King Lear – Thou, instinct, art my goddess

King Lear


In Shakespeare’s time, if your mother wasn’t your father’s wife, you were a bastard and were treated like dirt. Edmund is a bastard born out of wedlock. His father tells everyone Edmund is a “whoreson” even though “there was good sport at his making” (awkward). Edmund ruminates over this unfair treatment and plans a letter to swindle his legitimate brother out of his father’s land.

Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
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? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th’ legitimate. Fine word- ‘legitimate’!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!


Edmutt complains that he gets yelled at when he begs for human food. Humans are such misers! He plans to go to the next person at the table until he finds someone who will give him food.


Thou, instinct, art my goddess; to thy call
My behavior is bound. Wherefore should I
Sit in the face of commands, and permit
The stinginess of miserly men to deprive me,
For that I have four legs and am some two thumbs
Lag of a human? Why dog? wherefore no meat?
When my appetite is as well yearning,
My tongue as ravenous, and my teeth as sharp,
As civil mankind’s issue? Why brand they us
With bad? with beggar? get off me? bad, bad?
Who, in the space under the table, have
More patience and affable quality
Than doth, above it with gluttonous men
Go to th’ consuming a whole bag of chips
Got ’tween breakfast and lunch? Well then,
Civilized Owner, I must eat from table.
Your neighbor’s scraps are to the beggar Edmutt
As to the civilized. Fine word ha- “civilized”!
Well, my civilized, if this paw nudges,
And my intention thrive, Edmutt the bad
Shall eat with th’ civilized. I gulp; I consume.
Now, gods, share steak with canines!


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