Page images

mue 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?

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. () 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 pretenceof danger.


- where, if you - ) Where was formerly often used in the sense of whereas. See Vol. X, p. 211, n. 1. Malone. So, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Vol. XVII, Act I, sc. i:

Where now you're both a father and a son.” See also Act II, sc. fi. Steevens.

pretence --] Pretence is design, purpose. So, afterwards in this play:

Pretence and purpose of unkindness. Fohnson. So, in Macbeth: VOL. XIV.



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.3 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,4 I pray you: frame the business after your own wisdom: I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.5

“ Against the undivulg'd pretence I fight

“Of treasonous malice.” But of this, numberless examples can be shown; and I can venture to assert, with some degree of confidence, that Shakspeare never uses the word pretence, or pretend, in any other sense. Steevens.

3 Edm.] From Nor is, to heaven and earth! are words omitted in the folio. Steevens.

wind me into him,] I once thought it should be read, you into him; but, perhaps, it is a familiar phrase, like do nie this.

Fohnson. So, in Twelfth Night:“- - challenge me the duke's youth to fight with him.' Instances of this phraseology occur in The Merchant of Venice, King Henry IV, Part I, and in Othello. Steevens.

I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.] i. e. I will throw aside all consideration of my relation to him, that I as justice requires. Warburton.

Such is this learned man's explanation, I take the meaning to be rather this, Do you frume the business, who can act with less emotion ; I would unstate myself; it would in me be a departure from the paternal character, to be in a due resolution, to be settled and composed on such an occasion. The words would and should are in old language often confounded. Johnson. The same word occurs in Antony and Cleopatra :

“ Yes, ike enough, high-battled Cæsar will
Unstate his happiness, and be stag'd to show

Against a sworder." To unstate, in both these inscances, seems to have the same meaning. Edgar has been represented as wishing to possess his father's fortune, i.e. to unstate him; and therefore his father says he would unstate himself to be sufficiently resolved to punish him. Steevens.

It seems to me, that I would unstate myself, in this passage, means simply I would give my estate, (including rank as well as fortune).

Tyrwhitt. Both Warburton and Johnson have mistaken the sense of this passage, and their explanations are such as the words cannot possibly imply. Gloster cannot bring himself thoroughly to believe what Ed.


may act

Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business 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 falis off, brother's divide : in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord ; in palaces, tre::son; and the bond cracked between son · and father. *This villains 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

mund told him of Edgar. He says, “Can he be such a monster ?” He afterwards desires Edmund to sound his intentions, and then says, he would give all he possessed to be certain of the truth; for that is the meaning of the words to be in a due resolution. Othello uses the word resolved in the same sense more than once:

to be once in doubt, “ Is--once to be resolved. ” In both which places, to be resolved means, to be certain of the fact.

M. Mason. Though to resolve, in Shakspeare's time, certainly sometimes meant to satisfy, declare, or inform, I have never found the substantive resolution used in that sense ; and even had the word ever borne that sense, the author could not have written--to be in a due resolu. tion, but must have written, “ – to attain a due resolution.” Who. ever wished to be in due information” on any point? Malone.

Mr. Malone says, that he has never found the substantive resolu. tion used in the sense which I have attributed to it in my explanation of this passage: but in the fifth scene of the third act of Massinger's Picture, Sophia says

I have practis'd
For my certain resolution with these courtiers."
And, in the last Act, she says to Baptista-

what should work on my lord
“ To doubt my loyalty ? Nay, more, to take
“ For the resolution of his fears, a course
" That is, by holy writ, denied a Christian.” M. Masan.

convey the business -] 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.

the wisdom of nature - ] That is, though natural philosophy can give account of eclipses, yet we feel their consequences. Johnson.

8 This villain -] All from asterisk to asterisk is omitted in the quartos, Steevena.



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! 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 jou Like it, the fan astick humour cf courtiers, is exposed and sa irized with infinite pleasantry. In like manner, in this play of Lear, the datages 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 rearded, as to fall in with the predo. minancy 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. But the Italians, to whom we owe this, as well as most other unna. tural crimes and follies of these latter ages, fomented its original im. piety to the most detestable height of extravagance. Petrus Apunen. sis, 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, Book IV, v. 383, 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 Æsop, of the man who applied to Jupiter for the loss of his hatchet, he makes those who, on the poor inan's good success, had projected to trick Jupiier by the same petition, a kind of astrologick atheists, who ascribed this good forrune, that they imagined ihey 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 es au temps present la revolution des Cieulx, la constellation des Astres, & aspect des Planetes, que 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 influ. ence; 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 ursi major; so that it follows, 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,2 like the catastrophe of the old comedy:3 My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like

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 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.

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 Dodypoll, 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




« PreviousContinue »