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THE Stationers' Registers contain the following memorandum concerning this tragedy, under the date, November 26th, 1607; “ Na. Butler and Jo. Busby] Entered for their copie under ť hands of Sir Geo. Bucke, Kt. and the Wardens, a booke talled Mr. Willm Shakespeare his Hystorye of Kinge Lear, as yt was played before the King's Majestie at Whitehall, upon St. Stephen's night at Christmas last, by his Majesties servants playing usually at the Globe on the Bank-side.” which proves that it was acted at court, on the 26th of December 1606. In 1608, no less than three editions of it in quarto were issued, all by the same stationer. One of these is intituled,—“Mr. William Shak-speare: His True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the vnfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humorr of Tom of Bedlam. As it was played before the kings Maiestie at Whitehall upon S. Stephens night in Christmas Hollidayes. By his Maiesties seruants playing vsually at the Gloabe, on the Bancke-side.—London, Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Churchyard at the signe of the Pide Bull neere St. Austins Gate. 1608.
The two other impressions are described as,—“M. William Shake-speare, His True Chronicle History of the life and death of King Lear, and his three Daughters. With the vnfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Glocester, and his sullen and assumed humour of Tom of Bedlam. As it was plaid before the Kings Maiesty at White-hall, vppon S. Stephens night, in Christmas Hollidaies. By his Maiesties Seruants, playing vsually at the Globe, on the Banck-side.—Printed for Nathaniel Butter. 1608."
No other edition of “King Lear” has been discovered, prior to that of the folio 1623, which differs materially from the text of the quartos, chiefly in the omission of large portions of matter found in the latter, in numberless minute verbal changes, and also by the addition of about fifty lines peculiar to itself. The omissions appear to have been made for the better adapting the piece to representation, and a careful comparison of the quarto and folio texts convinces us that, unlike that of Richard III., the text of Lear in the folio is taken from a later and revised copy of the play. Whether the curtailment is the work of the author, it is impossible now to determine; it is not always judicious, and some of the substitutions are inferior to the language they displace; yet, on the other hand, the additions which we meet with in the folio bear the undoubted mark of Shakespeare's mint, and while the metrical arrangement of the speeches in that edition has been carefully regarded, the text of the quartos is printed in parts without any observance of prosodial construction. With respect to the date of its composition, Steevens remarks, that King Lear, or at least the whole of it, could not have been
written till after the publication of Harsnet's Discovery of Popish Impostures, in 1603, because the names of the fiends mentioned by Edgar are borrowed from that work.
The story of King Lear and his daughters was so popular in Shakespeare's time, that he may have taken it from Geoffrey of Monmouth ; from the legend “How Queene Cordila in dispaire slew her selfe, The yeare before Christ 800," in the “ Mirror for Magistrates ;" from Spenser's “ Fairie Queene,” b. ii. c. x. ; or, from Holinshed. There was, indeed, an old anonymous play on the subject, an edition of which was put forth in 1605, under the title of “The True Chronicle History of King Leir, and his Three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella : ” mainly in consequence it would seem of the great popularity of the present drama then “ running" at the Globe theatre ; the publishers probably trusting to foist the elder production upon the public as Shakespeare's work; but from this piece he appears to have derived nothing, unless, perhaps, some hint for the character of Kent.
The episode of Gloucester and his two sons was probably founded on Book II. chap. x. of Sidney's Arcadia, “ The pitifull state and storie of the Paphlagonian unkinde king, and his kind sonne ;” &c. which together with the legend of “ Queene Cordila,” from “ The Mirror for Magistrates," are reprinted in Mr. Collier's " Shakespeare's Library," Vol. II.
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER, and EDMUND. my account: though this knave came something
saucily into * the world before he was sent for, yet KENT. I thought the king had more affected was his mother fair ; there was good sport at his the duke of Albany than Cornwall.
making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Glo. It did always seem so to us : but now, in -Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund ? the division of the kingdom, it appears not which EDM. No, my lord. of the dukes he values most ; for equalities * are Glo. My lord of Kent: remember him hereso weighed, that curiosity in neither can make after as my honourable friend. choice of either's moiety."
Edm. My services to your lordship. KENT. Is not this your son, my lord ?
KENT. I must love you, and sue to know you Glo. His breeding, sir, hath been at my better. charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge Edm. Sir, I shall study deserving. him, that now I am brazed to 't.
Glo. He hath been out nine years, and away KENT. I cannot conceive
he shall again.—The king is coming. Glo. Sir, this young fellow's mother could :
[Trumpets sound without. 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 ?
Enter LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants. of it being so proper.
Glo. But I have, sir, a sont by order of law, LEAR. Attend the lords of France and Bursome year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in gundy, Gloster.
(*) First folio, qualities. (t) First folio, a Sonne, Sir. a - Albany-] Scotland was anciently called Albany.
b - can make choice of either's moiety.) “The qualities and properties of the several divisions are so weighed and balanced
(*) First folio, lo. against one another, that the exactest scrutiny could not determine in preferring one share to the other."- WARBURTON.
Glo. I shall, my liege.
With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d, [Excunt GLOUCESTER and EDMUND. With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, LEAR. Meantime we shall express our darker We make thee lady: to thine and Albany's issue* purpose. [divided Be this perpetual.—What says
our second Give me the map there.-Know that we have
daughter, In three our kingdom: and 'tis our fastb intent Our dearest Regan, wife to † Cornwall ? speak. I To shake all cares and business from our age; Reg. I am made of that self metal as my Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
sister, Unburden'd crawl toward death. Our son of And prize me at her worth. In my true heazt Cornwall,
I find she names my very deed of love ; And you, our no less loving son of Albany, Only she comes too short,—that I profess We have this hour a constant will to publish Myself an enemy to all other joys, Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife Which the most precious square' of sense posMay be prevented now. The princes, France and
And find I am alone felicitate Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love, In your dear highness' love. Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn, CORD. [Aside.] Then poor Cordelia ! And here are to be answer'd.—Tell me, my And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's daughters,
More richer than my tongue. (Since now we will divest us, both of rule,
LEAR. To thee and thine, hereditary ever, Interest of territory, cares of state,“)
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom ; Which of you shall we say doth love us most ? No less in space, validity, and pleasure, That we our largest bounty may extend
Than that conferr'd on Goneril.--Now, our joy, Where nature doth with merit challenge.—Goneril
, Although our last, not least ;to whose young love Dur eldest-born, speak first.
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy, Gon. Sir, I love you more than words Strive to be interess’d; what can you say, to draw wield the matter ;
A third more opulent than your sisters ? Speak. Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
CORD. Nothing, my lord. Beyond what can be valu’d, rich or rare;
LEAR. Nothing ! No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, CORD. Nothing.' honour;
LEAR. Nothing will come of nothing: speak As much as child e'er lov’d, or father found;
again. A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable ; CORD. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave Beyond all manner of so much I love you. My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty CORD. [Aside.] What shall Cordelia do ? + According to my bond ; nor more nor less. Love, and be silent.
LEAR. How, how, Cordelia ! mend your speech LEAR. Of all these bounds, even from this line
a little, to this,
Lest it || may mar your fortunes.
(*) First folio, word.
(+) First folio, speake. a Darker purpose.-] Secret, hidden purpose.
b-fast intent-] The quartos read, first intent; but "fast intent," signifying fixed, settled intent, is, like "darker purpose," and constant will," peculiarly in Shakespeare's manner.
- while we
Unburden'd crawl toward death.] The passage commencing with these words, down to “May be prevented now," does not occur in the quartos.
(Since now we will divest us, both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,) ] The quartos omit these two lines.
With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,-) So the folio : the quartos read only,
"With shady forrests, and wide-skirted meads." r Square of sense- ] By square of sense, if square is not a corruption, may be meant the complement or compass of sense.
Mr. Collier's annotator suggests, " sphere of sense; " but what is " sphere of sense?"
More richer than my tongue.] The folio reads, "More ponderous," &c.
b Although our last, not least; &c.] In the quartos this passage stands,
(*) First folio, issues.
(+) First folio, of.
(IL) First folio, you.
What can you say to win a third, more opulent
Then your sisters?”
“ Although our last and least; to whose yong love,
The Vines of France, and Milke of Burgundie,
A third, more opilent than your Sisters speake."
PEELE'S Polyhymnia, “Though I speak last, my lord, I am not least."
MIDDLEton's Mayor of Queenborough., Act I. Sc. 3. And
" My last is, and not least."
Good my lord, Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
LEAR. But goes thy heart with this ?
Ay, good my + lord. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
LEAR. So young, and so untender ?
(*) First folio omits, To love my father all. Half my love with him, half
(t) First folio, my good.