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Line 164. When nobles are their tailors' tutors ;] i. e. invent fashions for them. WARBURTON,
Line 165. No hereticks burn'd, but wenches' suitors:] The disease to which wenches' suitors are particularly exposed was called, in Shakspeare's time, the brenning or burning. JOHNS. Vide also Isaiah, iii. 24.
ACT III. SCENE IV.
Line 237. In, boy; go first. &c.] These two lines are very judiciously intended to represent that humility, or tenderness, or neglect of forms, which affliction forces on the mind.
JOHNSON. Line 265. --led through fire and through flame,] Alluding to the ignis fatuus, supposed to be lights kindled by mischievous beings to lead travellers into destruction. JOHNSON.
Line 267. laid knives under his pillow,] He recounts the temptations by which he was prompted to suicide; the opportunities of destroying himself, which often occurred to him in his melancholy moods. JOHNSON. Line 273. -taking!] To take is to blast, or strike with malignant influence. JOHNSON. Line 294.pelican daughters.] The young pelican is fabled to suck the mother's blood. JOHNSON. Line 305.wore gloves in my cap,] i. e. His mistress's favours which was the fashion of that time. WARBURTON. light of ear,] Credulous of evil, ready to receive malicious reports. JOHNSON. Line 337. -web and the pin,] Diseases of the eye. JOHNSON.
Line 427. but a provoking merit,] Cornwall, I suppose, means the merit of Edmund, which, being noticed by Gloster, provoked or instigated Edgar to seek his father's death.
Line 451. Frateretto calls me; and tells me, Nero is an angler
&c.] Nero is introduced in the present play above 800 years before he was born. MALONE.
Line 490. Sleepest, or wakest &c.] This seems to be a stanza of some pastoral song. Line 519. brach, or lym; &c.] A brache signified a particular kind of hound, and also a bitch. A lym or lyme, was a blood-hound. MALONE.
Line 525. -thy horn is dry.] Men that begged under pretence of lunacy used formerly to carry a horn, and blow it through the streets. JOHNSON.
Line 532. -you will say, they are Persian attire;] Alluding, perhaps, to Clytus refusing the Persian robes offered him by Alexander. STEEVENS.
Line 566. free things,] States clear from distress.
-575. Mark the high noises;] Attend to the great events that are approaching, and make thyself known when that false opinion now prevailing against thee shall, in consequence of just proof of thy integrity, revoke its erroneous sentence, and recall thee to honour and reconciliation. JOHNSON,
ACT III. SCENE VII.
Line 591. my lord of Gloster.] Meaning Edmund, newly invested with his father's titles. The Steward, speaking immediately after, mentions the old earl by the same title.
Line 596. Hot questrists after him.] A questrist is one who goes in search or quest of another. STEEVENS.
Line 606. Though well we may not pass upon
-yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath,] To do a courtesy is to gratify, to comply with. To pass, is to pass a judicial sen
Line 612. corky arms.] Dry, withered, husky arms.
JOHNSON. -the course.] The running of the dogs upon me. JOHNSON.
Line 695, the overture of thy treasons-] Overture is here used for an opening or discovery. MALONE.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
Line 25. Our mean secures us ;] Mean, i. e, a moderate or middle state (substantive).
I cannot daub it—] i. e. Disguise.
90. Let the superfluous,] Lear has before uttered the same sentiment, which indeed cannot be too strongly impressed, though it may be too often repeated. JOHNSON.
Line 91. That slaves your ordinance, &c.] To slave an ordinance, is to treat it as a slave, to make it subject to us, instead of acting in obedience to it. STEEVENS.
ACT IV. SCENE II.
Line 106. -our mild husband-] It must be remembered that Albany, the husband of Goneril, disliked, in the end of the first Act, the scheme of oppression and ingratitude. JOHNS.
Line 141. I have been worth the whistle.] This expression is a reproach to Albany for having neglected her. JOHNSON, Line 147. She that herself will sliver and disbranch-] To sliver signifies to tear off or disbranch. WARBURTON. Line 163, -like monsters of the deep.] Fishes are the only animals that are known to prey upon their own species.
Line 179. Thou changed and self-cover'd thing,] I think that by self-cover'd the author meant, thou that hast disguised nature by wickedness; thou that hast hid the woman under the fiend. JOHNSON.
ACT IV. SCENE III.
Enter- -and a Gentleman.] The gentleman whom he sent in the foregoing act with letters to Cordelia.
Line 263. Let pity not be believed !] i. e. Let not such a thing as pity be supposed to exist.
Line 265. -clamour moisten'd;] That is, her out-cries were accompanied with tears.
-govern our conditions ;] i. e. regulate our disMALONE. -one self mate and mate-] The same husband JOHNSON.
Line 269. and the same wife.
Self is used here, as in many other places in these plays, for selfMALONE.
ACT IV. SCENE IV.
important-] In other places of this author,
Line 326. for importunate.
Line 327. No blown ambition-] No inflated, no swelling pride. Beza on the Spanish Armada:
"Quam bene te ambitio mersit vanissima, ventus,
ACT IV. SCENE V.
Line 362. Let me unseal &c.] I know not well why Shakspeare gives the Steward, who is a mere factor of wickedness, so much fidelity. He now refuses the letter; and afterwards, when he is dying, thinks only how it may be safely delivered. JOHNSON. Line 367. She gave strange ciliads,] Oeillade, Fr. a cast, or significant glance of the eye. STEEVENS. Line 372. —I do advise you, take this note :] Note means in this place not a letter, but a remark. JOHNSON.
ACT IV. SCENE VI.
This scene, and the stratagem by which Gloster is cured of his desperation, are wholly borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, Book II. JOHNSON.
Line 399.thy voice is alter'd; &c.] Edgar alters his voice in order to pass afterwards for a malignant spirit. JOHNS. Line 406. How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low !] This description has been much admired since the time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt at pleasantry, that "he who can read it without being giddy, has a very good head, or a
very bad one." The description is certainly not mean, but I am far from thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry. He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction. But this over whelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention to distinct objects. The enumeration of the choughs and crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the rapidity of its de scent through emptiness and horror.
her cock ;] Her cock-boat.
Yields to the theft:] When life is willing to be de
Line 449. Thus might he pass indeed:] Thus might he die in reality. We still use the word passing bell.
Line 452. Had'st thou been aught but gossomer, feathers, air,] Gossomore, the white and cobweb-like exhalations that fly about in hot sunny weather. GREY.
Line 482. Horns whelk'd,] i. e. Twisted, convolved. .484. -the clearest gods,] The purest; the most free from evil. JOHNSON. Line 500. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper :] In several counties, to this day, they call a stuffed figure, representing a man, and armed with a bow and arrow, set up to fright the crows from the fruit and corn, a crow-keeper, as well as a THEOBALD.
This crow-keeper was so common in the author's time, that it is one of the few peculiarities mentioned by Ortelius, in his account of our island. JOHNSON!
Line 506. -Give the word.] Lear supposes himself in a garrison, and before he lets Edgar pass, requires the watch-word.
JOHNSON. Line 511. They flatter'd me like a dog;] They played the spaniel to me. JOHNSON