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That I may speak ':]-I'll write straight to my sister, To hold my very course :-Prepare for dinner.
A Hall in the Same.
Enter KENT, disguised.
KENT. If but as well I other accents borrow, That can my speech diffuse 2, my good intent
'I would breed, &c.] The words between brackets are found in the quartos, but omitted in the folio. MALONE.
2 If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech DIFFUSE,] We must suppose that Kent advances looking on his disguise. This circumstance very naturally leads to his speech, which otherwise would have no very apparent introduction. "If I can change my speech as well as I have changed my dress." To diffuse speech, signifies to disorder it, and so to disguise it; as in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act IV. Sc. VII. [quoted by Mr. Jennens]:
"With some diffused song
Again, in The Nice Valour, &c. by Beaumont and Fletcher, Cupid says to the Passionate Man, who appears disordered in his
Go not so diffusedly."
Again, in our author's King Henry V. [as Mr. Heath remarks]: swearing, and stern looks, diffus'd attire."
Again, in a book entitled, A Green Forest, or A Natural History, &c. by John Maplet, 1567 :— "In this stone is apparently seene verie often the verie forme of a tode, with bespotted and coloured feete, but those uglye and defusedly."-To diffuse speech may, however, mean to speak broad with a clownish accent.
Diffused certainly meant, in our author's time, wild, irregular, heterogeneous. So, in Greene's Farewell to Follie, 1617: "I have seen an English gentleman so defused in his suits, his doublet being for the weare of Castile, his hose for Venice, his hat for France, his cloak for Germany, that he seemed no way to be an Englishman but by the face." MALONE.
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I raz'd my likeness.-Now, banish'd
If thou can'st serve where thou dost stand con
(So may it come*!) thy master, whom thou lov'st, Shall find thee full of labours.
Horns within. Enter LEAR, Knights, and
LEAR. Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go, get it ready. [Exit an Attendant.] How now, what
KENT. A man, sir.
LEAR. What dost thou profess? What wouldest thou with us?
KENT. I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly, that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and says little3; to fear judgment; to fight, when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish 1.
* The quartos omit these words.
3- to CONVERSE with him that is wise, AND SAYS little ;] To converse signifies immediately and properly to keep company, not to discourse or talk. His meaning is, that he chooses for his companions men of reserve aud caution; men who are not tatlers nor tale-bearers. JOHNSON.
We still say in the same sense-he had criminal conversation with her meaning commerce.
So, in King Richard III. :
His apparent open guilt omitted,
"I mean his conversation with Shore's wife." MALONE. 4- and to eat no fish.] In Queen Elizabeth's time the Papists were esteemed, and with good reason, enemies to the government. Hence the proverbial phrase of, He's an honest man, and eats no fish; to signify he's a friend to the government and a Protestant. The eating fish, on a religious account, being then esteemed such a badge of popery, that when it was enjoined for a season by act of parliament, for the encouragement of the fishtowns, it was thought necessary to declare the reason; hence it was
LEAR. What art thou?
KENT. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
LEAR. If thou be as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldest thou?
LEAR. Who wouldest thou serve?
LEAR. Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance, which I would fain call master.
LEAR. What's that?
LEAR. What services canst thou do?
KENT. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence. LEAR. How old art thou?
KENT. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old, to dote on her for any thing: I have years on my back forty-eight.
called Cecil's fast. To this disgraceful badge of popery Fletcher alludes in his Woman-hater, who makes the courtezan say, when Lazarillo, in search of the umbrano's head, was seized at her house by the intelligencers for a traytor: Gentlemen, I am glad you have discovered him. He should not have eaten under my roof for twenty pounds. And sure I did not like him, when he called for fish." And Marston's Dutch Courtezan: “ I trust I am none of the wicked that eat fish a Fridays." WARBURTON.
Fish was probably then, as now, esteemed the most delicate and costly part of an entertainment, and therefore Kent, in the character of an humble and discreet dependant, may intend to insinuate that he never desires to partake of such luxuries. That eating fish on a religious account was not a badge of popery, may be shewn by what is related of Queen Elizabeth in Walton's Life of Hooker; that she would never eat flesh in Lent without obtaining a licence from her little black husband [Archbishop Whitgift]. BLAKEWAY.
LEAR. Follow me; thou shalt serve me; if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.-Dinner, ho, dinner!-Where's my knave? my fool? Go you, and call my fool hither:
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter? STEW. So please you,LEAR. What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.-Where's my fool, ho ?—I think the world's asleep.-How now? where's that mongrel ? KNIGHT. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
LEAR. Why came not the slave back to me, when I called him?
KNIGHT. Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
LEAR. He would not!
KNIGHT. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindness" appears, as well in the general dependants, as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
LEAR. Ha! sayest thou so?
KNIGHT. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent, when I think your highness is wronged.
LEAR. Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception; I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity, than as a very pretence' and
* Quartos, Kent.
- of kindness-] These words are not in the quartos.
-jealous curiosity,] By this phrase King Lear means, I be
purpose of unkindness: I will look further into't. -But where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
KNIGHT. Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away".
LEAR. No more of that; I have noted it well.Go you, and tell my daughter I would speak with her.-Go you, call hither my fool.
O, you sir, you sir, come you hither: Who am I, sir ?
STEW. My lady's father.
LEAR. My lady's father! my lord's knave: you whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
STEW. I am none of this, my lord 9; I beseech you, pardon me.
LEAR. Do you bandy looks' with me, you rascal ?
lieve, a punctilious jealousy, resulting from a scrupulous watchfulness of his own dignity. STEEVENS.
See before p. 5, and p. 31. BOSWELL.
7 -a very PRETENCE] Pretence in Shakspeare generally signifies design. So, in a foregoing scene in this play: "to no other pretence of danger." Again, in Holinshed, p. 648: " pretensed evill purpose of the queene." STEEVENS.
8 Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.] This is an endearing circumstance in the Fool's character, and creates such an interest in his favour, as his wit alone might have failed to procure for him. STEEVENS.
9 I am none of this, my lord; &c.] Thus the quartos. The folio reads-I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon. MALONE.
I BANDY looks-] A metaphor from Tennis: "Come in, take this bandy with the racket of patience." Decker's Satiromastix, 1602.
buckle with them hand to hand,
"And bandy blows as thick as hailstones fall." Wily Beguiled, 1606. STEEVENS. "To bandy a ball," Cole defines, clava pilam torquere ; bandy at tennis," reticulo pellere. Dict. 1679. MALONE.