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When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's
Kent, on thy life, no more.
degree of insincerity, which, if not sometimes detected and censured, must impair the credit of ancient books. One of the editors, and perhaps only one, knew how much mischief may be done by such clan. destine alterations. The quarto agrees with the folio, except that for reserve thy state, it gives, reverse thy doom, and has stoops, instead of falls to folly. The meaning of answer my life my judgment, is, Let my life be answerable for my judgment, or, I will stake my life on my opinion. The reading which, without any right, has possessed all the modern copies, is this :
to plainness honour
Thy youngest (laughter, &c. I am inclined to think that reverse thy doom was Shakspeare's first reading, as more apposite to the present occasion, and that he changed it afterwards to reserve thy state, which conduces more to the progress of the action. Johnson.
I have followed the quartes. Reserve was formerly used for preserve. So, in cur poet's 52d Sonnet:
66 Reserve them for my love, not for their rhymes." 2 Reverbs -] This is, perhaps, a word of the poet's own making, meaning the same as reververates. Steevens.
a pawn To wage against thine enemies ;] i. e. I never regarded my life, &s my own, but merely as a thing of which I had the possession, not the property; and which was entrusted to me as a pawn or pledge, to be employed in waging war against your enemies.
To wage against is an expression used in a Letter from Guil. Webbe to Robt. Wilmot, prefixed to Tancreil and Gismund, 1592:
you shall not be able to wage against me in the charges growing upon this action. Sieevens.
My life &c.] That is, I never considered my life as of more value than that of the commonest of your subjects. A pawn in chess, is a common man, in contradistinction to the knight; and Shakspeare ha's several allusions to this game, particularly in King John:
Thy safety being the motive.
Out of my sight!
Lear. Now, by Apollo, --
Now, by Apollo, king,
O, vassal! miscreant!
[Laying his Hand on his Sword. Alb. Corn. Dear sir, forbear.6
Hear me, recreant ! On thine allegiance hear me! Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow, (Which we durst never yet) and, with strain'd pride, To come betwixt our sentence and our power;9 (Which nor our nature nor our place can bear)
“ Who painfully with much expedient march,
“ Have brought a counter-check before your gates." Again, in King Henry V:
" Therefore take heed how you impawn our person.” Heniey. 4 The true blank of thine eye.) The blank is the white or exact mark at which the arrow is shot. See better, says Kent, and keep me always in your view. Johnson See Vol VI, p. 150, n. 9. Malone.
by Apollo, -] Bladud, Lear's father, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, attempting to fly, fell on the temple of Apollo, and was killed. This circumstance our author inust have noticed, both in Holinshed's Chronicle and The Mirrour for Magistrates. Malone.
Are we to understand from this circumstance, that the son swears by Apollo, because the father broke his neck on the temple of that deity! Steevens 6 Dear sir, forbear.] This speech is omitted in the quartos.
Steevens. -thy gifi;] The quartos read thy doorn. Steevens.
strain'd pride,] The oldest copy reads-strayel pride ; that is, priie exorbitant; pride passing due bounds. Johnson.
9 To come betwixt our sentence and our power;] Power, for execa. tion of he sen:ence.
Warburton. Rather, as Mr. Edwards observes, our power to execute that sen
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
1 (Which nor our nature nor our place can bear)
Our potency made good,] As thou hast come with unreasonable priđe between the sentence which I had passed, and the power by which I shall execute it, take thy reward in another sentence which shall make good, shall establish, shall maintain, that power.
Mr. Davies thinks, that our potency made good, relates only to our place. Which our nature cannot bear, nor our place, without departure from the potency of that place. This is easy and clear.-Lear, who is characterized as hot, heady, and violent, is, with very just observation of life, made to entangle himself with vows, upon any sudden provocation to vow revenge, and then to plead the obligation of a vow in defence of implacability. Johnson
In my opinion, made, the reading of all the editions, but one of the quartos, (which reads make good) is right. Lear had just dele. gated his power to Albany and Cornwall, contenting himself with only the name and all the additions of a king. He could therefore have no power to inflict on Kent the punishment which he thought he deserved. Our potency made good seems to me only this: They to whom I have yielded my power and authority, yielaing me the ability to dispense it in this instance, take thy reward. Steevens.
The meaning, I ihink, is,-As a proof that I am not a mere threatner, that I have power as well as will to punish, take the due reward of thy demerits; hear thy sentence. The words our potency made good are in the absolute case. In Othello we have again nearly the same language:
“ My spirit and my place have in them power
" To niake this bitter to thee." Malone. 2 To shield thee from diseases of the world;] Thus the quartos. The folio has disusters. The alteration, I believe, was made by the editor, in consequence of his not knowing the meaning of the original word. Diseases in old language, meant the slighter inconveniencies, troubles, or distresses of the world. So, in King Henry VI, P. I, Vol. X, p. 55, n. 2:
• And in that ease I 'll tell thee my disease.” Again, in A Woman killd with Kindness, by T. Heywood, 1617:
“ Fie, fie, that for my private businesse
I should disease a friend, and be a trouble
" To the whole house." The provision that Kent could make in five days, might in some measure guard him against the diseases of the world, but could not shield him from its disasters. Malone.
Which word be retained is, in my opinion, quite immaterial. Such recollection as an interval of five days will afford to a considerate person, may surely enable him in some degree to provide against the disasters, (i. e. the calamities) of the world. Stecvens.
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,
Kent. Fare thee well, king: since thus thou wilt appear,
[T. REG. and Gox, That good effects may spring from words of love.Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu ; He'll shape his old course in a country new. [Exit. Re-enter GLOSTER; with FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and
Lear. My lord of Burgundy,
Most royal majesty,
By Jupiter,] Shakspeare makes his Lear too much a my, thologist: he had Hecate and Apollo before. Johnson.
4 Freedom lives hence,] So the folio: the quartos concur in read. ing-Friendship lives hence. Steevens.
dear shelter -] The quartos read--protection. Steevens. 6 That justly think’st, and hast most rightly said!] Thus the folio. The quartos read :
“ That rightly thinks, and hast most justly said. Malone. 7 He'll shape his old course --] He will follow his old maxims; he will continue to act upon the same principles. Johnson.
adieu ; He'll shape his old course in a country new.] There is an odd coincidence between this passage, and another in The Battell of Alcazar, &c. 1594:
adue; - For here Tom Stukley shapes his course anue.” Steevens.
quest of love?] Quest of love is amorous expedition. The term originated from Romance. A quest was the expedition in which a knight was engaged. This phrase is often to bc inet with in The Fairy Queen. Steevens. VOL. XIV.
Right noble Burgundy,
I know no answer.
Pardon me, royal sir; Election makes not up on such conditions.3
we did hold her so ;] We esteemed her worthy of that dowry, which, as you say, we promised to give her. Malone.
seeming — ] is beautiful. Johnson. Seeming rather means specious. So, in The Merry Wives of Wind
pluck the borrowed veil of modesty from the so seeining mistress Page." Again, in Measure for Measure:
hence shall we see, “ If power change purpose, what our seemers be.” Steevens.
owes,] i. e. is possessed of. So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream : “ All the power this charm doth owe."
Steevens. 3 Election makes not up on such conditions.) To make up signifies to complete, to conclude; as, they made up the bargain, but in this sense it has, I think, always the subject noun after it. To make up, in familiar language, is neutrally, to come forward, to make advances which, I think, is meant here. Johnson. I should read the line thus:
Election makes not, upon such conditions. M. Mason. Election makes not up, I conceive, means, Election comes not to a decision; in the same sense as when we say, " I have made up my mind on that subject." In Gymbeline this phrase is used, as here, for finished, completed:
Being scarce made up, " I mean, to man"-&c. Again, in Timon of Athens :
remain assurd, “ That he's a male up villain." In all these places the allusion is to a piece of work completed by a tradesman.
The passages just cited show that the text is right, and that our poet did not write, as some have proposed to read.
Election makes not, upon such conditions. Malone.