Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lose thee nothing; do it carefully:-And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished ! his offence, honesty! Strange! strange!

[Exit. Edm. This is the excellent foppery of the world !9 that,

9 This is the excellent foppery of the world! &c ] In Shakspeare's best plays, besides the vices that arise from the subject, there is generally some peculiar prevailing folly, principally ridiculed, that runs through he whole piece. Thus, in The Tempest the lying disposition of travellers, and, in As you Like it, the fantastick humour of courtiers, is exposed and satirized with infinite pleasantry. In like manner, in this play of Lear, the di tages of judicial astrology are severely ridiculed. I fancy, was the date of its first performance well consi. dered, it would be found that something or other happened at that time which gave a more than ordinary run to this deceit, as these Words seem to intimate; I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses. However this be, an impious cheat, which had so litile foundation in nature or reason, so de estable an original, and such fatal consequences on the manners of the people, who were at that time strangely besotted with it, certainly deserved the severest lash of satire. It was fundamental in this noble science, that whatever seeds of good dispositions the infant unborn might be endowed with either froin nature, or traductively from its parents, yet if, at the time of its birth, the delivery was by any casualty so accelerated or retarded, as to fall in with the predominancy of a malignant constellation, that momentary influence would entirely change its nature, and bias it to all the contrary ill qualities: so wretched and monstrous an opinion did it set out with. Bur the Italians, to whom we owe this, as well as most other unnatural crimes and follies of these latter ages, fomented its original impiety to the most detestable height of extravagance. Petrus Aponensis, an Italian physician of the 13th century, assures us that those prayers which are made to God when the moon is in conjunction with Jupiter in the Dragon's tail, are infallibly heard. The great Milton, with a just indignation of this impiety, hath, in his Paradise Regainel, Book IV, v. 383, satirized it in a very beautiful manner, by puiting these reveries into the mouth of the devil. Nor could the licentious Rabelais himself forbear ro ridicule this impious dotage, which he does with exquisite address and humour, where, in the fable which he so agreeably tells from Æsop, of the man who applied to Jupiter for the loss of his hatchet, he makes those who, on the poor man's good success, had projected to trick Jupiter by the same petition, a kind of astrologick atheists, who ascribed this good fortune, that they imagined they were now ail going to partake of, to the influence of some rare conjunction and configuration of the stars. “ Hen, hen, disent ils-Et doncques, telle est au temps present la revolution des Cieulx, la constellation des Astres, & aspect des Planetes, q'e quiconque coignée perdra, soubdain deviendra ainsi riche ?"

-Nou. Prol. du IV, Livre. -But to return to Shakspeare. So blasphemous a delusion, therefore, it became the honesty of our poet to expose. But it was a tender point, and required managing. For

when we are sick in fortune, (often the surfeit of our own behaviour) we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars : as if we were villains by necessity; fools, by heavenly compulsion ; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on : An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows, I am l'ough and lecherous.-Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar

Enter EDGAR. and pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy:3 My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like

[ocr errors]

this iimpious juggle had in his time a kind of religious reverence paid to it. It was therefore to be done obliquely; and the circumstances of the scene furnished him with as good an opportunity as he could wish. The persons in the drama are all Pagans, so that as, in coinpliance to custom, his good characters were not to speak ill of judicial astrology, they could on account of their religion give no reputation to it. But in order to expose it the more, he with great judginent, makes these Pagans fatalists; as appears by these words of Lear:

By all the operations of the orbs,

« From whoin we do exist and cease to be." For the doctrine of fate is the true foundation of judicial astrology. Having thus discredited it by the very commendations given to it, he was in no danger of having his direct satire against it mistaken, by its being put (as he was obliged, both in paying regard to custom, and in following nature) into the mouih of the villain and atheist, especially when he has added such force of reason to his ridicule, in the words referred to in the beginning of the note. Warburton.

and treachers,] The modern editors read treacherous; but the reading of the first copies, which I have restored to the text, may be supported from most of the old contemporary writers. So, in Doctor Dotypoll, a comedy, 1600:

“ How smooth the cunning treacher look'd upon it!" Chaucer, in his Romaunt of the Rose, mentions “the false treacher," and Spenser often uses the same word. Steevens.

- pat he comes,] The quartos read

and out he comes. - Steevens.

he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy :) I think this passage was intended to ridicule the very aukward conclusions of

1

2

3

Tom o’ Bedlam.--0, these eclipses do portend these divisions ! fa, sol, la, mi.

Edg. How now, brother Edmund ? What serious contemplation are you in?

Edm. I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

Edg. Do you busy yourself with that?

Edm. I promise you1,5 the effects he writes of, succeed unhappily; *as of 6 unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

4

our old comedies, where the persons of the scene make their entry inartificially, and just when the poet wants them on the stage. Wariier.

0, these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.] The commentators, not being musicians, have regarded this passage perhaps as unintelligible nonsense, and therefore left it as they found it, without bestowing a single conjecture on its meaning and import. Shakspeare however shews by the c ntext that he was well acquainted with the property of these syllables in solmisa'ion, which imply a series (f sounds so unnatural, that ancient musicians prohibited their use. The monkish writers on musick say, mi contra fa est diabolus: the interval sa mi, including a tritonus, or sharp 4ih, consisting of three tones without the intervention of a semi-tone, expressed in the modern scale by the letters F G A B, would form a musical phrase extremely disagreeable to the ear. Edmund, speaking of eclipses as portents and prodigies, compares the dislocation of events, the times being out of joint, to the unnarural and offensive sounds, fa sol la mi. Dr. Burney.

The words fa, sol, &c. are not in the quarto. The folio, and all the modern editions, read cori uptly me instead of mi. Shakspeare has again introduced the gamut in The Taming of the Shrew, Vol. VI, p 80. Icione.

5 I promise you,] The fulio edition commonly differs from the first quario, by augmentations, or insertions, but in this place it varies by omission, and by the omission of something which naturally introduces the following dialog le. It is easy to remark, that in this speech, which ought, I think, to be inserted as it now is in the text, Edmund, with the common craft of fortune-tellers. mingles :he past and fu. ture, and tells of the future only what he already foreknows by confederacy, or can attain by probable conjecture. Folinson.

as of -] All from this asterisk to the next, is omitted in the folie. Steevens.

6

[ocr errors]

Edg. How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
Edm. Come, come ;* when saw you my father last?
Edg. Why, the night gone by.
Edm. Spake you with him?
Edg. Ay, two hours together.

Edm. Parted you on good terms? Found you no displeasure in him, by word, or countenance?

Edg. None at all. Edm. Bethink yourself, wherein you may have offended him: and at my entreaty, forbear his presence, till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure; which at this instant so rageth in him, that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay.

Edg. Some villain hath done me wrong.

Edm. That's my fear.1 *I pray you, have a continent forbearance, till the speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak : Pray yoil, go; there's my key :-If you do stir abroad, go armed.

Edg. Armec, brother?*

Edm. Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed; I am no honest man, is there be any good meaning towards you : I have told you what I have seen and heard, but faintly; nothing like the image and horror of it: Pray you, away.

Edg. Shall I hear from you anon?

Edm. I do serve you in this business.- [Exit Edg. A credulous father, and a brother noble, Whose nature is so far from doing hurms, That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty

9

7 - dissipation of cohorts,] Thus the old copy. Dr. Johnson reads--of courts. Steevens.

8 How log have you —] This line I have restored from the two eldes: quartos, and liave regulated the following speech according to the same copies. Steevens.

that with the mischief of your person —] This reading is in both copies; yet I believe the aurhor gave it, that but with the mis. chief of your person it would scarce allay. Fohnson.

I do not see any need of alteration. He could not express the vio. lence of his father's displeasure in stronger terms than by saying it was so grea: that it would scarcely be appeased by the destruction of his son.

Mulone. 1 That's my fear.] Alf between this and the next asterisk, is: omitted in the quartos. Steedens.

My practices ride easy !- I see the business.
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit:
All with me 's meet, that I can fashion fit.

[Exit. '

SCENE III.

A Room in the Duke of Albany's Palace.

Enter GONERIL and Steward.. Gon. Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?

Stew. Ay, madam.

Gon. By day and night! he wrongs me;} every hour He flashes into one gross crime or other, That set us all at odds : I'll not endure it: His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us On every trifle :-- When he returns from hunting, I will not speak with him ; say, I am sick :If you come slack of former services, You shall do well; the fault of it I 'll answer.

Stew. He's coming, madam ; I hear him. [Horns within.

Gon. Put on what weary negligence you please,
You and your fellows; I'd have it come to question :
If he dislike it, let him to my sister,
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,
*Not to be over-rul'd.3 Idle old man,

2 By day and night! he wrongs me;] It has been suggested by Mi. Whalley that we ought to point differently:

By day and night, he wrongs me; not considering these words as an adjuration. But that an adjuration was intended, appears, I think, from a passage in King Henry VIII. The king, speaking of Buckingham, (Act 1, sc. ii,) says:

- By day and night " He's traitor to the height.” It cannot be supposed that Henry means to say that Buckingham is a traitor in the night as well as by day.

The regulation which has been followed in the text, is likewise supported by Hamlet, where we have again the same adjuration:

“O day and night! but this is wondrous strange.' Malone. By night and day, is, perhaps, only a phrase signifying-always, every way. So, in Troilus and Cressida:

- Prince Troilus, I have lov'd you night and day,

" For many weary months." See Vol. III, p. 47, n. 4. I have not, however, displaced Mr. Malone's punctuation. Steevens.

« AnteriorContinuar »