King Lear: A Verse Translation


My verse translation of King Lear matches Shakespeare's play line-by-line with the same syntactic complexity and a similar vocabulary range as the original. All blank verse lines remain in verse with accurate and authentic iambic pentameter.

Play Statistics

  Unique words in original: 4,093

  Unique words in translation: 4,283


As in Shakespeare's original, the translation from Act 3 mixes blank verse, prose, and a bit of song.



Scene Four. A Part of the Heath with a Shed

[The storm continues]
[Enter LEAR, KENT, and FOOL]

KENT (masquerading as Caius)

Here is the place, my lord. Please, my lord, enter.

The cruelty of the open air’s too rough

For humans to endure.


                                        Let me alone.


Lord, enter here.


                             You want to break my heart?


I’d rather break my own. My good lord, enter.


You think it hurts if this combative storm

Invades our skin like this. That’s true for you,

But when a greater malady is present,

The lesser’s barely felt. You’d flee a bear,

But if a raging sea blocked your escape,

You’d turn and face its mouth. When the mind’s calm,

The body’s sensitive. The tempest in my mind

Has robbed my senses of all other feeling

Except this pounding.—Filial ingratitude!

Is it as if this mouth has bit this hand

That fed it? But my vengeance will be full.

No, I will weep no more. On such a night

To shut me out! Pour on. I will endure.

On such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!

Your kind, old father, whose large heart gave all...

O, that way madness lies. Let me flee that!

No more of that.


                            My good lord, enter here.


Please, go on in. Look after your own needs.

This tempest won’t allow me time to dwell

On things that would hurt more. But I’ll go in.—

[to the Fool] In, boy, go first—such houseless poverty—

Yes, go on in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.

[Exit FOOL]

Poor naked wretches, anywhere you are,

Who bear the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How will your roofless heads, and unfed frames,

Your riddled, see-through raggedness, defend you

In climates such as this? To this I gave

Too little thought! Seek cures, you regal ones.

Expose yourself to feel what wretches feel,

By shedding what’s superfluous to them

And prove the skies more just.


[inside] We’re nine feet here! We’re nine feet deep! Poor Tom!

[The FOOL runs out from the shed]


Don’t go in, uncle. There’s a demon. Help me, help me!


Give me your hand. Who’s there?


A demon, a demon. He says his name’s Poor Tom.


Who’s doing all that mumbling in the straw?

Come out.

[Enter EDGAR, disguised as a madman]

EDGAR (masquerading as Poor Tom)

Go away! The foul fiend follows me!—[sings] “Through the sharp hawthorn the cold wind blows.”—

Hum! Go to your cold bed and warm yourself.


Did you give everything to your two daughters? And then you came to this?


Who gives anything to Poor Tom? Whom the foul fiend has led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, over bog and quagmire, who has laid knives under his pillow and nooses in his seat, set rat poison next to his broth, made his heart bold enough to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inch-wide bridges chasing down his own shadow for betraying him. God protect your good sense! Tom’s a-cold.—O, do de, do de, do de. God protect you from whirlwinds, ominous stars, and hexes! Give Poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend torments. There I’ve got him now, [slapping his body]—and there—and there again, and there.

[The storm continues]


Lord, have his daughters brought him to this state?—

Was nothing saved? You gave it all to them?


Well, he hung onto his blanket, or we’d really be embarrassed.


© 2013 by Kent Richmond