« AnteriorContinua »
mind, with all its vast riches: it is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage, we see nothing but corporal infirmities and weakness, the impotence of age; while we read it, we see not Lear, but we are Lear, we are in his mind; we are sustained by a grandeur which baffles the malice of his daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason, we discover a mighty, irregular power of reasoning, unmethodized from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind blows where it listeth, at will on the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks or tones to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves, when, in his reproaches to them for conniving at the injustice of his children, he reminds them that 'they themselves are old!' What gesture shall we appropriate to this? What has voice or the eye to do with such things? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show; it is too hard and stony; it must have love-scenes, and a happy ending. It is not
enough that Cordelia is a daughter, she must shine as a lover too. Fate T
has put his hook in the nostrils of this leviathan, for Garrick and his followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw it about more easily. A happy ending!-as if the living martyrdom that Lear had gone through, the flaying of his feelings alive, did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If he is to live and be happy after, if he could sustain this world's burden after, why all this pudder and preparation? why torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy? as if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over again his misused station,as if, at his years, and with his experience, any thing was left but to die."
LEAR, King of Britain.
Earl of Gloster.
EDMUND, Bastard Son to Gloster.
Old Man, Tenant to Gloster.
Servants to Cornwall.
REGAN, Daughters to Lear.
Knights attending on the King, Officers, Messengers, Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE I. A Room of State in King Lear's Palace.
Enter KENT, GLOSTER, and EDMund.
Kent. I THOUGHT the king had more affected the duke of Albany, than Cornwall.
Glo. It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom,' it appears not which of the dukes he values most; for equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety.3
Kent. Is not this your son, my lord?
Glo. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.
Kent. I cannot conceive you.
Glo. Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon she grew round-wombed; and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle, ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
1 There is something of obscurity or inaccuracy in this preparatory scene. The king has already divided his kingdom, and yet, when he enters, he examines his daughters to discover in what proportions he should divide it. Perhaps Kent and Gloster only were privy to his design, which he still kept in his own hands, to be changed or performed as subsequent reasons should determine him.
2 Curiosity is scrupulous exactness.
3 Moiety is used by Shakspeare for part or portion.
Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.1
Glo. But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Though this knave came somewhat saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged.-Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
Edm. No, my lord.
Glo. My lord of Kent. my honorable friend.
Remember him hereafter as
Edm. My services to your lordship.
Kent. I must love you, and sue to know you better. Edm. Sir, I shall study deserving. Glo. He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.
[Trumpets sound within.
Enter LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, Regan, CORDELIA, and Attendants.
Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloster.
Glo. I shall, my liege.
[Exeunt GLOSTER and EDMUND. Lear. Mean time we shall express our darker 2
Give me the map there.-Know that we have divided
wall, And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
1 Proper is comely, handsome.
2 i. e. more secret. The sense is, "We have already made known our desire of parting the kingdom. We will now discover the reasons by which we shall regulate the partition."
3 i. e. our determined resolution. The quartos read "first intent." 4 The quartos read confirming.
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
Which of you, shall we say, doth love us most?
Do love you more than words can wield the matter,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Cor. What shall Cordelia do? Love, and be silent.
Reg. I am made of that self metal as my sister, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
1 A firm, determined will. The lines from while we to prevented now are omitted in the quartos.
2 The two lines in a parenthesis are omitted in the quartos.
3"Beyond all assignable quantity. I love you beyond limits, and cannot say it is so much; for how much soever I should name, it would yet be more."
4 i. e. enriched. So Drant in his translation of Horace's Epistles, 1567:
"To ritch his country, let his words lyke flowing water fall."
5 That is, "estimate me at her value; my love has at least equal claim to your favor. Only she comes short of me in this, that I profess myself