Roger Allam marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death – playing King Lear in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Guardian has asked leading actors to perform key speeches from his plays. Here, Roger Allam plays King Lear in act III, scene 2 of the tragedy. Lear is on the heath during a symbolic storm. The ageing king curses the weather and his daughters, and laments his frailty.

Read the full text for this speech

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 sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack Nature’s moulds, all germains spill at once,
That makes ingrateful man!
Fool. 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! Here’s a night pities nether wise men nor fools.
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 despis’d old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high-engender’d battles ‘gainst a head
So old and white as this! O! O! ’tis foul!

BOOKING

Book tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company