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Scenes from King Lear

The Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air

Scenes from King Lear

Sep 13 1946



CAST:

ANNOUNCER

NARRATOR

KING LEAR / ORSON WELLES

GONERIL, Lear's eldest daughter

REGAN, Lear's second daughter

CORDELIA, Lear's youngest daughter

KENT, honest and loyal

ALBANY & CORNWALL, the eldest daughters' husbands (1 line)

THE FOOL

GLOUCESTER

EDGAR, Gloucester's son

and a CROWD at court




WELLES: Good evening, this is Orson Welles, your producer of a special series of broadcasts presented by the makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon -- The Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air.


MUSIC: MERCURY THEME (FIRST MOVEMENT OF TCHAIKOVSKY'S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1) ... OUT BEHIND--


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Pabst Blue Ribbon presents you with a front row seat at one of the greatest plays ever written. 


But right now, before we get started, I'd like to admit that I always get annoyed when folks go around sad-faced because summer is over. Why, what better season is there than fall? Yes, I'm strictly a fall man. I like that big roaring fire and a heaping bowl of popcorn and good tangy apples and plenty of blended, splendid Pabst Blue Ribbon. Why, fall is just one more season when a fellow can really enjoy those never less than thirty-three fine brews blended into one great beer. And listen, folks, if your dealer can't always supply all the Pabst Blue Ribbon you'd like, keep right on asking. After all, it's sure worth asking for, especially these fall days. So when you come home after a brisk walk in the crisp autumn air, you're going to enjoy more than ever that perfect Pabst Blue Ribbon flavor -- not too heavy, not too light -- but fresh, clean, sparkling! -- with a real beer taste coming through just the way you like it. Yes, sir -- you're going to want your share of blended, splendid Pabst Blue Ribbon.


And now let's raise the curtain on the Mercury Theatre. Mr. Welles.


WELLES: Tonight, for our last broadcast on this series, besides your obedient servant, you'll hear the following Mercury players: Miss Agnes Moorehead, Mr. Edgar Barrier, Elliott Reid, Miss Lurene Tuttle, Mr. William Alland, Norman Field, Miss Mary Lansing, and our narrator, John Brown.


NARRATOR: Here follows a half-hour's radio production by the Mercury Theatre of William Shakespeare's greatest tragedy -- "Scenes from King Lear."


MUSIC: FANFARE 


KING LEAR

Give me the map there. Know we have divided

In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fast intent

To shake all cares and business from our age;

Conferring them on younger strengths, whilst we

Unburthen'd crawl toward death. 

Tell me, my daughters,--

Which of you shall we say doth love us most?

Goneril,

Our eldest-born, speak first.


GONERIL

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;

Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;

Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;

No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;

A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;

Beyond all manner of so much I love you.


KING LEAR

Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,

With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd,

With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,

We make thee lady!


CROWD: (REACTS FAVORABLY)


KING LEAR

What says our second daughter,

Our dearest Regan? 


REGAN

I am made

Of that self-same metal as my sister,

And prize me at her worth.


KING LEAR

To thee and thine hereditary ever

Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom.


CROWD: (REACTS FAVORABLY)


CORDELIA (ASIDE, TO HERSELF)

What shall Cordelia do?

Love, and be silent.


KING LEAR

Now, our joy,

Although the last, not least; 

what can you say to draw

A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak!


CORDELIA

Nothing, my lord.


CROWD: (REACTS WITH SURPRISE)


KING LEAR

Nothing?


CORDELIA

Nothing.


KING LEAR (UNHAPPY)

Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.


CORDELIA

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty

According to my bond; nor more nor less.


KING LEAR (STERN)

How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,

Lest it may mar your fortunes!


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 honour you.

But I shall never marry like my sisters,

To love my father all.


KING LEAR

But goes thy heart with this?


CORDELIA

Ay, good my lord.


KING LEAR

So young, and so untender?


CORDELIA

So young, my lord, and true.


KING LEAR (GRIM)

Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower:

Here I disclaim all parental care,

Propinquity and property of blood,

And as a stranger to my heart and me

Hold thee, from this, for ever. 


KENT (PROTESTS)

Good my liege,--


KING LEAR (ANGRY)

Peace, Kent!


KENT

Royal Lear,--


KING LEAR

Kent, on thy life, no more.


KENT

My life I never held but as a pawn

To wage against thy enemies!


KING LEAR

Out of my sight!


ALBANY & CORNWALL

Dear sir, forbear!


KENT (TO LEAR)

Do:

Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow

Upon the foul disease.


KING LEAR

Hear me, recreant!


KENT

I'll tell thee thou dost evil!


KING LEAR

On thine allegiance, hear me!

Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,

Which we durst never yet, take thy reward.

Five days we do allot thee, for provision

To shield thee from diseases of the world;

And on the sixth to turn thy hated back

Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,

Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions,

The moment is thy last. 


CROWD: (REACTS WITH UNEASY SURPRISE)


KING LEAR

Away! by Jupiter,

This shall not be revoked.


MUSIC: BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG


NARRATOR: Honest Kent, condemned to exile, disguises himself and stays on in England to watch over his beloved king.


KENT (QUIETLY RESOLVED, TO HIMSELF)

Now, banish'd Kent,

If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,

So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest,

Shall find thee full of labours.


NARRATOR: When Old Lear, at the head of his small retinue of a hundred knights, visits his eldest daughter Goneril, Kent -- disguised as a poor serving-man -- comes upon the king.


MUSIC: OUT


KING LEAR

How now! what art thou?


KENT

A man, sir.

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


KING LEAR

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


KENT

Service.


KING LEAR

Who wouldst thou serve?


KENT

You.


KING LEAR

Dost thou know me, fellow?


KENT

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


KING LEAR

What's that?


KENT

Authority.


KING LEAR (CONSIDERS THIS)

Huh.

How old art thou?


KENT

Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing.


KING LEAR

Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no worse after dinner, I shall not part from thee yet.


MUSIC: JAUNTY BRIDGE ... THEN BEHIND NARRATOR--


NARRATOR: In Lear's train, the favorite of the king is a little fellow in a coxcomb, the medieval cap and bells. This is the court jester, the half-witted, sharp-witted Fool.


FOOL (OVERLAPS PARTLY WITH ABOVE, SINGS)

That lord that counsell'd 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;

(EXCLAIMS)

Sir!


KENT

What, fool?


FOOL

You were best take my coxcomb.


KENT (CHUCKLES)

Why?


FOOL

Your master has banished two on's daughters,

and done the third a blessing against his will.


KING LEAR

Dost thou call me fool, boy?


FOOL

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


KING LEAR

Huh?


FOOL

Aw, nuncle, thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown,

when thou gavest thy golden one away. 

Oh, faith, I had rather be any

kind o' thing than a fool: and yet I would not be

thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides,

and left nothing i' the middle:


GONERIL (APPROACHES)

My father?


FOOL (AMUSED ASIDE)

Here comes one o' the parings.


GONERIL (GENTLY COMPLAINING)

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 

you protect this course, and put it on

By your allowance.


KING LEAR (INCREDULOUS)

Are you our daughter?


GONERIL

Oh, good my father, I do beseech you

To understand my purposes aright:

As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.

Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;

Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold,

That this our court, infected with their manners,

Shows like a riotous inn. Be then desired

By her, that else will take the thing she begs,

A little to disquantity your train.


KING LEAR (ANGRY)

Darkness and devils!

Saddle my horses; I'll not trouble thee.

Yet have I left a daughter.


GONERIL

Pray, sir, be patient.


KING LEAR

Detested kite! thou liest.

My train are men of choice and rarest parts,

That all particulars of duty know,

And in the most exact regard support

The worships of their name. 


GONERIL (TAKEN ABACK)

My father--!


KING LEAR (INCREASINGLY SAVAGE)

O most small fault,

How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!

That, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature

From the fix'd 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 judgment out! 


GONERIL

'Tis the infirmity of your age: you hath ever

but slenderly known yourself.


KING LEAR

Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!

Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend

To make this creature fruitful!

Into her womb convey sterility!

Dry up in her the 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

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is

To have a thankless child! 


MUSIC: UNHAPPY BRIDGE


KING LEAR (BROKENLY)

I - I - I did her wrong.


FOOL (LIGHTLY)

The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.


KING LEAR

Because they are not eight?


FOOL

Yes, indeed! (CHUCKLES) Thou wouldst make a good fool. (GENTLY SYPATHETIC) Oh, nuncle. If thou wert my fool, I'ld have thee beaten for being old before thy time.


KING LEAR

How's that?


FOOL

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


KING LEAR (SLOW, UNEASY)

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven,

Keep me in temper: I would not be mad!


MUSIC: BRIDGE ... THEN BEHIND NARRATOR--


NARRATOR: After his cold reception at the castle of the Lady Goneril, Lear and his train march on to the other half of the kingdom he divided between his eldest daughters -- to her second-born.


MUSIC: TRUMPET FANFARE, THEN OUT


REGAN

I am glad to see your highness.


KING LEAR (APPROACHES)

Regan! Regan, I think you are; Beloved Regan,

Thy sister's naught: O Regan, she hath tied

Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here.


REGAN (GENTLY REASONING)

Sir, you are old.

You should be ruled and led

By some discretion, that discerns your state

Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,

That to our sister you do make return;

Say you have wrong'd her, sir.


KING LEAR (DISBELIEF)

Ask her forgiveness?

'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.'

(EXPLODES)

She hath abated me of half my train;

Look'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue,

Most serpent-like, upon the very heart!


MUSIC: ANOTHER TRUMPET FANFARE, FROM OFF


KING LEAR

What trumpet's that?


REGAN

I know't, my sister's: this approves her letter,

That she would soon be here.

(A FRIENDLY GREETING)

Sister Goneril!


GONERIL (THE SAME)

Regan.


KING LEAR (TO GONERIL)

Art not ashamed?

(OUTRAGED, TO REGAN)

O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?


GONERIL

Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended?


KING LEAR

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's in my flesh,

Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,

A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,

In my corrupted blood. 


SOUND: THUNDER ... THEN CONTINUES INTERMITTENTLY IN BG--


KING LEAR

But I'll not chide thee;

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.


KING LEAR

Huh?


REGAN

I look'd not for you yet, nor am provided

For your fit welcome.


KING LEAR

Is this well spoken?


REGAN

I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.


KING LEAR (ENRAGED)

What?!


REGAN

If, till the expiration of your month,

You will return and sojourn with my sister,

Dismissing half your train, come then to me.


KING LEAR (DISBELIEF)

Return to her, and fifty men dismiss'd?!

Regan? said you so?


REGAN

And speak't again, my lord;

If you will come to me,--

For now I spy a danger,--I entreat you

To bring but five and twenty: to no more

Will I give place or notice.


KING LEAR (STUNNED, SLOWLY)

I gave you all--


REGAN

And in good time you gave it.


KING LEAR (QUIETLY RESIGNED)

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 as many

Have a command to tend you?


REGAN

What need one?


KING LEAR

O, reason not the need: our basest beggars

Are in the poorest thing superfluous:

Allow not nature more than nature needs,

Man's life's as cheap as beast's: thou art a lady;

If only to go warm were gorgeous,

Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,

Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,--

You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!

Do you see me here, you gods, a poor old man,

As full of grief as age; wretched in both?!

If it be you that stir 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:

I have full cause of weeping; but this heart

Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,

Or ere I'll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!


SOUND: THUNDERCLAP FOR PUNCTUATION ... THUNDER CONTINUES IN BG


MUSIC: BRIDGE ... THEN OUT


NARRATOR: Lear will go mad. His daughters, Goneril and Regan, will die. But not till war divides them -- till Cordelia, now queen of France, comes to do battle in the realm of Britain. Before the wheel is come full circle, Lear will find his sanity again -- and live to see Cordelia murdered.


MUSIC: AN ACCENT FILLS A BRIEF PAUSE ... THEN OUT


NARRATOR: But first the tragedy takes us to a wind-swept heath.


SOUND: THUNDER UP ... JOINED BY HARSH WIND AND RAIN ... IN BACKGROUND


KING LEAR (BELLOWS)

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!

Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man!


SOUND: THUNDERCLAP FOR PUNCTUATION ... WIND, RAIN, AND THUNDER CONTINUE IN BG


FOOL (PLEADS)

Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing:

here's a night pities neither wise man nor fool.


KING LEAR

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!


KENT

Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel;

Some friendship will it lend you 'gainst the tempest:

Repose you there.


KING LEAR (CALMER)

My wits begin to turn.

Come on, my boy: fool!


FOOL

Nuncle?


KING LEAR

My boy? art cold?

I am cold myself.


KENT

Here is the place, my lord.


KING LEAR

Let me alone.

Wilt break my heart?


KENT

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


KING LEAR

This tempest will not give me leave to ponder

On things would hurt me more.


GLOUCESTER (CALLS INDECIPHERABLY, FROM OFF)


KING LEAR

What's he?


KENT (CALLS, TO GLOUCESTER)

Who's there? What is't you seek?


GLOUCESTER (APPROACHES)

What are you there?


KENT (RECOGNIZES HIM)

My lord of Gloucester.


KING LEAR (DELIRIOUS)

Ha! Goneril, with a white beard! They flattered me like a dog; To say 'ay' and 'no' to every thing that I said!--But when the wind came to wet me once, and the rain 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 o' their words: they told me I was every thing; 'tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.


GLOUCESTER (CONFUSED)

Is 't not the king?


KING LEAR

Ay, every inch a king:

When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.

I pardon that man's life. What was the cause? Adultery?

Thou shalt not die: die for adultery! No:

The wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly

Does lecher in my sight.

To 't, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.

Behold yond simpering dame,

Whose face between her forks presages 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 are Centaurs,

Though women all above:

But to the girdle do the gods inherit,

Beneath is all the fiends';

There's hell, there's darkness, there's the

sulphurous pit,

Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie,

fie, fie! pah, pah! Give me an ounce of civet,

good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.


GLOUCESTER (QUIETLY SYMPATHETIC)

O, let me kiss that hand!


KING LEAR

Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.


GLOUCESTER (TO KENT)

Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms;

I have o'erheard a plot of death upon him:

There's a litter ready; lay him in 't.


KENT (TO LEAR)

This way, my lord.


KING LEAR

See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar?


GLOUCESTER

Ay, sir.


KING LEAR

And the creature run from the cur? There thou

mightst behold the great image of authority: a

dog's obeyed in office.

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!

Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;

Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind

For which thou whipp'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.

Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;

Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,

And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:

Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it.


GLOUCESTER

O, matter and impertinency mix'd! Reason in madness!


KING LEAR

When we are born, we cry that we are come

To this great stage of fools: this 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!


MUSIC: BLARING ACCENT ... THEN BEHIND NARRATOR--


NARRATOR: Act Five. Lear, carrying in his arms the dead body of Cordelia.


MUSIC: UP FOR A BRIEF VIOLENT ACCENT ... THEN OUT


KING 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. Lend me a looking-glass;

If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,

Why, then she lives.

(PAUSE)

This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,

It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows

That ever I have felt.


KENT (QUIETLY SYMPATHETIC)

O my good master!


KING LEAR

A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!

I might have saved her; but she's gone for ever!

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.


KENT

Sir!

Your eldest daughters have fordone them selves,

And desperately are dead.


KING LEAR

And my poor fool is hang'd! No, 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, never, never!

Pray you, undo this button: (BEAT, EXHALES) thank you, sir.

Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,

Look there, look there! (GASPS)


EDGAR

He faints! My lord, my lord!


KENT

Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him

That would upon the rack of this tough world

Stretch him out longer.


EDGAR

He is gone, indeed.


KENT

The oldest hath borne most: we that are young

Shall never see so much, nor live so long.


MUSIC: TRAGIC CURTAIN


ANNOUNCER: You have just heard the Mercury production of King Lear. Mr. Welles will return in just a moment. But first, let me again remind you to be patient with your dealer when occasionally these days he is unable to supply you with all the Pabst Blue Ribbon you'd like. He's doing his best, you can be sure of that. Yes, and here's something else you can be sure of. Every single bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon you do get will, as always, be the happy blending of never less than thirty-three fine brews. Yes, every foaming frosty glass you enjoy will, as always, have that famous Pabst Blue Ribbon flavor -- not too heavy, not too light -- but fresh, clean, sparkling, with the real beer taste coming through the way you like it. So keep asking for blended, splendid Pabst Blue Ribbon. And here again is Orson Welles.


WELLES: My thanks to grand sponsors for a grand summer engagement. Our thanks to you, the audience, for joining us. Please look for us again. Until then, the Mercury remains, as always, obediently yours.


MUSIC: THEME ... THEN IN BG, UNTIL END


ANNOUNCER: Yes, Orson, the makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer wish to extend their sincere thanks and appreciation to you and your entire Mercury company for a magnificent summer series of truly great dramas. 


Starting Thursday, September twenty-sixth, Pabst Blue Ribbon is bringing to the radio the one and only Eddie Cantor, with a brand new show. Remember, the new Eddie Cantor show.


This program came to you through the courtesy of the Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, makers of blended, splendid Pabst Blue Ribbon.


This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.


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