Page images
PDF
EPUB

But this overwhelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled

In Boswell's “Life of Johnson," we have a more

the folio version for the stage. It is certainly, as it

SCENE IV. stands, not at all clear to the modern reader, and the numerous misprints which swarm in the quartos, au

« With HOAR-DOCKS”-So one quarto; another has thorize the application of conjectural emendation, if

it hor-docks ; and the folio prints it hardokes ; but it i any word can be found at all likely to be so misprinted.

no doubt the saine word. The “hoar-dock," as Site Warburtan, always bold and ingenious, supposes that

vens informs us, is the dock with whitish woolly leaves. the w was a turned M, and that we should therefore

Some commentators read hurlocks, others burduks and have read a “ weiter May.” This does not much better

charlocks ; but the ancient text is to be preserved, if the sense, and unfortunately for the theory, the w in the possible. original copies is not a capital, which would be required “ My mourning, and IMPORTANT tears"_“Importfor an error as to May. Malone took half this amend

ant” is used for importunate, as in the COMEDY OF ment, and reads a “better May.” Theobald reads “ a Errors, and elsewhere, by Shakespeare and his cobetter day," and this is adopted by most later editions

temporaries. as meaning, “the better or best weather, most favour

“ NO BLOWN ambition doth our arms incile."--The able to the productions of the earth, mixed with rain and sunshine.” Stevens also proposes “an April day," and

old Saxon word blown has become obsolete in this Tieck tranlates it into Gerinan, “a spring day.” Le

figurative sense, which has been appropriated to the Tourneur, the French translator, adopting “ better day,"

Latinized word inflated, of the same primitive sense. gives a happy paraphrase, thus:

SCENE V. Vous avez vu le soleil au milieu de la pluie: son sourire et ses pleurs offraient l'image d'un jour plus doux encore.

Let me unseal the letter.”—I know not well why But as none of these emendations carry with them the

Shakespeare gives the steward, who is a mere factor internal evidence of their own truth, I have, with Mr.

of wickedness, so much fidelity. He now refuses the Singer, preferred retaining the original word, under

letter; and afterwards, when he is dying, thinks only standing them in the sense explained by Mr. Boaden in

how it may be safely delivered.-JOHNSON. an ingenious note contributed by him to Singer's edition,

Shakespeare has here incidentally painted, without which strikes me as very satisfactory and probable :--

the formality of a regular moral lesson, one of the very “ The difficulty has arisen from a general mistake as

strange and very common self-contradictions of our enig. to the simile itself; and Shakespeare's own words here

matical nature. Zealous, honourable, even self-sacriactually convey his perfect meaning, as indeed they

ficing fidelity,-sometimes to a chief or leader, sonecommonly do. I understand the passage thus :

times to a party, a faction, or a gang,-appears to be so

little dependant on any principle of virtuous duty, that it You have seen Sunshine and rain at once ; her smiles and tears

is often found strongest among those who have thrown Were like ; a better way.

off the common restraints of morality. It would seem That is, Cordelia's smiles and tears were like the con

that when man's obligations to his God or his kind are junction of sunshine and rain, in a better way or mun

rejected or forgotten, the most abandoned mind still ner. Now in what did this better way consist? Why sympathies, and as it loses sight of nobler and truer

craves something for the exercise of its natural social simply in the smiles seeming unconscious of the tears ;

duties becomes, like the steward, more and more "duwhereas the sunshine has a watery look through the

teous to the vices” of its self-chosen masters. This is falling drops of rain

one of the moral phenomena of artificial society, so Those bappy smiles,

much within the range of Johnson's observation, as an That play'd on bir ripe lip, seem'd not to know What guests were in her eyes.

acute observer of life, that it is strange that he should

not have recognized its truth in Oswald's character. “ That the point of comparison was neither a ' better day,' nor a 'wetter May,' is proved by the follow “ take this NOTE”-i. e. Take this knowledge or ing passages, cited by Stevens and Malone :- Her information. We have before in this play had “note” tears came dropping down like rain in sunshine.'—SID employed in the same sense. NEY'S Arcadia," p. 244. Again, p. 163, edit. 1593 :“And with that she prettily smiled, which, mingled with

Scene VI. tears, one could not tell whether it were a mourning pleasure, or a delightful sorrow; but like when a few

How fearful April drops are scattered by a gentle Zephyrus among

And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low !" fine-coloured Rowers,' Again, in “A Courtlie Contro

“ This description has been much admired since the versie of Cupid's Cautels,' &c., translated from the

time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt French by H. W., [Henry Wotton,] 1578, p. 289 :

at pleasantry, that He who can read it without being • Who hath viewed in the spring time raine and sunne

giddy has a very good head, or a very bad one. The shine in one moinent, might beholde the troubled coun

description is certainly not mean, but I am far from tenance of the gentlewoman-with an eye now smyling,

thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry: then bathed in teares.'

He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by “I may just observe, as perhaps an illustration, that

one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction, the better way of CHARITY is that the right hand should from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the not know what the left hand giveth.”

observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention 10 6 those happy SMILETS.”—This beautiful diminu

distinct objects

. The enumeration of the choughs and tive is found in the original; and though it is doubtless

crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts

the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert Shakespeare's own coinage, not being found in any

of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the raother author, yet there is no reason why it should be altered to smiles, as it has been by all the editors until

pidity of its descent through emptiness and horror."

Johnson, Knight restored it. It makes the third peculiarly Shakespearian word in this play, with reverb for reverberate, and intrinsecate for intricate.

detailed account of his poetical creed, with reference to

this description of Dover Cliff:-" Johnson said tha! the And clamour moisten'd.-A phrase rendered ob

description of the temple, in «The Mourning Bride.

was the finest poetical passage he had ever read : he scure by too great compression, and by an inversion, recollected none in SHAKESPEARE equal to it,but meaning, “she moistened with tears, her clamorous

(How reverend is the face of this tall pile, outcry."

Whosc ancient pillars rear their marble heads,

To bear aloft its arch'd and pond'rous roof,

I'll look no more ;
By its own weight made steadfast and uninoveable,

Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Looking tranquillity! It strikes an awe

Topple down headlong — ?
And terror on my aching sight. The tombs
A nd monumental caves of death look cold,

The mind of Gloster might have thus received some
And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart!)

idea of immense height,' but not an idea that he could * But,' said Garrick, all alarmed for the god of his idol.

appreciate by computation.' The very defects which atry,' we know not the extent of his powers. We are

Johnson imputes to Shakespeare's description constitute

its dramatic merit. We have no hesitation in saying to suppose there are such passages in his works: Shake

further, that they constitute its surpassing poetical speare must not suffer from the badness of our memories.' Johnson, diverted by this enthusiastic jealousy,

beauty, apart from its dramatic propriety." went on with great ardour-No, sir; Congreve has nature,' (smiling on the tragic eagerness of Garrick ;) but, composing himself, he added, "Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole with Shakespeare on the whole, but only maintaining that Congreve has one finer passage than any that can be found in Shakespeare's writings.

What I mean is, that you can show me no passage where there is simply a description of material objects, without any intermixture of moral notions, which produces such an effect.' Mr. Murphy mentioned Shakespeare's description of the night before the battle of Agincourt; but it was observed that it had men in it. Mr. Davies suggested the speech of Juliet, in which she figures herself awaking in her ancestors' tomb. Some one mentioned the description of Dover Cliff. Johnson—No, sir ; it should be all precipice—all vacuum. The crows impede your fall. The diminished appearance of the boats, and other circumstances, are all very good description, but do not impress the mind at once with the horrible idea of immense height. The impression is divided ; you pass on, by computation, from one stage of the tremendous space to another. Had the girl in “The Mourning Bride' said she could not cast her shoe to the top of one of the pillars in the temple, it would not have aided the idea, but weakened it.'",

(Samphire.) The impression made on Johnson by this description, is partly, I think, to be ascribed to his peculiar physical constitution, which could not permit him to look steadily

6 Diminish'd to her cock”-i. e. Her cockboat, often from such a height. Any one who has observed the

called a “cock” in that day; hence cock-swain, still in effect on himself and others, by views from high cliffs use. The bark is not at anchor, but anchoring; her or steeples, must have remarked that many are totally cockboat and the buoy all come in as part of the visual unable to remark the objects immediately below, being picture suggested by the leading idea. like Johnson, overwhelmed and giddy with the single

- Ten masts at each.— So all the old editions. idea of personal danger. Others again, are struck with

Pope supposed that it should have been "attached," the novelty of the diminished size of objects, still dis

her masts fastened together. Johnson, “on end." In tinctly seen as Edgar describes them. With this allow

Rowe's edition, the first popular one of the last age, it ance for Johnson's criticism, I fully agree with the sound

is, “ten masts at least." Malone has shown that and acute remarks of Mr. Knight :

"attach” in that day had not its present sense, but “ Taken as pieces of pure description, there is only meant “ to seize," and was used as now in the law. one way of testing the different value of these passages “ Ten masts at each” means the length of each one. of Shakespeare and Congreve—that is, by considering Although critical research has found no example of a what ideas the mind receives from the different modes

similar use of at each, yet the phrase conveys the adopted to convey ideas. But the criticism of Johnson, even if it could have established that the passage of Con

meaning. greve, taken apart, was finer than that of Shakespeare,

" — of this chalky BOURN.”—In a previous passage, utterly overlooks the dramatic propriety of each pas

• Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me," bourn signifies sage. The girl,' in the Mourning Bride,' is solilo- a river; and so in the “ Faery Queen :"quizing-uttering a piece of versification, harmonious My little boat aan safely pass this perilous bourne. enough, indeed, but without any dramatic purpose. In Milton's “ Comus” we haveThe mode in which Edgar describes the cliff is for the

And every bosky bourn from side to side. special information of the blind Glosterone who could

Here, as Warton well explains the word, bourn is a not look from a precipice. The crows and choughs,

winding, deep, and narrow valley, with a rivulet at the the samphire-gatherer, the fisherman, the bark, the surge that is seen but not heard-each of these, incidental to

bottom. Such a spot is a bourn because it is a boundthe place, is selected as a standard by which Gloster

ary-a natural division ; and this is the sense in which can measure the altitude of the cliff. Transpose the

a river is called a bourn. The “chalky bourn” in the description into the generalities of Congreve's descrip- passage before us is, in the same way, the chalky tion of the cathedral, and the dramatic propriety at least

boundary of England towards France.—Knight. is utterly destroyed.' The height of the cliff is then only “ — and wav'd like the ENRIDGED sea.”—This is the presented as an image to Gloster's mind upon the vague reading of the quartos. The folio, enraged, Enridged assertion of his conductor. Let the description begin, is the more poetical word, and Sha speare has the idea for example, something after the fashion of Congreve,- in his VENUS AND ADONIS : How fearful is the edge of this high cliff!

Till the wild waves will have him seen no more, and continue with a proper assortment of chalky crags

Whose ridges with the meeting clouds contend.— Knight. and gulfs below. of what worth then would be Édgar's like a CROW-KEEPER.”—The crow-keeper was concluding lines,

the rustic who kept crows from corn-one unpractised in the proper use of the bow. Ascham, in his “ Tox

[graphic]

Scene VII. ophilus," thus describes one who “handles his bow like a crow-keeper :"_" Another cowereth down, and

" -- (poor perdu !)”–Reed has shown that this allulayeth out his buttocks as though he should shoot at

sion is to the forlorn hope of an army, called in Frenca crows."

enfans perdus ;" among other desperate adventures in

which they were engaged, the night-watches seen to 6 — draw me a CLOTHIER'S YARD.” Draw like have been common. Warburton is wrong in supprising a famous English archer,- the archer of “ Chevy that those ordered on such services, were lightly or Chase”_

badly armed, the contrary is the fact, and such is ibe An arrow of a cloth yard long

allusion of the Poet : Poor perdu, you are exposed to Up to the head he drew.

the most dangerous situation, not with the most proper “ Bring up the brown bills.”—The bills for bill- arins, but with a mere helmet of thin and hoary hair." men--the infantry. Marlowe uses the phrase in his The same allusion occurs in Davenant's “ Lore and “ Edward II. :"

Honour," 1649:

I have endured
Lo, with a band of bowmen and of pikes,
Brown bills, and targetiers.

Another night would tire a perdu

More than a wet furrow and great frost. įthe clouT”—Lear fancies himself present at a

So in Beaumont and Fletcher's“ Little French Lawyer;" trial of skill in archery; the clout was the white mark

I am set here like a perdu, at which aim was taken.

To watch a fellow that has wronged my mistress. “To say "ay,' and no,' to every thing I said.—To

Mine enemy's dog, assent to everything I asserted or denied, however

Though he had bit me, should have stood that night contradictory to each other such assertions might be.

Against my fire.The “no good divinity” seems to allude to some scrip

The late John W. Jarvis, to whose faithful and spirtural passage, such as St. Paul's, “Our word toward

ited portraits, posterity will owe the living resemblance you was not yea and nay.” The obscurity of the pas

of so many of the eminent men of America during the sage may be ascribed to Lear's broken and digressive

first thirty years of this century, when great men were sentences, and therefore the reading, in which the old

numerous among us, and good painters very scaree, copies all agree, is here retained. Yet there is great

used often to quote these lines as accumulating in the probability that the Poet wrote, as has been suggested,

shortest compass the greatest causes of dislike to be thus : “To say Ay and No to every thing I said Ay

overcome by good-natured pily. It is not merely the and No to (easily changed into too, from the similarity

personal enemy, for whom there might be human symof the sound) was no good divinity.”

pathy, that is admitted to the family fireside, but his “PLATE sin with gold.In the old copies, Place. dog, and that a dog who had himself inflicted his own This happy and just correction was made by Pope. share of personal injury, and that too upon a gentle This a good block._Stevens conjectures that,

being from whom it was not possible that he could have when Lear says, “I will preach to thee," and begins

received any provocation. his sermon, " When we are born, we cry,” he takes How does my royal lord—No passage in this or his hat in his hand, and, turning it round, dislikes the any other drama, can surpass this scene, where Lear fashion or shape of it, which was then called the block. recognizes Cordelia, and in the intervals of distraction He then starts off, by association with the hat, to the asks forgiveness of his wronged child. Mrs. Jameson delicate stratagem of shoeing a troop of horse with beautifully remarks: “The subdued pathos and simfelt. Lord Herbert, in his “Life of Henry VIII.," plicity of Cordelia's character, her quiet but intense describes a joust at which Henry was present in France, feeling, the misery and humiliation of the bewildered where horses shod with felt were brought into a marble old man, are brought before us in so few words, and hall,

sustained with such a deep intuitive knowledge of the

innermost working of the human heart, that as there is Then, KILL," etc.--Kill was the ancient word of onset in the English army.

nothing surpassing this scene in Shakespeare himself,

so there is nothing that can be compared with it in any “ Che vor’ye, or Ise try whether your costARD or other writer." my Ballow be the harder”—Edgar is affecting a rustic dialect, and the meaning of this sentence is, “ I warn

No, sir, you must not kneel.”—This natural and you, or I'll try whether your head or my cudgel be the

touching incident is one of the few things which Shakeharder." Balo means a beam, in Norfolk, and “bal

speare owes to the older “ Leir." He makes her lineel low," a pole, in the north of England. See Holloway's

for Lear's blessing, and he kneels to her. In the old “ Provincial Dictionary.” Stevens observes that when

play, Cordella kneels to her father on discovering herthe old writers introduced a rustic, they commonly gave

self, and Leir replies,– him the Somersetshire dialect which Edgar here uses.

O stand thou up, it is my part to kneel,

And ask forgiveness of my former faults. Thee Pll RAKE up”-i. e. Cover up. At the end of

Cor. O if you wish I should enjoy my breath, this speech, modern editors add,“ Exit Edgar, dragging

Dear father rise, or I receive my death. out the body;" but it has no warrant in any of the old

The idea of the pathetic action of the father and daugbfolios, and the probability is, that Edgar was supposed

ter kneeling to each other, is all that is borrowed the to bury Oswald on the spot. After he has done so, he

feeling and poetry are Shakespeare's own. addresses Gloster, “Give me your hand,” without any 66 — not an hour more nor less”—The quartos omit re-entrance being marked in any recent copies of the these words, and Malone and others decided that they play. While modern editors insert needless stage- were interpolated by the player. We see no ground directions, they omit, further on, one that is necessary, for this belief, and though the insertion of them varies and that is found in every old impression, folio and the versification, it is not complete as the text stands quarto—“Drum afar off.”—COLLIER.

in the quartos. In Lear's state of mind, this broken Johnson and the English annotators say that “to mode of delivering his thoughts is natural; and when rake up the fire” is a Staffordshire phrase for covering we find “not an hour more or less” in the folio of 1623, the fire for the night. It seems to be an old English we have no pretence for rejecting the words as not phrase which has become obsolete and provincial, with written by Shakespeare.—COLLIER. the disuse of the wood fires, but it is common in Am- “ Every reader of SHAKESPEARE who has become erica for covering over the embers, though done with a familiar with this most exquisite scene through the shovel.

modern editions, has read it thus :

Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish, fond old man,
Fourscore and upward; and, to deal plainly,

I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Chat most Shakespearian touch of nature-

Fourscore and upward, not an hour more por less ;las been mutilated by the editors. The breaking a imb off an ancient statue would, to our minds, not be 1 greater sacrilege. They found the words, not an wour more nor less,' only in the folio, and they thereore rejected them. Malone says, “The folio absurdly adds, not an hour more nor less,' i. e. Not an hour more nor less than an indeterminate number, for such is fourscore and upwards.' Why, who is speaking? One who speaks logically and collectedly? No! one who immediately after says, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.' It was the half-consciousness of the foolish, fond old man' which Shakespeare meant to express by the mixture of a determinate and an indeterminate idea--a depth of poetical truth which Stevens and Ritson call the interpolation of some foolish player.'”_Knight.

To make him EVEN oʻer the time he has lost”-i. e. It is dangerous to make what has passed during his insanity plain or level to his mind, in his present unsettled state.

66

ACT V.-SCENE 1. Not bolds the king.”—“This business (says Albany) touches us as France invades our land, not as it bolds the king," &c., i, e, emboldens him to assert his former title. In Arthur Hall's translation of the Iliad," 1581, we find,

And Pallas bolds the Greeks, STEVENS. “HERE is the guess of their TRUE strength”—The quartos, with as clear a sense, give « Hard is the guess of their great strength.” According to the folio, which text we have adopted, we must suppose that Edmund hands to Albany some paper, containing a statement of “the guess” of the strength of the enemy.

And hardly shall I CARRY OUT MY SIDE”—To carry out a side was an old idiomatic expression for success, probably derived from playing games in which different sides were taken. In one of the “ Paston Letters," we read “Heydon's son hath borne out his side stoutly here.” In “ The Maid's Tragedy,” (Beaumont and Fletcher,) Dula refuses the aid of Aspatia, saying, “She will pluck down a side,” meaning, that if they were to be partners, Aspatia would lose the game. To pluck doun a side was, therefore, the reverse of carrying out a side. Edmund observes that he should hardly be able to win the game he was playing, while the husband of Goneril was living.-COLLIER.

common exclamation of the time, which occurs in Much Ado ABOUT NOTHING, " What the good year, my lord,” which has been sometimes mistaken by the commentators for an illusion to the “goujeers" or goujeres. Farmer accuses Florio of a similar blunder, in rendering mal anno a good year ; the fact is, that he translates it properly an ill year, in both editions of his Italian Dictionary, in 1598 and 1611, without mentioning good year at all.—COLLIER.

Knight, however, retains the “good year” and adopts the explanation of Tieck, the celebrated German translator and critic, who thus lectures the English editors for not understanding their own native language :

“ The good yeares' of the folio is used ironically for the bad year—the year of pestilence; and, like il mal anno of the Italians, had been long used as a curse in England. And yet the editors, who understood the Poet as little as their own language, made out of this -the goujeersmorbus gallicus. Why, even old Florio, who might have known pretty well, is tutored that, when he translates it il mal anno by good year, he ought to have written goujeers.

The which IMMEDIACY."--Nares, in his valuable glossary, says “that this word, so far as is known, is peculiar to this passage;" it was probably the Poet's own coinage to express the close and immediate delegation of power without any thing intervening, as the adjective immediate is used in HAMLET; “ the most immediate to the throne.”

“ — THE WALLs are thine"-A metaphorical phrase, signifying to surrender, like a town.

The let-alone lies not in your good will.- Albany tells his wise, that though she has a good will to obstruct her sister's love, it is not in her power.

Trust to thy single virtue"__" Virtue” here sig. nifies valour; a Roman sense of the word. Raleigh says, “The conquest of Palestine with singular virtue they achieved.”

Upon this call o' the trumpet—This is according to the ceremonials of the trial by combat:-_The appellant and his procurator first come to the gate. The constable and inarshal demand, by voice of herald, what he is and why he comes so arrayed.-SELDEN'S Duello.

The critic who is disposed to denounce the introduction of the laws and principles of chivalry into the reign of Lear, must recollect that this refers to that period of British history of which Geoffrey of Monmouth and his Armorican original are the annalists. If we are to receive the times of Lear and his successors historically at all, we must take them as these authors describe them, and they expressly describe the usages and opinions of chivalry, its tournaments and knights, “its ladies and its pomp," as in full glory under King Arthur, five hundred years before the Christian era. “ And that thy TONGUE some 'SAY”—

_“ 'Say” is assay, i. e. sample or taste, and is often found in this form in the old poets and dramatists.

Ask me not what I know"--Albany again appeals to Goneril whether she knows the paper, and in all the quartos the answer is assigned to her, who then goes out. The folio, having fixed her exit after “Who can arraign me for't ?” transfers “ Ask me not what I know" to Edmund, which is followed in Knight's edition. The internal evidence is not decisive either way.

6 — our pleasant vices

Make instruments to PLAGUE us." The quartos read scourge for “plague;" an equally good sense, and followed by many editions.

This would hare seem'd a period.—This passage is omitted in the folio, and the obscurity probably arises

[blocks in formation]

reverses.

from some omission, or other error of the press, in the The quarto reads, “She loved or hated,” which coobris only old copies which preserve it, and our readers have this explanation; but either reading will express the seen in the " Introductory Remarks” to this play, the same sense.—M. Mason. careless manner in which those first editions were print- If we take the folio reading, “loved and hated," is ed. Jackson boldly conjectures, “ would have seemed a this the sense ?_“If Fortune should boast of two pe pyramid," and reads in the next line but one, “ to am- sons who had in turn received her highest farours and plify truth much;” which gives another equally harsh injuries, Lear is one of them.” In other words, there meaning. Until some more satisfactory emendation is can be but one besides Lear who has suffered sd proposed, nothing can be done beyond giving the reader the substance of the explanations of former commenta

This is a dull sight."--Some have taken the tors, which are far from satisfactory.

the sense of Macbeth's “ This is a sorry sight." Be Stevens gives the following explanation :-“ This

it surely refers to Lear's consciousness of his faigne would have seemed a period to such as love not sorrow,

eyesight, one of the common prognostics of the apbut-another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another

proach of death from the decay of nature, as Lear s period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as

here painted. will increase the horrors of what has been already told.” It will be neccessary, if we admit this interpre- “ have FORDONE themsel res"-We hare before tation, to point the passage thus :

been told in this scene that Goneril “ fordid berseli*

or destroyed herself. One of the quartos has ferbut another: (To amplify too much, would make much more,

doome themselves," the other quartos print it for A od top extremity,)

doom'd. Nevertheless, only Goneril had “fordone Whilst I was big, &c.

herself. Malone's explanation is :-“ This would have seemed

What comfort to this GREAT DECAY may come." – the utmost completion of woe, to such as do not delight

This great decay is Lear, whom Shakespeare poetically in sorrow, but another, of a different disposition, to

calls so, and means the same as if he had said, this amplify misery, 'would give more strength to that

piece of decay'd royalty, this ruin’d majesly. Thos which hath too much ;'”—referring to the bastard's

Gloster laments Lear's frenzy,desiring to hear more, and to Albany's thinking that

O ruin'd piece of nature! enough had been said.

Again, in Julius CÆSAR :" threw me on my father-So every old copy ;

Thou art the ruins of the noblest man, de. but many editors read threw him on my father," because, says Stevens, in a note of his, “there is a And my poor rool is hang’d.Poor fool was, tragic propriety in Kent's throwing himself on his in the language of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, deceased friend, but this is lost in the act of clumsily a common phrase of affectionate kindness, applied to tumbling a son over the lifeless remains of his father." any person or thing, where some feeling for helplessYet as the old text is clear in every original edition ness or misfortune was mixed with natural tenderness, containing the lines, and as it is not likely that Me somewhat as we now familiarly say “poor thing," in should have been mistaken for him, I have (with Ma- commiseration or endearment. lone and Collier) adhered to the old text, admitting, Thus Shakespeare, in bis poem of VENUS AND ADONIS, that it is more natural that Kent, in grief, should have applies it to the young lover :thrown himself upon Gloster, than that, in his violence,

The poor

fool prays that he may depart. he should have thrown himself upon his father's body. Beatrice sportively calls her own heart thus: “poor “ Who dead ? Speak, man”_We follow the folio : || fool, it keeps on the windy side of care.” Brooke, in

his “Romeus and Juliet," which our Poet bad so the quartos with many modern editions, read thus :

largely used in his play, thus applies the phrase to bis Gent. It's hot, it smokes: it came from the heart of,Alb. Who, man? speak.

hero:In the next line but one, “she hath confess'd it" of Ne how to unloose his bonds, does the poor fool devise. the quarto seems more proper than “she confesses it”

Many similar passages have been collected by the comof the folio.

mentators. With this customary and familiar use of Is this the promis'd end”-i. e. the promised end of the phrase, when the whole interest of the scene is the world, according to the interpretation of Monck

fixed on Cordelia's death, and Lear himself is in the Mason. Consistently with this, Edgar returns “ Or same breath addressing her, (" And thou no breath at image of thut horror ?" i. e. Or only a resemblance of

all? Thou'lt come no more,") it seems to me evident that dread day ?—just as Macbeth calls the murdered

that it is to Cordelia alone that the phrase can allude. Duncan “the great doom's image."

But Sir Joshua Reynolds maintains that the Poet here

meant to inform his audience of the fate of the Fool, Fall and cease.”—Albany is looking on the pains

who has been silently withdrawn from the scene. He employed by Lear to recover his child, and knows to

has supported this opinion with so much ingennity as to what miseries he must survive, when he finds them to be ineffectual. Having these images present to his eyes

the main question, and with such just and delicate criti.

cisms as to collateral points, that his note cannot be and imagination, he cries out, “ Rather fall, and cease

omitted here. We inclose it in the substance of the to be, at once, than continue in existence only to be

opposing arguments of Stevens and Malone : wretched.” So, in All's WELL THAT Ends WELL, to

“ This is an expressson of tenderness for his dead cease is used for to die ; and in HAMLET, the death of majesty is called “the cease of majesty."

Cordelia, (not his Fool, as some have thought,) on

whose lips he is still intent, and dies away while he is Again, in All's WELL THAT Ends WELL :

searching there for indications of life.
Or, cre they meet, in me, 0 nature, cease!
Both suffer under this complaint you bring,

Poor fool, in the age of Shakespeare, was an And both shall cease, without your remedy.--Stevens.

expression of endearment. So, in King HENRY VI., The word is used in nearly the same sense in a for

PART III. :mer scene in this play.

So many wecks cre the poor fools will yean. “ of two she lov'd and hated.—The meaning of

Again, in ROMEO AND JULIET:this passage appears to be this:-If Fortune, to display

And, pretty fool, it stinted and said--ay. the plenitude of her power, should brag of two persons,

Again, in the Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, where one of whom she had highly elevated, and the other Julia is speaking of her lover, Proteus : she had wofully depressed, we now behold the latter.

A las, poor fool! why do I pity him?

« PreviousContinue »