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Edm. Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound: Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom; and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,8

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 !** Confin'd to exhibition !2 All this done

Upon the gad!3—Edmund! how now? what news!

[7] Curiosity, in the time of Shakspeare, was a word that signified an over nice scrupulousness in manners, dress, &c. STEEVENS.

By the curiosity of nations, Edmund means the nicety, the strictness of civil institutions. So, when Hamlet is about to prove that the dust of Alexander might be employed to stop bung-hole, Horatio says, "that were to consider the matter too curiously!" M. MASON.

[8] To deprive was, in our author's time, synonymous to disinherit. The old dictionary renders exharedo by this word. STEEVENS.

[9] Edmund inveighs against the tyranny of custom in two instances, with respect to younger brothers, and to bastards. In the former he must not be understood to mean himself, but the argument becomes general by implying more than is said, "Wherefore should I or any man." HANMER. [] To subscribe, in Shakspeare, is to yield, or surrender. So, afterwards, "You owe me no subscription." MALONE.

[2] Exhibition, is allowance. The term is yet used in the universities. JOHNSON.

[3] Done upon the gad, is done suddenly, or, as before, while the iron is hot. A gad is an iron bar. RITSON.

Edm. So please your lordship, none.

[Putting up the letter. Glo. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter? 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 my 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.4

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 oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond 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, Edgar.-Humph-Conspiracy! -Sleep till I waked him,-you should enjoy half his revenue,-My son Edgar! 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 casement 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?

[4] Essay and taste are both terms from royal tables. See note on act sc. iii. STEEV. [5] Idle and fond-Week and foolish. JOHNS

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, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no other pretence of danger. 9 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 you own wisdom, I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution. 2

Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business3 as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.

Glo. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend 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, 4 bro

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[9] Pretence-is design and purpose. So afterwards in this play, "Pretence and purpose of unkindness." JOHNSON. [1] I once thought it should be read-you into him; but, perhaps, it is a familiar phrase, like "do me this." JOHNSON. So in Twelfth Night, "challenge me the duke's youth to fight with him." STEEVENS.

[2] I would give all I possess to be certain of the truth. This is the mean ing of the words to be in a due resolution. So, Othello,

"To be once in doubt
Is, once to be resolved."


[3] 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. JOHNSON.

[4] That is, though natural philosophy can give account of eclipses, yet we feel their consequences. JOHNSON.

thers divide: In cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treasons; 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 of our time: Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves!- -Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall 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 !5 that, when we are sick in fortune, (often the surfeit of

[5] 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 the whole piece. Thus, in The Tempest. the lying dispo sition of travellers, and, in As you like it, the fantastic humour of courtiers, is exposed and satirized with infinite pleasantry. In like manner, in this play of Lear, the dotages of judicial astrology are severely ridiculed. I fancy, was the date of its first performance well considered, 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 little foundation in nature or reason, so detestable 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 a fundamental in this noble science, that whatever seeds of good dispositions the infant unborn might be endowed with, either from 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 morstrous an opinion did it set out with. But 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 Regained, satirized it in a very beautiful manner, by putting these reveries into the mouth of the devil. Nor could the licentious Rabelais himself forbear to ridicule this impious dotage, which he does with exquisite address and humour, where, in the fable which he so agreeably tells from Esop, of the man who applied to Jupiter for the loss of his hatchet, he makes those who, on the poor man's good success, have projected to trick Jupiter by the same petition, a kind of astrologic atheists, who ascribed this good fortune, that they imagined they were now all 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, quæ quiquonque coignee perdra soubdain deviendra ainsi riche?" Nou. Prol. du. iv. Livre-But to re. turn 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 this impious 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 compliance 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

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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 fellows, I am rough 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: My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o'Bedlam.-O, 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 predicton I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.

Edg. Do your busy yourself with that?

Edm. I promise you, the effects he writes of, succeed unhappily; as of 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.

Edg. How long have you been a sectary astronomical? Edm. Come, come; when saw you my father last? Edg. Why, the night gone by.

it the more, he, with great judgment, makes these Pagans fatalists; as appears by these words of Lear,

"By all the operations of the orbs,

From whom 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 mouth 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.

[6] This is, I think, intended to ridicule the very awkward conclusion of our old comedies, where the persons of the scene make their entry inartifi cially, and just when the poet wants them on the stage. WARNER.

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