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Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
[Edmund is borne of
Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms?; ED.
GAR, Officer, and Others. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-0, you are men of
ftones; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack :-0, she is gone for
Kent. Is this the promised end?
% - Cordelia dead in bis arms.] This princess, according to the old historians, retired with victory from the battle which the conducted in her father's cause, and thereby replaced him on the throne : but in a subsequent one fought against her (after the death of the old king) by the fons of Goneril and Regan, she was taken, and died miferably in prison. The poet found this in history, and was therefore willing to precipitate her death, which he knew had happened but a few years after. The dramatick writers of this age fuffered as small a number of their heroes and heroines to escape as possible; nor could the filial piety of this lady, any more than the innocence of Ophelia, prevail on Shakspeare to extend her life beyond her misfortunes. STEEVENS.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of this story, says, that Cordelia was thrown by her nephews into prison, “where, for grief at the loss of her kingdom, the killed berself." MALONE. 3 Kent. Is ebis the promis'd end?
Edz. Or image of ibat borror ?] It appears to me that by the promised end Kent does not mean that conclufion which the state of their affairs seemed to promise, but the end of the world. In St. Mark's Gospel, when Christ foretels to his disciples the end of the world, and is describing to them the signs that were to precede, and mark the approach of, our final diffolution, he says, “ For in those
shall be offiction such as was not from the beginning of the creation wbicb God created, unto ibis time, neither shall be:” and afterwards he says, “ Now obe brother all betray sbe brorber to deatb, and she faber ibe for ; and children shall rise up against their parents, and fall
Alb. Fall, and cease * !
up, up, and see
cause them to be put to death.” Kent in contemplating the unexampled scene of exquifite amiction which was then before him, and the unna. tural attempt of Goneril and Regan against their father's life, recoilects these passages, and asks, whether that was the end of the world that had been foretold to us. To which Edgar adds, or only a representation and resemblance of that horror?
So Macbeth, when he calls upon Banquo, Malcolm, &c. to view
The great doom's image!
6. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us ; love cools; friend thip falls oft; brothers divide; in cities, rrutinies ; in countries, discord; in palaces treason; and the bond crack'd 'ewixt fon and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction ; ibere's fon against father; tbe king falls off from tbe bias of nature; ibere's farber against child: We have seen the best of our time."
If any criticks should urge it as an objection to this explanation, that the persons of the drama are pagans, and of consequence un acquainted with the scriptures, they give Shakspeare credit for more accuracy than I fear he poflefied. MASON.
I entirely agree with Mr. Mason in his happy explanation of this passage. In a speech which our poet has put into the mouth of young Clifford in The Second Part of King Henry VI. a similar imagery is found. On seeing the dead body of his father, who was slain in battle by the duke of York, he exclaims,
0, let the vile world end,
founds « To ceale!” There is no trace of these lines in the old play on which The Second Part of King Henry VI. was formed.
Image is again used for delineation or representation, in K. Henry IV. P. I. 7 No counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed."
Again, in Hamler : “ The play is the image of a murder done in Vienna." MALONE.
4 Fall, and cease!] Albany is looking with attention on the pains employed by Lear to recover his child, and knows to what miieries he must survive, when he finds them to be inettectual. Having there images present to his eyes and imagination, he cries out, Rarber fall, and cease to beg at once, iban continue in existence only to be wreicbed.
Lear. This feather stirss; the lives! if it be so,
[kneelingi Lear. Pr’ythee, away. Edg, 'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all !
Off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.
Lear. Did I not, fellow?
So, in All's Well, &c. to cease is used for to die: and in Hamlet, the
“ Or, ere they meet, in me, O nature, cease!
" And both shall cease, without your remedy.” STIEVENS, The word is used nearly in the same sense in a former scene of this play:
“ Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
" That things might change or cease." I doubt, however, whether Albany's speech is addressed to Lear.
MALONE. 5 This feather ftirs ;-) So, in Vittoria Corombona, 1612: “ Fetch a looking-glass, fee it his breath will not stain it; or pull some fearbers from my pillow, and lay thein to his lips." STEEVENS. There is the same thought in King Henry IV. P. II. A& IV, fc. iv.
by his gates of breath “ There lies a downy featber, which stirs not." WHALLEY. 6 - murderers, traitors all!] Thus the folio. The quartos read murderous traitors all. MALONE. 7 I bave seen tbe day, with my good biting faulebion
I would bave made obem fip:) It is difficult for an author who never peruses his first works, to avoid repeating some of the same thoughts in his later productions. What Lear has just said, had been anticipated by Justice Shallow in the Merry Wives of Windsor : “ I
And these same crosses spoil me.-Who are you?
Kent. If fortune brag of two me lov'd and hated,
Lear. This is a dull fight' : Are you not Kent?
Kent. The same ; your servant Kent:
Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that;
Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man ;-
Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay,
Lear. You are welcome hither.
have seen the time, with my long sword, I would have made you four
- I have seen the day
« I have made my way,” &c. STEEVENS.
One of them we bebold.] I suppose by the two whom fortune once loved, and then hated, Kent means, Lear and himself; and that each of them, looking on the other, saw a rare instance of her caprice. may, however, be only thinking of Lear, the object of her hate.
This is the reading of the folio. The quartos read-lov'd or hated; and they may be right, if the interpretation lait given be the true one.
MALONE. 9 This is a dull figbe:] This passage is wanting in the quartos.
STEEVENS. '-of difference and decay, ] Decay for misfortunes. WARBURT. The quartos read :
That from your life of difference and decay. STEEVENS. 2 Nor no man elfe;] Kent means, I welcome ! No, nor no man else. MALONE.
- fore-doom'd ibemselves,] Thus the quartos. The folio reads fordone.
Have fore-doom'd themselves is-have anticipated their own doom.
Lear. Ay, so I think.
Enter an Officer.
Alb. That's but a trifle here.-
[to Edgar and Kent,
Why 4 – be says;] The quartos read he sees, which may be right.
STEEVEXS. 5 What comfort to ibis great decay may come,] This great decay is Lear, whom Shakspeare poetically calls ío, and means the same as if he had said, ibis piece of decay'd royalty, this ruin'd majefly. STEEV.
A preceding pallage in which Glofter laments Lear's frenzy, fully fupports Mr. Steevens's interpretation:
“ O ruin'd piece of nature ! This great world
6 Shall so wear out to nought." Again, in Julius Cæfar:
“ Thou art the ruins of the noblest man," &c. MALONE. 6 Wirb boot,-) With advantage, with increase. JOHNSON.
7. And my poor foul is bang’d!) This is an expression of tenderness for his dead Cordelia, (not his fool, as some have thought,) on whore lips he is fill intent, and dies away while he is searching for life there. Poor fool, in the age of Shakspeare, was an expression of endearSo, in his Antony and Cleopatra :
-poor venomous fool, “ Be angry and dispatch.-" Again, in King Henry VI. P. III:
“ So many weeks ere the poor fools will yean." Again, in Romeo and Julier :
" And, pretty fool, it ftinted and said-ay.".