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“I may add that the Fool of Lear was long ago for diverted indeed from it for a moment by the intrusion otten. Having filled the space allotted him in the of Kent, who forces himself on his notice; but he inirrangement of the play, he appears to have been stantly returns to his beloved Cordelia, over whose ilently withdrawn in the sixth scene of the third act. dead body he continues to hang. He is now himself in Chat the thoughts of a father, in the bitterest of all the agony of death; and surely, at such a time, when noments, while his favourite child lay dead in his arms, his heart is just breaking, it would be highly unnatural should recur to the antic who had formerly diverted that he should think of his Fool. But the great and him, has somewhat in it that I cannot reconcile to the decisive objection to such a supposition is that which idea of genuine sorrow and despair.
Mr. Stevens has mentioned—that Lear had just seen “ Besides this, Cordelia was recently hanged; but we his daughter hanged, having unfortunately been admitknow not that the Fool had suffered in the same man ted too late to preserve her life, though time enough to ner, nor can imagine why he should. The party ad punish the perpetrator of the act : but we have no verse to Lear was little interested in the fate of his authority whatsoever for supposing his Fool hanged jester. The only use of him was to contrast and alle also. viate the sorrows of his master; and, that purpose being “ In old English, a fool and an innocent are synonyfully answered, the Poet's solicitude about him was at mous terms. Hence probably the peculiar use of the an end.
expression--poor fool. In the passage before us, Lear, “ The term, poor fool, might indeed have misbecome | I conceive, means by it, dear, tender, helpless innothe mouth of a vassal commiserating the untimely end cence !"--MALONE. of a princess, but has no impropriety when used by a weak, old, distracted king, in whose mind the distinctions of nature only survive, while he is uttering his
NOTES OMITTED IN ACT I. last frantic exclamations over a murdered daughter.”STEVENS.
“ Although our last, and least,” etc.— With Collier « I confess, I am one of those who have thought that
and Knight we give the text as in the folio, by which Lear means his Fool, and not Cordelia. If he means
we lose the so-often quoted words “ Thongh sast, not
The Cordelia, then what I have always considered as a
least," which are, nevertheless, Shakespeare's. beauty, is of the same kind as the accidental stroke of
modern text, made up of parts of each original reading the pencil that produced the foam.-Lear's affectionate
is thus givenremembrance of the Fool in this place, I used to think,
Although the last not least; to whose young love
The vines of France, etc. was one of those strokes of genius, or of nature, which
The quartos readare so often found in Shakespeare, and in him only.
But now, our joy, “ Lear appears to have a particular affection for this
Although the last, not least in on dear lore, Fool, whose fidelity in attending him, and endeavour
What can you say to win a third, more opulent ing to divert him in his distress, seems to deserve all
Than your sisters? his kindness.
The Poet has revised his text, re-arranging the lines, « • Poor fool and knave,' says he, in the midst of the and introducing a new member of the sentence “ to thunder storm, 'I have one part in my heart that's yet whose young love," etc. sorry for thee.' “ It does not, therefore, appear to me to be allowing
“ By Jupiter"-Johnson says, “Shakespeare makes too much consequence to the Fool, in making Lear
his Lear too much of a mythologist; he had Hecate and bestow a thought on him, even when in still greater
Apollo before.” The Poet is perfectly justified by the distress. Lear is represented as a good-natured, pas
chroniclers in making Lear invoke the heathen deities. sionate, and rather weak old man; it is the old age of
Hollingshed speaks of the temple of Apollo, which
stood in the time of Bladud, Lear's father. a cockered spoiled boy. There is no impropriety in giving to such a character those tender domestic affec " Election makes not up on such conditions"— The tions, which would ill become a more heroic character, use of “made up," in Timon and in CYMBELINE, shows such as Othello, Macbeth, or Richard III.
that to make up is here to decide, to conclude. The “ The words—No, no, no life ;' I suppose to be spo choice of Burgundy refuses to come to a decision on ken, not tenderly, but with passion : Let nothing now such terms. live;- let there be universal destruction ;--- Why should
" — Fall into taint"-M. Mason interprets the pasa dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at
:-" Her offence must be monstrous, or the all ?
former affection which you professed for her must fall “ It may be observed, that as there was a necessity, into taint-become the subject of reproach.” Monster, the necessity of propriety at least, that this Fool, the
as a verb, is used in CORIOLANUS. favourite of the author, of Lear, and consequently of the audience, should not be lost or forgot, it ought to - what PLIGHTED cunning hides”—The quartos be known what became of him: however, it must be read pleated; modern editions, plaited; all having the acknowledged, that we cannot infer much from thence; same meaning in their literal sense, and here taken Shakespeare is not always attentive to finish the figures figuratively for complicate, intricate, involved. of his groups. “I have only to add, that if an actor, by adopting the
“ Who covers faults, at last with shame derides"
This line is ordinarily printed after the quartos,interpretation mentioned above, by applying the words
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides. poor fool to Cordelia, the audience would, I should imagine, think it a strange mode of expressing the
It was, perhaps, so written at first, and altered as in the grief and affection of a father for his dead daughter,
folio and our text. Time covers faults, until at last it and that daughter a queen. The words poor fool are
exposes them to shame: a clear and weighty sense. undoubtedly expressive of endearment ; and Shake
“ I rould unsTATE myself," etc.—There are several speare himself, in another place, speaking of a dying
explanations of this passage. Stevens represents Gloster animal, calls it poor dappled fool : but it never is, nor to say, he would unstate himself to be sufficiently renever can be, used with any degree of propriety, but to
solved to punish Edgar—that is, he would give up his commiserate some very inferior object, which may be rank and his fortune. Mason, “ he would give all he posloved without much esteem or respect.”-Sir Joshua sessed to be certain of the truth." Johnson, “I should REYNOLDS.
unstate myself—it would in me be a departure from the “ Lear, from the time of his entrance in this scene to paternal character--to be in a due resolution to be his uttering these words, and from thence to his death, settled and composed on such an occasion.” Tieck inis wholly occupied by the loss of his daughter. He is clines to Johnson's explanation. Collier thinks the ob.
vious sense is, “I would sacrifice my rank if I could a stop,—that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate arrive but at a thorough conviction of his design." in ruin. “ BY DAY AND NIGHT he wrongs me”-- This is pointed Shakespeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to peris
“ But though this moral be incidentally enforced by Malone, and those who adopt his text,
in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, By day and night! be wrongs me,
to the hope of the reader, and what is yet more strane, as an adjuration. We have, in HAMLET
to the faith of chronicles. Yet this conduct is justina O day and night! but this is wondrous strange.
by the “The Spectator,' who blames Tate for giving But we follow the original punctuation, and with the Cordelia success and happiness in his alteration, and de later editors, think with Stevens that “ By day or night" clares, that in his opinion, the tragedy has lost half itz means--always, every way, constantly.
beauty.' Dennis has remarked, whether justly or mi,
that to secure the favourable reception of "Cato,'— the “ To make this creature fruitful"-We print the four
town was poisoned with much false and abominable lines, of which this is the last, according to the metrical criticism,' and that endeavours had been used to dis arrangement of the folio. In the qnartos they are given
credit and decry poetical justice. A play in which the as prose. I agree with Kuight that there cannot be
wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry, may doubtany thing more destructive to the terrific beauty of the
less be good, because it is a just representation of the passage than the "regulation” by which it is distorted
cominon events of life; but since all reasonable being into the following lines, the text of most of the modern editions:
naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded thai
the observation of justice makes a play worse; or that, It may be so, my lord.-Hear, nature, hear!
if other excellences are equal, the audience will not Dear goddess, bear! Suspend thy purpose, if Thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful.
always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue.
In the present case the public has decided.* Cor. delia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with
victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could ald “ The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated
any thing to the general suffrage, I might relate. I was among the dramas of Shakespeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed;
many years ago so shocked by Cordelia's death, that I
know not whether I ever endured to read again the last which so much agitates our passions, and interests our
scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests,
editor. the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sud
• There is another controversy among the critics conden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indigna
cerning this play. It is disputed whether the predomi
nant image in Lear's disordered mind be the loss of his tion, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not
kingdom or the cruelty of his danghters. Mr. Murphy, contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce
a very judicious critic, has evinced by induction of par
ticular passages, that the cruelty of his dangliters is the to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the Poet's imagination, that the mind which once ven
primary source of his distress, and that the loss of my. tures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
alty affects him only as a secondary and subordinate
evil. He observes, with great justness, that Lear would “On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it
move our compassion but little, did we not rather conmay be observed, that he is represented according to
sider the injured father than the degraded king."histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And,
Johnson. perhaps, if we turn our thonghts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it
In the “ Introductory Remarks” prefixed to this play, will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's
the editor has stated his opinion on several of the points manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter
touched on in this criticism, and especially the modern to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions,
alteration of Shakespeare's catastrophe to LEAR, and the would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea
Poet's probable motives for varying from the poetical or Madagascar. Shakespeare, indeed, hy the mention
and historical legend. Nothing can well be more imof his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times
probable and incongruous than the plot of Tate's alteramore civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners;
tion, thus commended by Johnson, in which he has etiand the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates,
deavoured to heighten the interest by a secondary plot and so minutely describes the characters of men, he
of mutual love between Edgar and Cordelia, ending with commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages,
their happy marriage. Nor can any thing be more feeby mingling customs ancient and modern, English and
ble in style and thought than the dialogue this interpoforeign.
lated among the dark and wild passion and condensed " My learned friend, Mr. Warton, who has in “The
glowing language of the original. Adventurer,' very minutely criticized this play, remarks,
This improver of Shakespeare, who could flatter him. that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shock
self that he was giving new brilliancy to the heap of ing, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the
unstrung and unpolished jewels" he had found in the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think,
original, thus, at the end, makes all the deep agonies of be answered, by repeating, that the cruelty of the
the wronged father, and the dark insanity of the dedanghters is an historical fact, to which the Poet has
throned intellect, forgotten, and repaid by a childish joy added little, having only drawu it into a series of dialogue
at being “a king again:"and action. But I an not able to apologize with equal Alb. To your majesty we do resign plausibility for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which
Your kingdom, save what part yourself conferr'd seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatic ex.
Kent. Hear you that, my licge? hibition, and such as must always compel the mind to Cord. Then there are gods, and virtue is their care. relieve its distresses by incredulity. Yet let it be re.
Lear. Is't possible? membered that our author well knew what would please
Let the spheres stop their course, the sun make halt,
The winds be hush'd, the seas and fountains rest, the audience for which he wrote.
All nature pause, and listen to the change! “ The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the Where is my Kent, my Caius ? action is abundautly recompensed by the addition of
Kent. Here, my liege. variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opportunity which he
Dr. Johnson should rather have said that the managers hare gives the Poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and
decided, and the public has been obliged to acquiesce in their deci
sion. The altered play has the upper gallery on its side; the original connecting the wicked son with the wickel danghter,
drama was patronized by Addison :- Victrix causa Diis placuit, to impress this important moral, that villainy is never at sed victa Catoni."--STEVENS.
On tis in marriage.
Lear. Why, I have news that will recall thy youth;
Kent. The prince, that like a god has pow'r, has said it.
Lear. Cordelia then shall be a queen, mark that; Cordelia shall be queen: winds, catch the sound, And bear it on your rosy wings to heaven,
Cordelia is a queen. Quite of a piece with this is the conclusion, written in he most approved style of theatrical common-place:
Re-enter Edgar with GLOSTER, L. H.
Lear. My poor dark Gloster!
Lear. Hold, thou mistak'st the majesty; kneel here;
Edg. Divine Cordelia, all the gods can witness
(Flourish of drums and trumpets. Colman the Elder, a scholar, and no contemptible anthor, was shocked with the absurdities and improbabilities of Tate's version, and tried his hand at another alteration, omitting the loves of Edgar and Cordelia, but returning to the ancient “ happy ending.". This play, so far as it is original, though it has no particular merit, is yet better than Tate's; yet Colman did not succeed in dislodging his predecessor from the prompter’s-book, where Nahum Tate still remains seated on the dramatic throne, by Shakespeare's side.
The capricious or tender-hearted decision of Johnson has been appealed from and refuted by several eloquent writers, as thus by Mrs. Jameson:
" When Lear enters with Cordelia dead in his arms, compassion and awe so seize on all our faculties, that we are left only to silence and to tears. But if I might judge from my own sensations, the catastrophe of LEAR is not so overwhelming as the catastrophe of OTHELLO. We do not turn away with the same feeling of absolute and unmitigated despair. Cordelia is a saint ready prepared for heaven ; our earth is not good enough for her: and Lear!- who, after sufferings and tortures such as his, would wish to see his life prolonged? What! replace a sceptre in that shaking hand ?-a crown upon that old gray head, upon which the tempest had poured in its wrath 1-on which the deep dread-bolted thunders and the winged lightnings had spent their fury?—0 never, never!
Let him pass! he hates him
Stretch him out longer. "In the story of King Leyr' and his three daughters, as it is related in the delectable and mellifluous' romance of Perceforest, and in the chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth, the conclusion is fortunate. Cordelia defeats her sisters, and replaces her father on his throne. Spenser, in his version of the story, has followed these authorities. Shakespeare has preferred the catastrophe of the old ballad, founded apparently on some lost tradition. I suppose it is hy way of amending his errors, and bringing back this daring innovator to sober history, that it has been thought fit to alter the play of Lear for the stage, as they have altered Romeo AND JULIET:they have converted the seraph-like Cordelia into a puling love-heroine, and sent her off victorious at the end of the play-exit with drums and colours flyingto be married to Edgar. Now any thing more absurd, more discordant with all our previous impressions, and with the characters as unfolded to us, can hardly be imagined. 'I cannot conceive,' says Schlegel, what ideas of art and dramatic connection those persons have, who suppose we can at pleasure tack a double conclusion to a tragedy-a melancholy one for hard-hearted
spectators, and a merry one for those of softer mould.'» Mrs. Jameson.
Yet, perhaps Charles Lamb has given a more penetrating glance into the philosophy of the question than any of the professed critics. If he is right, then the real secret of the prolonged popularity of Tate's distortion of King Lear is to be found in the fact, that the grand and terrible passion of the original is too purely spiritual for mere dramatic exhibition, because it belongs to that highest region of intellectual poetry which can be reached only by the imagination, warmed and raised by its own workings; while, on the contrary, it becomes chilled and crippled by attention to material and external imitation. He says
“ The Lear of Shakespeare cannot be acted. The contemptible machinery with which they mimic the storm is not more inadequate to represent the horrors of the real elements than any actor can be to represent Lear. The greatness of Lear is not in corporeal demeanour but in intellectual; the explosions of his passions are terrible as a volcano; they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that rich sea, his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage, we see nothing but corporeal infirmities and weaknesses, the impotence of rage; while we read it we see-not Lear, but we are Lear ;-we are in his mind, we are sustained by a grandeur which baffles all the malice of daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason we discover a mighty irregular power of reasoning, immethodized from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers,-as the wind blows where it listeth,—at will on the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks or tones to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves,' when, in his reproaches to them for con niving at the injustice of his children, he reminds them that they themselves are old ?' What gesture shall we appropriate to this? What has the voice or the eye to do with such things? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show. "It is too hard and stony: it must have love scenes and a happy ending. It is not enough that Cordelia is a daughter; Tate has put his hook in the nostrils of this Leviathan, for Garrick and his followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw it about more easily. A happy ending !-as if the living martyrdom that Lear had gone through,—the flaying of his feelings alive,-lid not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If he is to live, and to be happy after, why all this . pudder' and preparation-why torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy? as if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over his mis-used station, -as if, at his years and with his experience, any thing was left him but to die ?"'Charles LAMB's “ Theatralia."
The grand characteristics of the drama, and of Lear himself, are thus admirably analyzed and discriminated by Mr. Hallam :
“If originality of invention did not so much stamp every play of Shakespeare that to name one as the most original seems a disparagement to others, we might say that this great prerogative of genius was exercised above all in LEAR. It diverges more from the model of regular tragedy than Macbeth, or OTHELLO, and even much more than HAMLET; but the fable is better constructed than in the last of these, and it displays full as much of the almost superhuman inspiration of the Poet as the other two. Lear himself is perhaps the most wonderful of dramatic conceptions: ideal enough to satisfy the most romantic imagination, yet idealized from the reality of nature. In preparing us for the most intense sympathy with this old man, he first abases him to the ground ; it is not (Edipus, against whose respected age the gods themselves have conspired ; it is not Orestes, noble-minded and affectionate, whose crime has been virtue; it is a headstrong, feeble, and selfish being whom, in the first act of the tragedy, nothing seems ca
pable of redeeming in our eyes-nothing but what fol- to Cordelia that peculiar and individual truth of charalows-intense woe, unnatural wrong. Then comes on ter which distinguishes her from every other human that splendid madness, not absurdly sudden, as in some being ? tragedies, but in which the strings that keep his reasoning " It is a natural reserve, a tardiness of conception powers together, give way one after the other, in the • which often leaves the history unspoke which it is frenzy of rage and grief. Then it is that we find, what tends to do,'—a subdued quietness of deportment and in life may sometimes be seen, the intellectual energies expression-a veiled shyness thrown over all her emo grow stronger in calamity, and especially under wrong. tions,-her language and her manner,-making the oniAn awful eloquence belongs to unmerited suffering. ward demonstration invariably fall short of what we Thoughts burst out more profound than Lear, in his know to be the feeling within. Not only is the portrait prosperous hour, could ever have conceived: inconse- singularly
beautiful and interesting in itself, but the couquent, for such is the condition of madness; but in them- duct of Cordelia, and the part which she bears in the selves fragments of truth, the reason of an unreasonable beginning of the story, is rendered consistent and natuinind."-HALLAM's “ Literature of Europe.”
ral by the wonderful truth and delicacy with which All spectators, all readers, have felt and acknowledged this peculiar disposition is sustained throughout the play." the touching nature of Cordelia's character; but critics The generous, delicate, but shy disposition of Cor. have been so much absorbed with the grander features delia, concealing itself at first under external coolness, of the injured father, or so little versed in discrimin- Mrs. J. then adds, “is beautifully represented as a certain ating the more delicate shades of female character, that modification of character, the necessary result of feelings their notice of Cordelia consists of little more than vague habitually repressed ; and through the whole play we generalities, such as describe her no more than they do trace the same peculiar and individual disposition—the any other of the gentle and pure minds which Shake- same absence of all display—the same sobriety of speech speare delighted to paint—than Imogen, or Ophelia, or veiling the most profound affections—the same quiet Miranda, or Desdemona. Mrs. Jameson has supplied steadiness of purpose—the shrinking from all exhibition this deficiency, and traced with exquisite discrimination
of emotion. of taste and feeling, the peculiarities of moral delinea- “ Tous les sentimens naturels ont leur pudeur,' was tion in this character which give to it such a truth of a viva-voce observation of Madame de Staėl, when disindividuality, and an effect so quiet yet so deep. The gusted by the sentimental affectation of her imitators. character, as she remarks, has no salient points upon This pudeur,' carried to an excess, appears to me the which the fancy can seize, little of external development | peculiar characteristic of Cordelia. Thus, in the de. of intellect, less of passion, and still less of imagination; scription of her deportment when she receives the letyet it is completely made out in a few scenes, and we ter of the Earl of Kent, informing her of the cruelty of are surprised to find that in those few scenes there is her sisters and the wretched condition of Lear, we seem matter for a life of reflection, and materials enough for to have her before us :twenty heroines. After pointing out the excellences of the female char
Then away she started, to deal with grief alone. acter exemplified in Cordelia, as sensibility, gentleness, “Here, the last line—the image brought before us of magnanimity, fortitude, generous affection, Mrs. Jameson Cordelia starting away from observation to deal with proceeds to inquire, " What is it, then, which lends | grief alone,' is equally as beautiful as it is characteristic."