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Erroneous, mutinous, and unnatural, * This deadly quarrel daily doth beget"O boy, thy father gave thee life too soon, • And hath bereft thee of thy life too late!1
We find the word stratagem in The True Chronicle History of King Lear, p. 417, where Regan says to the Messenger
“ Hast thou the heart to act a stratagem,
“ Messenger. I have a heart compact of adamant
weigh no more the murd'ring of a man,
“ Do but command me do it, it shall be done." It is evident that Regan's stratagem, or subtle device, was assassination. M. Mason.
90 boy, thy father gave thee life too soon,] Because had he been born later, he would not now have been of years to engage in this quarrel. Warburton.
1 And hath berefe thee of thy life too late!) i. e. He should have done it by not bringing thee into being, to make both father and son thus miserable. This is the sense, such as it is, of the two lines; however, an indifferent sense was better than none as it is brought to by the Oxford editor, by reading the lines tbus :
O boy! thy father gave thee life too late,
And hath bereft thee of thy life too soon. Warburton. I rather think the meaning of the line, Anil hath bereft thee of thy life too soon, to be this: Thy father exposed thee to danger by giving thee life too soon, and hath bereft thee of life by living him. self too long. Yohnson.
The Oxford editor might have justified the change he made, from the authority of the quarto, according to which I would read; explaining the first line thus: Thy father begot thee at too late a period of his life, and therefore thou wert not old and strong enough to cope with him. The next line can want no explanation. Mr. Tollet thinks, that by too late is meant too lately, as in King Richard III, Act III:
“ Too late he died that might have kept that title.” Steevens. Too late, without doubt, means too recently. The memory of thy virtues and thy hapless end is too recent, to be thought of without the deepest anguish. The same quaint expression is found in our author's Rape of Lucrece:
“O, quoth Lucretius, I did give that life,
“ Which she too early and too late bath spill'd.” Here late clearly means lately. Again, in this Third Part of King Henry VI:
“ Where fame, late entering at his heedful ears."
K. Hen. Woe above woe! grief more than common
grief! O, that my death would stay these ruthful deeds! * O pity, pity, gentle heaven, pity The red rose and the white are on his face, The fatal colours of our striving houses: * The one, his purple blood right well resembles; * The other, his pale cheeks, methinks, present: Wither one rose, and let the other flourish! If you contend, a thousand lives must wither.2
Son. How will my mother, for a father's death, Take on with me,3 and ne'er be satisfy'd ?
Fath. How will my wife, for slaughter of my son, Shed seas of tears, and ne'er be satisfy'd? • K. Hen. How will the country, for these woful
In the old play this and the preceding line stand thus :
“ Poor boy, thy father gave thee life too late,
" And hath bereft thee of thy life too soon Malone. The present reading appears to be far the more eligible. Had the son been younger, he would have been precluded from the levy that brought him into the field; and had the father recog. nized him before the mortal blow, it would not have been too late to have saved him from death. Henley.
2 If you contend, a thousand lives must wither.] Thus the folio. The quartos thus :
“For if you strive, a thousand lives must perish.” Steevens. I think the word wither is more likely to have been inadver. tently repeated by the transcriber, than substituted by Shak. speare for the former word. Malone.
3 Take on with me,] Be enraged at me. So, in a pamphlet by T. Nashe, 1592: “Some will take on, like a madınan,” &c.
Malone. To take on is a phrase still in use among the vulgar, and signifies--to persist in clamorous lamentation. Steevens. 4 How will the country, &c.] So, the folio. The quartos thus:
“ How will the country now misdeem their king!
« Oh, would my death their minds could satisfy!” To mis-think is to think ill, unfavourably. So, in The Northern Lass, 1633:
and heaven pardon me what I mis-thought every hour of the night!” Steevens.
This word, which Shakspeare substituted for misdeem, he has again used in Antony and Cleopatra:
-S' Be it known, that we the greatest are mis-thought,
• Mis-think the king, and not be satisfy'd ?
• Son. Was ever son, so ru'd a father's death?
• K. Hen. Was ever king, so griev'd for subjects' woe? • Much is your sorrow; mine, ten times so much. "Son. I'll bear thee hence, where I may weep my fill.
[Exit, with the Body. * Fath. These arms of mine shall be thy winding
sheet; * My heart, sweet boy, shall be thy sepulchre ; * For from my heart thine image ne'er shall go. * My sighing breast shall be thy funeral bell; * And so obsequious will thy father be,? * Sad for the loss of thee, 8 having no more, * As Priam was for all his valiant sons. I'll bear thee hence; and let them fight that will, For I have murder'd where I should not kill.
[Exit, with the Body. K. Hen. Sad-hearted
overgone • Here sits a king more woful than you are. Alarums: Excursions. Enter Queen MarGARET,
Prince of Wales, and EXETER. • Prince. Fly, father, fly! for all your friends are fled, • And Warwick rages like a chafed bull:
5 Was ever son, so ru'd a father's death?
Was ever father so bemoan'd his son?] The variation is here worth remarking, for in the old play the corresponding lines are:
“ Was ever son so rude, his father's blood to spill!
“ Was ever father'so unnatural, his son to kill?" Malone. 6 I'll bear thee hence, &c.] Thus the folio. The old play thus :
“I'll bear thee hence from this accursed place,
“For woe is to me, to see my father's face.” Malone. 7 And so obsequivus will thy father be,] Obsequious is here care. ful of obsequies, or of funeral rites. Fohnson. In the same sense it is used in Hamlet :
- to do obsequious sorrow.” Steevens. 8 Sad for the loss of thee,] The old copy reads-men for the loss 8.6. Mr. Rowe made the alteration; but I think we might read:
so obsequious will thy father be, “ Man, for the loss of thee" &c. Steevens. As Priam was for all -] I having but one son, will grieve as much for that one, as Priam, who had many, could grieve far many. Johnson."
• Away! for death doth hold us in pursuit. • Q. Mar. Mount you, my lord, towards Berwick post
amain: · Edward and Richard, like a brace of greyhounds • Having the fearful flying hare in sight, With fiery eyes, sparkling for very wrath,
And bloody steel grasp'd in their ireful hands, • Are at our backs; and therefore hence amain.
( Exe. Away! for vengeance comes along with them: Nay, stay not to expostulate, make speed; Or else come after, I'll away before.
• K. Hen. Nay, take me with thee, good sweet Exeter; · Not that I fear to stay, but love to go · Whither the queen intends. Forward ; away! [Exeunt.
A loud Alarum. Enter CLIFFORD, wounded. 1
Clif. Here burns my candle out, ay, here it dies, 2 Which, while it lasted, gave king Henry light. O, Lancaster! I fear thy orerthrow, More than my body's parting with my soul. My love, and fear, glew'd many friends to thee;
And, now I fall, thy tough commixtures melt.3 Impairing Henry, strength’ning mis-proud York, The common people swarm like summer flies: 4
1 Enter Clifford, wounded.] The quarto adds, with an arrow in his neck. In ridicule of this, Beaumont and Fletcher have introduced Ralph, the grocer's prentice, in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, with a forked arrow through his head. It appears, however, from Holinshed, p. 664, that this circumstance has some relation to the truth is The lord Clifford, either for heat or paine, putting off his gorget suddenlie, with an arrow (as some saie) without a head, was striken into the throte, and immediately rendered his spirit.” Steevens.
2 Here burns my candle out, ay, here it dies,] So, in the first part of this play:
“ Here dies the dusky torch of Mortimer.” Steevens.'
thy tough commixtures melt.] Perhaps better, the tough commixture. Fohnson.
The quartos read~"that tough commixture melts.” Steevens.
4 The common people swarm like summer flies:) This line, which is not in the folio, was recovered from the old play by Mr..
And whither fly the gnats, but to the sun ?5 And who shines now, but Henry's enemies? O Phoebus! hadst thou never given consent That Phaeton should check thy fiery steeds, Thy burning car never had scorch'd the earth: And, Henry, hadst thou sway'd as kings should do, Or as thy father, and his father, did, Giving no ground unto the house of York, * They never then had sprung like summer flies; • I, and ten thousand in this luckless realm, Had left no mourning widows for our death, And thou this day hadst kept thy chair in peace. For what doth cherish weeds but gentle air? • And what makes robbers bold, but too much lenity? Bootless are plaints, and cureless are my wounds; • No way to fly, nor strength to bold out flight:? The foe is merciless, and will not pity; For, at their hands, I have deserv'd no pity. • The air hath got into my deadly wounds, And much effuse of blood doth make me faint:Come, York, and Richard, Warwick, and the rest; • I stabb'd your fathers' bosoms, split my breast. 8
Theobald. The context shows, that like a line in The Second Part of King Henry VI, it was omitted by the negligence of the transcriber or compositor. Malone. 5 The common people swarm like summer flies :
And whither fly the gnats, but to the sun?] Hence, perhaps, originated the following passage in The Bard of Gray:
“The swarm that in thy noontide beam were borne ?
“Gone to salute the rising morn.” Steevens. 6 0 Phæbus! hadst thou never given consent - ] The Duke of York had been entrusted by Henry with tbe reins of government both in Ireland and France; and hence perhaps was taught to aspire to the throne. Malone.
? No way to fly, nor strength to hold out flight:) This line is clear and proper as it is now read; yet perhaps an opposition of images was meant, and Clifford said:
No way to fly, nor strength to hold out fight. Johnson. The sense of the original reading is—No way to fly, nor with strength sufficient left to sustain myself in flight, if there were.