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line, in his fairy legend, from the conqueror Bule, descended from “ royal stock of old Assarac's line,” whose three sons were “born of fair Imogen of Italy.” Lear's father, Baldud, according to the same unerring poetical history, was a man of eminent science, educated at Athens, whose skill left to his posterity “ the boiling baths at Carbadon,” (Bath.) The same tale was told in poem, ballad, and many ruder ways, and had become familiar to the English people; and thus Lear and his “three daughters fair,” belong to the domain of old romance and popular tradition. They have nothing to do with the state of manners or arts in England, or any particular year of the world. They belong to that unreal “ but most potently believed history” whose heroes were the household names of Europe-St. George and his brother champions, King Arthur and Charlemagne, Don Belliani, Roland and his brother Paladins, and many others, for part of whom time has done among those “ who speak the tongue that Shakespeare spoke” what the burning of Don Quixote’s library was meant to do for the knight. But how many of them are still fresh in the immortal lays of Chaucer and Spenser, of Boiando and Ariosto, and in many a well-remembered ballad besides! This story forms part of that lore which Milton loved, and which still

resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son
Begirt with British or Armoric knights.
And all who since, haptized or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont or Montalban ;
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore,
When Charlemain with all his pecrage fell

By Fontarabia. What though this last event is contradicted by all prosaic history ?—still, the long wailing notes of “ Roland's horn,” blown for the last time to tell the tale of defeat and death, has been heard resounding through the poetry of Europe from Milton down to Byron and Scott. No Douce or Malone has ventured to arraign as a grievous offence against historic truth,

the blast of that dread horn
On Foptarabian echoes borne,

That to king Charles did come,
When Rowland brave and Olivier

And every Paladin and peer

On Roncesvalles died. Now, who that is at all familiar with this long train of imaginary history, does not know that it all had its own customs and costume, as well defined as the heathen mythology or the Roman history? All the personages wore the arms and habiliments and obeyed the ceremonials of mediæval chivalry, very probably because these several tales were put into legendary or poetic forin in those days; but whatever was the reason, it was in that garb alone, that they formed the popular literature of Europe in Shakespeare's time. It was a costume well fitted for poetical purposes, familiar in its details to popular understanding, yet so far beyond the habitual associations of readers, as to have some tinge of antiquity; while, (as the admirers of Ariosto and Spenser well know,) it was eminently brilliant and picturesque.

Thus, whether, like Chaucer, the Poet laid his scene of Palamon and Arcite in pagan Athens, under Duke Theseus; or described, with the nameless author of the Morte Arthur, the adventures of the Knights of the Round Table; or with Ariosto, those of the French Paladins; or whether some humbler author told in prose the tale of St. George, or the seven champions; the whole was clothed in the same costume, and the courts and camps of Grecian emperors, British kings, Pagan or Turkish soldans, all pretty much resembled those of Charles of Burgundy, or Richard of England, as described by Froissart and his brethren.

To have deviated from this easy, natural and most convenient conventional costume of fiction, half-believed as history, for the sake of stripping off old Lear's civilized “tendings,” and bringing him to the unsophisticated state of a painted Pictish king, would have shocked the sense of probability in an audience of Elizabeth's reign, as perhaps it would even now. The positive objective truth of history would appear far less probable than the received truth of poetry and romance, of the nursery and the stage.

Accordingly, Shakespeare painted Lear and his times in the attire in which they were most familiar to the imagination of his audience, just as Racine did in respect to the half-fabulous personages of Grecian antiquity, when he reproduced them on the French stage; and of the two, probably the English bard was the nearest to historical truth.

Such is our theory, in support of which we throw down our critical glove, after the manner of chivalry, daring any champion who may deny it, to meet us on some wider field than our present limits can afford. The advantages of this theory are so obvious and manifold, that it certainly deserves to be true, if it is not so in fact. To the reader it clears away all anxiety about petty criticisms or nnachronisms, and “such small deer,” while it presents the drama to his imagination in the most picturesque and poetical attire of which it is susceptible. The artist, too, may luxuriate at pleasure in his decorations, whether for the stage or the canvass, selecting all that he judges most appropriate to the feeling of his scene, from the treasures of the arts of the middle ages, and the pomp and splendour of chivalry, without having before his eyes the dread of some critical antiquary to reprimand him, on the authority of Pugin or Meyrick, for encasing his knights in plate-armour, or erecting Lear's throne in a hall of Norman architecture, a thousand years or more before either Norman arch or plate-armour had been seen in England.

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Scene I.-A Room of State in King LEAR's Kent. Is not this your son, my lord ?
Palace.

Glo. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge : Enter Kent, GLOSTER, and EDMUND.

I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that

now I am brazed to it. Kent. I thought, the king had more affected the Kent. I cannot conceive you. duke of Albany, than Cornwall.

Glo. Sir, this young

ellow's mother could; Glo. It did always seem so to us : but now, in whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, inthe division of the kingdoms, it appears not which deed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husof the dukes he values most; for equalities are so band for her hed. Do you smell a fault ? Weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue

of it being so proper.

of either's moiety.

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SCENE 1.-A Room of State in King LEAR's Kent. Is not this your son, my lord ?
Palace.

Glo. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge:
Enter KENT, GLOSTER, and EDMUND.

I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that

now I am brazed to it. Kent. I thought, the king had more affected the Kent. I cannot conceive you. duke of Albany, than Cornwall.

Glo. Sir,

his young fellow's mother could; Glo. It did always seem so to us : but now, in whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, inthe division of the kingdoms, it appears not which deed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husof the dukes he values most; for equalities are so band for her bed. Do you smell a fault ? weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of either's moiety.

of it being so proper.

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