think of what could have been. No foreign enemy, a loving mate. Time enough to mend Nature’s general curse by filling cradles.
King Lear waits in a cell nearby here. I found him in garments of honeysuckle and nettles. Have you no feeling for our father?
He never loved me!
What in my nature so vile to negate his affection? Nothing. I suffered by comparison.
The king loved us each.
Lear loved himself, and adored his own reflection in your eyes.
And what about me?! The first-born, more deserving as you. Where’s my measure of his heart’s devotion?
Your heart is beyond all reaching. Not even Edmund will be enough. Devoid of tender feeling, only power can stuff your emptiness with emotion.
You are nothing to me now.
Such a thing I was called as a maid. You despise our king and ape him all the more.
Fie on you!
(Goneril exits. We hear the sounds of metals doors being opened and slammed shut.)
What consequence our old complaints, when reason with him no longer resides?
Father, if my love was true and yours a feint, no matter. The risk of loving ov’rcovers many lies.
These things cannot be changed.
And now allow fruition to quickly come. The just will hang, and the unjust shall run their course to the end.