Page images

Reg. That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.

Gon. You see how full of changes his age is ; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off, appears too grossly.

Reg. 'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.

Gon. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted condition, but, therewithal, the unruly waywardness that infirm and cholerick years bring with them.

Reg. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.

Gon. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together : If our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.

Reg. We shall further think of it.
Gon. We must do something, and i' the heat.?

esther think and i' the hemount.

A Hall in the Earl of Gloster's Castle.

Enter EDMUND, with a Letter.
Edm. Thou, nature, art my goddess ;8 to thy law
Es of long-engrafted condition,] i. e. of qualities of mind,
confirmed by long habit.

6 let us hit-] i. e. let us agree. I the heat.] i.e. We must strike while the iron's hot.

8 Thou, nature, art my goddess ;] Edmund calls nature his god. dess, for the same reason that we call a bastard a natural son ; one,

My services are bound : Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom ;' and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me, .
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother. Why bastard ? wherefore base ?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base : with baseness ? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality,
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,..
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake?-Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land :
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund,
As to the legitimate : Fine word, -legitimate!'
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow ; I prosper :
Now, gods, stand up for bastards! :

Glo. Kent banish'd thus! And France in choler

parted! And the king gone to-night! subscrib'd his power !3 Confin'd to exhibition !* All this done who according to the law of nature, is the child of his father, but according to those of civil society is nullius filius.

9 Stand in the plague of custom ;] Wherefore should I acquiesce, submit tamely to the plagues and injustice of custom?.

'The curiosity of nations -] i. e. the idle, nice distinctions of the world.

? — to deprive me,] To deprive was, in our author's time, synonymous to disinherit. 13 subscrib'd his power!] To subscribe in Shakspeare is to yield, or surrender.

4- exhibition !] is allowance. The term is yet used in the universities.

Upon the gad!5_ Edmund! How now; what news ?

. Edm. So please your lordship, none.

[Putting up the Letter. Glo. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that

Edm. I know no news, my lord.
Glo. What paper were you reading?
Edm. Nothing, my lord.

Glo. No? what needed then that terrible despatch of it into your pocket ? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let's see: Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles .

Edm. I beseech you, sir, pardon me: it is a-letter from iny brother, that I have not all o'er-read; for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your over-looking. Glo. Give me the letter, sir.

Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

Glo. Let's see, let's see.

Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue. Glo. [Reads.] This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our olăness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fondo bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny ; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother,

5 All this done

Upon the gad!] i. e. is done suddenly, or as before, while the iron is hot. Agad is an iron bar. 6 - idle and fond-] Weak and foolish. VOL. VIII.


Edgar.-Humph-Conspiracy !-Sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue,-My son Edgár! Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it in ?-When came this to you? Who brought it?

Edm. It was not brought me, my lord, there's the cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the case. ment of my closet.

Glo. You know the character to be your brother's ?

Edm. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it were not. Glo. It is his.

Edm. It is his hand, my lord; but I hope, his heart is not in the contents. · Glo. Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?

Edm. Never, my lord : But I have often heard him maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

Glo. O villain, villain !- His very opinion in the letter!«Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish!-Go, sirrah, seek him ; I'll apprehend him :- Abominable villain !Where is he?

Edm. I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother, till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course; where, if you? violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him,


where, if you-] Where, for whereas,

that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour, 8 and no other pretence of danger.

Glo. Think you so?

Edm. If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and that without any further delay than this very evening.

Glo. He cannot be such a monster.
Edm. Nor is not, sure. .

Glo. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him.-Heaven and earth !-Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you ; frame the business after your own wisdom: I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.'

Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business 2 as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.

Glo. These late eclipses in the sun and moon por. tend no good to us : Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects : love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies ; in countries, discord ; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked between son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father : the king falls from bias of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the best

8 to your honour,] It has been already observed that this was the usual mode of address to a lord in Shakspeare's time.

9_ pretence-] Pretence is design, purpose. I I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.] i. e. he would give all he possessed to be certain of the truth ; for that is the meaning of the words to be in a due resolution.

a convey the business—] To convey is to carry through ; in this place it is to manage artfully: we say of a juggler, that he has a clean conveyance.

3 — the wisdom of nature-] That this, though natural phi. losophy can give account of eclipses, yet we feeltheir consequences.

« PreviousContinue »