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Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
I may add, that the Fool of Lear was long ago forgotten. Having filled the space allotted him in the arrangement of the play, he appears to have been filently withdrawn in the fixth scene of the third act: That the thoughts of a father, in the bitterest of all moments, while his favourite child lay dead in his arms, should recur to the antick who had formerly diverted him, has somewhat in it that I cannot recon. cile to the idea of genuine sorrow and despair.
Besides this, Cordelia was recently hanged; but we know not that the Fool had suffered in the same manner, nor can imagine why he should, The party adverse to Lear was little interested in the fate of his jester. The only use of him was to contrast and alleviate the forTows of his master; and, that purpose being fully answered, the poet's odolicitude about him was at an end.
The term-poor fool might indeed have misbecome the mouth of a vaffal commiserating the untimely end of a princess, but has no impropriety when used by a weak, old, distracted king; in whose mind the distinctions of nature only survive, while he is uttering his last frantick exclamations over a murdered daughter.
Should the foregoing remark, however, be thought erroneous, the reader will forgive it, as it serves to introduce some contradictory observations from a critick, in whose taste and judgment too much confidence cannot easily be placed. STEEVENS.
I confess, I am one of those who bave thougbe that Lear means his Fool, and not Cordelia. If he means Cordelia, then what I have always considered as a beauty, is of the same kind as the accidental stroke of the pencil that produced the foam.-Lear's affectionate remembrance of the Fool in this place, I used to think, was one of those strokes of genius, or of nature, which are so often found in Shakspeare, and in him only.
Lear appears to have a particular affection for this Fcol, whose fidelity in attending him, and endeavouring to divert him in his distress, seems to deserve all his kindness.
Poor fool and knave, says he, in the midst of the thunder-form, I bave one part in my beart that's forry yet for ebee.
It does not therefore appear to me, to be allowing too much consequence to the Fool, in making Lear bestow a thought on him, even when in Still greater distress. Lear is represented as a good-natured, passionate, and rather weak old man; it is the old age of a cocker'd spoilt boy. There is no impropriety in giving to such a character those tender domestick affections, which would ill become a more heroick character, such as Othello, Macbeth, or Richard III.
The words--No, no, no life; I suppose to be spoken, not tenderly, but with pallion: Let nothing now live ; let there be universal destruc
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray tion;-Why should a dog, a borse, a rat, bave life, and ebou no brea:6 at all?
It may be observed, that as there was a necessity, the neceffity of propriety at lealt, that this Foul, the favourite of the author, of Lear, and coniequently of the audience, thould not be loft or forget, it ought to be known what became of him. However, it must be acknow. ledged, that we cannot infer much from thence; Shakspeare is not always attentive to finish the figures of his groups.
I have only to add, that if an actor, by adopting the interpretation mentioned above, should apply the words poor fool to Cordelia, the audience would, I thouid imagine, think it a strange mode of exprefing the grief and affection of a father for his dead daughter, and that daughter a queen.-The words, poor frol, are undoubtedly exprešlive of endearment; and Shakspeare him felf, in another place, speaking of a dying animal, calls it poor dappled fool: but it never is, nor never can be, used with any degree of propriety, but to commiferate fome very inferior object, which may be loved, without much efeem or respe&.
Sir Joshua REYNOLDS. It is not without some reluctance that I express my diffent from the friend whose name is subscribed to the preceding note; whose observations on all subjects of criticism and taste are so ingenious and just, that posterity may be at a loss to determine, whether his confummate ikil and execution in his own art, or his judgment on that and other kin. dred arts, were fuperior. But magis amica veritas should be the motto of every editor of Shakspeare; in conformity to which I must add, that I have not the smallest doubt that Mr. Steevens's interpretation of these words is the true one. The paffage indeed before us appears to me fo clear, and so in applicable to any person but Cordelia, that I fear the reader may think any further comment on it altogether superfluous.
It is observable that Lear from the time of his entrance in this frene to his uttering these words, and from thence to his death, is wholly occupied by the lofs of his daughter. He is diverted indeed from it for a moment by the intrusion of Kent, who forces himself on his notice; but he inftantly returns to his beloved Cordelia, over whose dead body he continues to hang. He is now himself in the agony of death; and surely at such a time, when his heart is just breaking, it would be highly unnatural that he hould think of his tool. Buc the great and decisive objection to such a supposition is that which Mr. Steevens has mentioned ; that Lear has just seen h's daughter banged, having unfortunately been admitted too late to prrferve her life, though time enough to punish the perpetrator of the act : but we have no authority whatsoever for fupposing his Fool hanged also.
Whether the expression-poor fool can be applied with propriety only to inferior obje&is, for wbom we have not mucb respect of ejices,
Pray you, undo this button 8: Thank you, fir.
is not, I conceive, the question. Shakspeare does not always use his terms with strict propriety, but he is always the best commentator on himself, and he certainly bas applied this term in another place to the young, the beautiful, and innocent, Adonis, the object of somewhat more than the esteem of a goddess :
“ For pity now she can no more detain him;
“ The poor fool prays her that he may depart.” Again, though less appofitely, in Twelfth Nigbı:
“ Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled thee !" Again, in Mucb Ado about Norbing :
“ Lady, you have a merry heart.
windy lide of care.” Again, in The Winter's Tale:
Do not weep, good fools, “ There is no cause. In Romeo and Juliet a similar term of endearment is employed, Mercutio, speaking of Romeo, whom certainly he both esteemed and loved, says
« The ape is dead, and I must conjure him." Nor was the phraseology which has occasioned this long note, pecu. liar to Shakspeare. It was long before his time incorporated in our language ; as appears from the following passage in the old poem entitled The History of Romeus and Juliet, 1562 :
“ Yea, he forgets himselte, ne is the wretch fo bolde
“ But only seeketh by her light to feed his houngry eyes." In old English a fool and an innocent were synonymous terms, Hence probably the peculiar use of the expresion-peor fool. In the passage before us, Lear, I conceive, means by it, dear, tender, belplefs innocence!
MALONE. 8 Pray you, undo this button :) The Rev. Dr. J. Warton judicioung observes, that the swelling and hcaving of the heart is described by ibis most expressive circumstance. So, in the Horeft Lawyer, 1616;
oh my heart !
Ah, cut my lace asunder,
« Or else I swoon with this dead-killing news !". Again, in The Winter's Tale :
“ O, cut my lace; left my heart, cracking it,
Do you see this? Look on her,-look,-her lipso
Edg. Look up, my lord. : Kent. Vex not his gloft: 0, let him pass?! he hates
him, That would upon the rack of this tough world 3 Stretch him out longer.
Edg. O, he is gone, indeed.
Keni. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long : He but usurp'd his life.
· Alb. Bear them from hence. -Our prefent business Is general woe. Friends of my soul, you twain
Eto Kent, and Edgar. Rule in this realm, and the gord state suitain,
Kent. I have a journey, fir, fortly to go; My master calls, and I muft not say, not
All. and, as Mr. Malone adds; from N. Field's A Woman's a Weaster cock, 1612:
swell heart! buitons fily open! « Thanks gende doublet-elfe my heart had broken."STIEV. 9 Do you see this ? &t.] This line, and the following hemistich, are not in the quartos. After thank you, fer, they have only the interjection 0, 'five times repeated. MALONE.
i Break, beart; &c.] This line is in the quartos given to the dying Lear. MALONE... 2 0; let bim pass!] See p. 639, n. 5. *MALONE.
this tough world— ] Thus all the old copies. Mr. Pope changed it to stugb, but, perhaps, without necessitý. This tough world is this obdurate rigid world. STEEVENSE
4 - I pruft not say, no.] The modern editors have supposed that Kent expires after he has repeated these two last fines; but the speech rather appears to be meant for a despairing than a dying man; and as the old editions give no marginal direction for his death, I have for born to insert any.
I take this opportunity of retracting a declaration which I had for
I am come
Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obeys;
[Exeunt, with a dead march.
but this, like the speech before us, only marks the despondency of the speaker. The word fortly [i. e. some time hence, at no very diftand period,) decisively proves, that the poet did not mean to make him die on the scene. He merely says, that he fhall not live long, and therefore cannot undertake the office atlignei to him.
The marginal direction, be dies, was first introduced by the igno rant editor of the second folio. MALONE.
5 Tbe weigbe of ibis sad time, &c.] This speech from the authority of the old quarto is rightly placed to Albany: in the edition by the players, it is given to Edgar, by whom, I doubt not, it was of custom ipoken. And the case was this: he who played Edgar, being a more favourite actor than he who performed Albany, in spite of decorum it was thought proper he should have the last word. THEOBALD.
6 The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curionty. The artful involutions of difinet interests, the striking opposition of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of in. dignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contri. bute to the aggravation uf the distress or.conduct of the action, and (carce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irrcgistibly along.
On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the bare barity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so uplikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the men. tion of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civi. lized, and of life regulated by sotter manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the cha. racters of men, he comm
mmonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.
My learned friend Mr. Warton, who has in the Adventurer very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too lavage and locking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys VOL. VIII.