Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

SCENE I.-The camp of the British forces, near Dover. Enter, with drums and colours, Edmund, Regan, Officers, Soldiers, and others.

Edm. Know of the duke, if his last purpose hold; Or, whether since he is advis'd by aught To change the course: He's full of alteration, And self-reproving :-bring his constant pleasure.3 [To an officer, who goes out. Reg. Our sister's man is certainly miscarried. Edm. 'Tis to be doubted, madam. Reg. Now, sweet lord, You know the goodness I intend upon you: Tell me, but truly,-but then speak the truth, Do you not love my sister? Edm. Reg. But have you never found my brother's way To the forefended place? Edm.

In honour'd love.

That thought abuses you. Reg. I am doubtful that you have been conjunct And bosom'd with her, as far as we call hers. Edm. No, by mine honour, madam. Reg. I never shall endure her: Dear my lord, Be not familiar with her.

Edm.

Fear me not: She, and the duke her husband,

Enter Albany, Goneril, and Soldiers.

Gon. I had rather lose the battle, than that sister Should loosen him and me.

[Aside.

Alb. Our very loving sister, well be met.-Sir, this I hear,-The king is come to his daughter, With others, whom the rigour of our state Forc'd to cry out. Where I could not be honest, I never yet was valiant: for this business, It touches us as France invades our land, Not bolds the king; with others, whom, I fear, Most just and heavy causes make oppose.7 Edm. Sir, you speak nobly. Reg. Why is this reason'd? Gon. Combine together 'gainst the enemy: For these domestic and particular broils

[blocks in formation]

Reg. 'Tis most convenient; pray you, go with us. Gon. O, ho, I know the riddle: [Aside.] I will go. As they are going out, enter Edgar, disguised. Edg. If e'er your grace had speech with man so poor, Hear me one word.

Alb.

I'll overtake you.-Speak. [Exeunt Edmund, Regan, Goneril, Officers, Soldiers, and Attendants.

Edg. Before you fight the battle, ope this letter. If you have victory, let the trumpet sound For him that brought it: wretched though I seem, I can produce a champion, that will prove What is avouched there: If you miscarry, Your business of the world hath so an end, And machination ceases.8 Fortune love you! Alb. Stay till I have read the letter. Edg. I was forbid it. When time shall serve, let but the herald cry, And I'll appear again. [Exit.

Alb. Why, fare thee well; I will o'erlook thy paper.

Re-enter Edmund.

Edm. The enemy's in view, draw up your powers. Here is the guess of their true strength and forces By diligent discovery;-but your haste Is now urg'd on you.

Alb. We will greet the time.9 [Exit. Edm. To both these sisters have I sworn my love; Each jealous of the other, as the stung Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take? Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoy'd, if both remain alive: To take the widow, Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril; And hardly shall I carry out my side,10 Her husband being alive. Now then, we'll use His countenance for the battle; which being done, Let her, who would be rid of him, devise His speedy taking off. As for the mercy Which he intends to Lear, and to Cordelia,The battle done, and they within our power, Shall never see his pardon: for my state Stands on me to defend, not to debate. SCENE II-A field between the two camps. Alarum within. Enter, with drum and colours, Lear, Cordelia, and their forces; and exeunt. Enter Edgar and Gloster.

[Exit.

[blocks in formation]

an end.

(9) Be ready to meet the occasion.

(10) i. e. Make my party good.

(11) i. e. To be ready prepared, is all.

queen;

SCENE III-The British camp near Dover. Which do command them. With him I sent the Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, Edmund; Lear and Cordelia, as prisoners; Offi-My reason all the same; and they are ready cers, Soldiers, &c. To-morrow, or at further space, to appear Where you shall hold your session. At this time, We sweat, and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;

Edm. Some officers take them away: good guard; Until their greater pleasures first be known That are to censure! them.

[blocks in formation]

prison:

We two alone will sing like birds i'the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: So we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,-
Who loses, and who wins; who's in, who's out;-
And take upon us the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies: And we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
Edm.

Take them away.
Lear. Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught
thee?

He, that parts us, shall bring a brand from heaven, And fire us hence, like foxes. Wipe thine eyes; The goujeers2 shall devour them, flesh and fell,3 Ere they shall make us weep: we'll see them starve

Come.

first.

[Exe. Lear and Cor. guarded. Edm. Come hither, captain; hark. Take thou this note; [Giving a paper.] go, follow them to prison:

One step I have advanc'd thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes: Know thou this,-that men
Are as the time is: to be tender-minded

Does not become a sword :-Thy great employment
Will not bear question;4 either say, thou'lt do't,
Or thrive by other means.

Offi.

I'll do't, my lord.

Edm. About it; and write happy, when thou hast done.

Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it So,
As I have set it down.

Offi. I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats; If it be man's work, I will do it. [Exit Officer. Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Officers, and Attendants.

Alb. Sir, you have shown to-day your valiant strain,

And fortune led you well: You have the captives
Who were the opposites of this day's strife:"
We do require them of you; so to use them,
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.
Edm.

Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention, and appointed guard;
Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
And turn our impress'd lances in our eyes

(1) Pass judgment on them.

(2) The French disease.

(4) Admit of debate.

(3) Skin.

(5) To be discoursed of in greater privacy.

[blocks in formation]

Reg. Jesters do oft prove prophets.

Gon.

Holloa, holloa!
That eye, that told you so, look'd but a-squint.7
Reg. Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach.-General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine :
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.

Gon.
Mean you to enjoy him?
Alb. The let-alones lies not in your good will.
Edm. Nor in thine, lord.

Alb.

Half-blooded fellow, yes. Reg. Let the drum strike, and prove my title (To Edmund.

thine.

Alb. Stay yet; hear reason:-Edmund, I arrest

thee

On capital treason; and, in thy arrest,

This gilded serpent: [Pointing to Gon.]-For your claim, fair sister,

I bar it in the interest of my wife;

'Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord, And I, her husband, contradict your bans. If you will marry, make your love to me, My lady is bespoke. Gon. Alb. Thou art arm'd, Gloster :-Let the trumpet sound:

An interlude!

If none appear to prove upon thy person,
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge; [Throwing down a glove.] I'll
prove it on thy heart,

Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim'd thee.
Reg.
Sick, O, sick!
Gon. If not, I'll ne'er trust poison. [Aside.
Edm. There's my exchange: [Throwing down
a glove,] what in the world he is

That names me traitor, villain-like he lies:
Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
On him, on you, (who not?) I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.

(6) Authority to act on his own judgment. (7) Alluding to the proverb: Love being jea ous makes a good eye look a-squint.' (8) The hindrance.

[blocks in formation]

Reg.

[blocks in formation]

Shut your mouth, dame,

This sickness grows upon me. Or with this paper shall I stop it:-Hold, sir :Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil :-› No tearing, lady; I perceive, you know it.

Enter a Herald.

[blocks in formation]

Which is that adversary

Alb. Edg. What's he, that speaks for Edmund earl of Gloster?

Edm. Himself;-What say'st thou to him? Edg Draw thy sword; That, if my speech offend a noble heart, Thy arm may do thee justice: here is mine. Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours, My oath, and my profession: I protest,Maugre2 thy strength, youth, place, and eminence, Despite thy victor sword, and fire-new fortune, Thy valour, and thy heart,-Thou art a traitor: False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father; Conspirant 'gainst this high illustrious prince; And, from the extremest upward of thy head, To the descent and dust beneath thy feet, A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou, No, This sword, this arm, and my best spirits,

[blocks in formation]

are

Edm. In wisdom, I should ask thy name ;3 But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, And that thy tongue some 'say4 of breeding breathes, What safe and nicely I might well delay By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn: Back do I toss these treasons to thy head; With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart; Which (for they yet glance by, and scarcely bruise,) This sword of mine shall give them instant way, Where they shall rest for ever.--Trumpets, speak. [Alarums. They fight. Edmund falls.

Alb. O'save him, save him!

(1) i e. Valour. (2) Notwithstanding. (3) Because if his adversary was not of equal rank, Edmund might have declined the combat.

VOL. II,

[Gives the letter to Edmund. Gon. Say, if I do; the laws are mine, not thine: Who shall arraign me for't?

Most monstrous!

Alb. Know'st thou this paper? Gon. Ask me not what I know, [Exit Goneril. Alb. Go after her: she's desperate; govern her. [To an Officer, who goes out. Edm. What you have charg'd me with, that have I done;

And more, much more: the time will bring it out;
'Tis past, and so am I : But what art thou,
That hast this fortune on me? If thou art noble,
I do forgive thee.

Edg.

Let's exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more thou hast wrong'd me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us :

The dark and vicious place where thee he got,
Cost him his eyes.

Edm.
Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true;
The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
Alb. Methought, thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness :-I must embrace thee;
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee, or thy father!
Edg.

I know it well.

Alb.

Worthy prince,

Where have you hid yourself? How have you known the miseries of your father? Edg. By nursing them, my lord.-List a brief tale;

And, when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!—
The bloody proclamation to escape,
That follow'd me so near, (O our lives' sweetness:
That with the pain of death we'd hourly die,
Rather than die at once!) taught me to shift
Into a madman's rags; to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain'd: and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
Led him, begg'd for him, sav'd him from despair;
Never (O fault!) reveal'd myself unto him,
Until some half-hour past, when I was arm'd,
Not sure. though hoping, of this good success,
I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last
Told him my pilgrimage: But his flaw'd heart,
(Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.

Edm. This speech of yours bath mov'd me, And shall, perchance, do good: but speak you on; You look as you had something more to say.

Alb. If there be more, more woful, hold it in;
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.
Edg.

||
This would have seem'd a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity.

[blocks in formation]

Whilst I was big in clamour, came there a man,
Who having seen me in my worst estate,
Shuun'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
Who 'twas that so endur'd, with his strong arms
He fasten'd on my neck, and bellow'd out
As he'd burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him,
That ever ear receiv'd: which in recounting
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack: Twice then the trumpet sounded,
But who was this?
Edg. Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in dis-
guise

And there I left him tranc'd.
Alb.

Follow'd his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.

Enter a Gentleman hastily, with a bloody knife.

Gent. Help! help! O help!
Edg.
Alb.

What kind of help?

Speak, man.

'Tis hot, it smokes ;

Edg. What means that bloody knife?
Gent.

It came even from the heart of—
Alb.

Who, man? speak.

Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister By her is poison'd; she confesses it.

Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant.

Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead! This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,

Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.

Edg.

Alb. O! it is he.

Enter Kent.

[blocks in formation]

men of stones;

Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack :-O, she is gone
for ever!-

I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She's dead as earth:--Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
Kent.

Is this the promis'd end?3
Edg. Or image of that horror?
Alb.
Fall, and cease !4
Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.

Kent.

O my good master!

[Kneeling.

[blocks in formation]

"Tis noble Kent, your friend. Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors

all!

I might have sav'd her; now she's gone for ever!—
Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
What is't thou say'st?-Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman :-
I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee.
off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.
Lear.

Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting faulchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
Here comes Kent, sir. And these same crosses spoil me.-Who are you?
Mine eyes are none o'the best :-I'll tell you straight.
Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,
One of them we behold.

The time will not allow the compliment,

Which very manners urges.

Kent.

I am come

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.
Alb.

That's but a trifle here.-
You lords, and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come,
Shall be applied: For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,

To him our absolute power :-You, to your rights
[To Edgar and Kent.

(4) i. e. Die; Albany speaks to Lear.
(5) Useless. (6) i. e. Lear.

With boot, and such addition2 as your honours
Have more than merited.-All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings.-Ö, see,
see!
Lear. And my poor fool3 is hang'd! No, no, no
life:

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs. ancient and modern, English and foreign.

My learned friend Mr. Warton,5 who has in The Adventurer very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage

And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund

more,

Never, never, never, never, never!

Pray you, undo this button: Thank sir.-
you,
Do you see this? Look on her,-look,-her lips,
Look there, look there!-
[He dies.
Edg.
He faints! My lord, my lord,-
Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break!
Edg.
Look up, my lord.
Kent. Vex not his ghost:-O, let him pass 4 he
hates him,

That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.

Edg.

O, he is gone, indeed. Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long: He but usurp'd his life.

Alb. Bear them from hence.-Our present busi

ness

Is general wo.

Friends of my soul, you twain
[To Kent and Edgar.
Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls, and I must not say, no.
Alb. The weight of this sad time we must
obey;

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we, that are young,
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

[Exeunt, with a dead march.

destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series by dialogue and action. But 1 am not able to apologize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatic exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to relieve its distress by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered that our author well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote.

The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action is abundantly recompensed by the addition of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opportunity which he gives the poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to impress this important moral, that villany is never at a stop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate in ruin.

But though this moral be incidentally enforced, Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and what is yet more strange, to the faith of chronicles. Yet this conduct is justified by The Spectator, who blames Tate for giving Cordelia success and happiness in his alteration, and declares, that in his opinion, the tragedy has lost half its beauty. Dennis has remarked, whether justly or not, that, to secure the favourable reception of Cato, the town was poisoned with much false and abominable criticism, and that endeavours had been used to discredit and decry poetical justice. A play in which the wicked prosper, and the virtuous mis

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 curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct in-carry, may doubtless be good, because it is a just representation of the common events of human life: terests, the striking oppositions of contrary charac- but since all reasonable beings naturally love justers, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quicktice, I cannot easily be persuaded, that the obsersuccession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual vation of justice makes a play worse; or that, if tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no other excellencies are equal, the audience will not scene which does not contribute to the aggravation always rise better pleased from the final triumph of the distress or conduct to the action, and scarce of persecuted virtue. a line which does not conduce to the progress of the So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.

scene.

dured to read again the last scenes of the play, till I undertook to revise them as an editor.

In the present case the public has decided. Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add any thing to the general suffrage, I might On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, relate, I was many years ago so shocked by Corit may be observed, that he is represented accord-delia's death, that I know not whether I ever ening to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely 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 mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea ty of his daughters is the primary source of his disof times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so

[blocks in formation]

There is another controversy among the critics concerning this play. It is disputed whether the predominant image in Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his kingdom or the cruelty of his daughters. Mr. Murphy, a very judicious critic, has evinced by induction of particular passages, that the cruel

tress, and that the loss of royalty affects him only as a secondary and subordinate evil. He observes, with great justness, that Lear would move our compassion but little, did we not rather consider the injured father than the degraded king.

(4) Die. (5) Dr. Joseph Warton.

« AnteriorContinua »