« PreviousContinue »
him truly, that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and says little ;8 to fear judgment; to fight, when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.9
Lear. What art thou ?
Kent. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
Lear. If thou be as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldest thou?
Kent. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance, which I would fain call master.
Lear. What's that
Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message blunt
to converse with him that is wise, and says little ; To converse signifies immediately and properly to keep company, not to discourse or talk. His meaning is, that he chooses for his companions men of reserve and caution; men who are not tatlers nor tale-bearers. Yohnson.
We still say in the same sense he had criminal conversation with her-meaning commerce. So, in King Richard III:
“ His apparent open guilt omitted,
and to eat no fish.] In Queen Elizabeth's time the Papists were esteemed, and with good reason, enemies to the government. Hence the proverbial phrase of, He's an honest man, and eats no fish; to signify he's a friend to the government and a Protestant. The eating fish, on a religious account, being then esteemed such a badge of popery, that when it was enjoined for a season by act of parlia. ment, for the encouragement of the fish-towns, it was thought neces. sary to declare the reason ; hence it was called Cecil's fast. To this disgraceful badge of popery Fletcher alludes in his Woman-hater, who makes the courtezan say. when Lazarillo, in search of the um. brano's head was seized at her house by the intelligencers for a traytor: “Gentlemen I am glad you have discovered him. He should not have eaten under my roof for twenty pounds. And sure I did not like him, when lie called for fish.” And Marston's Dutch Courtezan: “ I trust I am none of the wicked that eat fish a Fridays."
ly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.
Lear. How old art thou?
Kent. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old, to dote on her for any thing: I have years on my back forty-eight.
Lear. Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho, dinner!- Where's my knave? my fool? Go you, and call my fool hither:
[Exit. Lear. What says the fellow there? Call the cīotpoll * back.- Where's my fool, ho?-I think the world 's asleep.—How now? where's that mongrel?
Knight. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
Lear. Why came not the slave back to me, when I called him?
Knight. Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
Lear. He would not !
Knight. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindnessi appears, as well in the general dependants, as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
Lear. Ha! sayest thou so?
Knight. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent, when I think your highness is wronged.
Lear. Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception; I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity,2 than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness: I will
of kindress -] These words are not in the quartos. Malone.
- jealous curiosity,] By this phrase King Lear means, I believe, a punetilious jealousy, resulting from a scrupulous watchfulness of his own dignity. Steevens.
a very pretence -] Pretence in Shakspeare generally signifies design. So, in a foregoing scene in this play: “- to no oiher pretence of danger.” Again, in Holinshed, p. 648: " - the pretensed evill purpose of the queene.” Steevens.
look further into 't.-But where 's my fool ? I have not seen him this two days.
Knight. Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away. 4
Lear. No more of that; I have noted it well.-Go you, and tell my daughter I would speak with her.-Go you, call hither
Stew. My lady's father.
whore. son dog! you slave! you cur!
Stew. I am none of this, my lord ;5 I beseech you, pars don me. Lear. Do you bandy looksó with me, you rascal?
[Striking him. Stew. I'll not be struck, my
lord. Kent. Nor tripped neither; you base foot-ball player.
[Tripping up his Heels. Lear. I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I 'll love thee.
Kent. Come, sir, arise, away; I'll teach you differences; away, away: If you will measure your lubber's length again, tarry: but away : go to ; Have you wisdom?? so.
[Pushes the Steward out. Lear. Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there's earnest of thy service.
[Giving Kent Money.
4 Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.) This is an endearing circumstance in the Fool's character, and creates such an interest in his favour, as his wit alone might have failed to procure for him. Steevens.
5 I am none of this, my lord ; &c.] Thus the quartos. The folio reads-I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon. Malone.
bandy looks —] A metaphor from Tennis:
Decker's Satiromastix, 1602. Again :
buckle with them hand to hand,
Wily Beguiled, 1606. Steevens. “ To bandy a ball,” Cole defines, clava pilum torquere: “to bandy at tennis,” reticulo pellere. Dict. 1679. Malone.
7 Have you wisdom.?] Thus the folio. The quarto reads--you hate wisdom. Malone. VOL. XIV.
[Giving KENT his Can
Fool. Why? For taking one's part that is out of favour:. Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou 'lt catch cold shortly :9 There, take my coxcomb:1 Why, this fellow has banished two of his daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will ; if thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.--How now, nuncle ?2 'Would I had two coxcombs, and two daughters !4
Lear. Why, my boy?
Fool. If I gave them all my living,5 I'd keep my coxcombs myself: There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.6
Lear. Take heed, sirrah; the whip.
& Why, fool?] The folio reads-why, my boy? and gives this ques. tion to Lear. Steevens.
- thou’lt catch cold shortly : ] i. e. be turned out of doors, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather. Farmer.
- take my coxcomb:] Meaning his cap, called so, because on the top of the fool or jester's cap was sewed a piece of red cloth, resembling the comb of a cock. The word, afterwards, was used to denote a vain, conceited, meddling fellow. Warburton.
How now, nuncle ?] Aunt is a term of respect in France. So, in Lettres D' Eliz. De Baviere Duchesse D'Orleans, Tom. II, p. 65, 66:
C'etoit par un espece de plaisanterie de badinage sans consequence, que la Dauphine appelloit Madame de Maintenon ma tante. Les filles d'honneur appelloient toujours leur gouvernante ma tante." And it is remarkable at this day that the lower people in Shropshire call the Judge of assize—“ my nuncle the Judge.” Vaillant.
two coxcombs,] Two fools caps, intended, as it seems, to mark double folly in the man that gives ali to his daughters. Johnson.
-and twodaughters.] Perhaps we should read-an'two daughters; i. e. if. Farmer.
- all my living,] Living in Shakspeare's time signified estate, or property. So, in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, by R. Greene,
“ In Laxfield here my land and living lies.” Malone.
beg another of thy daughters.] The Fool means to say, that it is by begging only that the old king can obtain any thing from his daughters: even a badge of folly in having reduced himself to such a situation. Malone.
Fool. Truth 's a dog that must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady, the brach, may stand by the fire and stink.
Lear. A pestilent gall to me!
Have more than thou showest,
Than two tens to a score.
Lady, the brach,] Brach is a bitch of the hunting kind. “ Nos quidem hodie brach dicimus de cane fæminea, quæ leporem ex odore persequitur. Spelm. Gloss. in voce Bracco."
Dr. Letherland, on the margin of Dr. Warburton's edition, proposed lady's brach, i.e. favour'd animal. The third quarto has a much more unmannerly reading, which I would not wish to establish: but the other quarto editions concur in reading lady o' the brach. Lady is still a common name for a hound. So Hotspur:
“ I had rather hear Lady, my brach, howl in Irish.” Again, in Ben Jonson's Poem to a Friend, &c.:
“ Do all the tricks of a salt lady bitch." In the old black letter Booke of Huntyng, &c. no date, the list of dogs concludes thus: “. - and small ladi popies that bere awaithe Aeas and divers small fautes." We might read~" when lady, the brach,” &c. Steevens.
Both the quartos of 1608 read—when Lady oth’e brach. I have therefore printed-lady, the brach, grounding inyself on the reading of those copies, and on the passage quoted by Mr. Steevens from King Henry IV, P. I. The folio and the late editions, read—when the lady brach, &c. Malone.
8 Lend less than thou owest,] That is, do not lend all that thou hast. To owe, in old English, is to possess. If owe be taken for to be in debt, the more prudent precept would be :
Lend more than thou owest. Johnson. 9 Learn more than thou trowest,] To trow, is an old word which signifies to believe. The precept is admirable. Warburton. 1 This is nothing, fool.] The quartos give this speech to Lear.
Steeveris. In the folio these words are given to Kent. Malone.