Page images

A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
And be a thwart8 disnatur'do torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tearsi fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains, and benefits,
To laughter and contempt;' that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child !-Away, away! [Erit.

Alb. Now, gods, that we adore, whereof comes this?




Her shrunk and wasted body. See Bullokar's English Expositor, 1616: “ Derogate. To impaire, diminish, or take away." Malone.

Degraded (Dr. Johnson's first explanation) is surely the true one. So, in Cymbeline : “Is there no derogation in't?-You cannot derogate, my lord,” i.e. degrade yourself. Steevens.

thwart - ] Thwart, as a noun adjective, is not frequent in our language. It is, however, to be found in Promos and Cassandra, 1578: « Sith fortune thwart doth crosse my joys with care.”

Henderson. disnatur'd --] Disnatur’d is wanting natural affection. So Daniel, in Hymen's Triumph, 1623 :

66 I am not so disnatured a man. Steevens.

cadent tears - ] i. e. Falling tears. Dr. Warburton would read candent. Steedens.

The words-these hot tears, in Lear's next speech, may seem to authorize the amendment; but the present reading is right. It is a more severe imprecation to wish, that tears by constant flowing may fret channels in the cheeks, which implies a long life of wretchedness, than to wish that those channels should be made by scalding rears, which does not mark the same continuation of misery. The same thought occurs in Troilus and Cressida, Act V, sc. iii :

" Not Priamus and Hecuba on knees,

“ Their eyes o'er-galled with recourse of tears," should prevent his going to the field. M. Mason. 2 Turn all her mother's pains, and benefits,

To laughter and contempt;] “ Her mother's pains" here signifies, not bodily sufferings, or the throes of child-birth, (with which this “ disnatured babe” being unacquainted, it could not deride or despise them) but maternal cares; the solicitude of a mother for the welfare of her child. So, in King Richard III:

«« 'Tis time to speak; my pains are quite forgot.” Benefits mean good offices; her kind and beneficent attention to the education of her offspring, &c. Mr. Roderick has, in my opinion, explained both these words wrong. He is equally mistaken in supposing that the sex of this child is ascertained by the word her; which clearly relates, not to Goneril's issue, but to herself. Her mother's pains" means—the pains which she (Goneril) takes as a mother. Malone.

Gon. Never afflict yourself to know the cause ;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.

Re-enter LEAR.
Lear. What, fifty of my followers, at a clap!
Within a fortnight?

What's the matter, sir?
Lear. I'll tell thee ;-Life and death! I am asham'd
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus:

[7. Gon. That these hot tears,3 which break from me perforce, Should make thee worth them.-Blasts and fogs upon

The untented woundings4 of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee!-Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I 'll pluck you out;
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay.--Ha! is it come to this?
Let it be so :6_Yet have I left a daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable;
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She 'll flay thy wolfish visage. Thou shalt find,
That I 'll resume the shape which thou dost think

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

3 That these hot tears, &c.] I will transcribe this passage from the first edition, that it may appear to those who are unacquainted with old books, what is the difficulty of revision, and what indulgence is due to those that endeavour to restore corrupted passages. That these hot tears, that breake from me perforce, should make the worst blasts and fogs upon the untender woundings of a father's curse, peruse every sense about the old fond eyes, beweep this cause again, &c. Johnson.

4 The untented woundings -] Untented wounds, means wounds in their worst state, not having a tent in them to digest them; and may possibly signify here such as will not admit of having a tent put into them for that purpose. Our author quibbles on this practice in sur. gery, in Troilus and Cressida:

Patr. Who keeps the tent now?

Ther. The surgeon's box, or the patient's wound.One of the quartos reads, untender. Steevens.

that you lose,] The quartos read--that you make. Steedens, Let it be so: &c.] The reading is here gleaned up, part from the first, and part from the second edition. Johnson.

Let it be su, is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.

And is it come to this is omitted in the folio. Yet have I left a daughter is the reading of the quartos; the folio has, I have another daugh. I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.



[Exeunt LEAR, KENT, and Attendants. Gon. Do


mark that, my lord ? Alb. I cannot be so partial, Goneril, To the great love I bear you,

Gon. Pray you, content.-What, Oswald, ho ! You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.

[To the Fool. Fool. Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry, and take the fool with thee.

A fox, when one has caught her,
And such a daughter,
Should sure to the slaughter,
If my cap would buy a halter;
So the fool follows after.

[Exit. *Gon. This man hath had good counsel :-A hundred

knights! 'Tis politick, and safe, to let him keep At point, a hundred knights. Yes, that on every dream, Each buz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, He inay enguard his dotage with their powers, And hold our lives in mercy.-Oswald, I say!

Alb. Well, you may fear too far.

Safer than trust:2
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart :
What he hath utter'd, I have writ my sister;
If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
When I have show'd the unfitness,*-How now, Oswald?3


- thou shalt, I warrant thee.] These words are omitted in the folio. Malone.

8 *Gon.] All from this asterisk to the next is omitted in the quartos. Sieevens.

9 At point,] I believe, means completely armed, and consequently ready at appointment or command on the slightest notice. Steevens.

1 And hold our lives in mercy.] Thus the old copies. Mr. Pope who could not endure that the language of Shahspeare's age should not correspond in every instance with that of modern times, reads-at mercy; and the subsequent editors have adopted his innovation.

Malone. 2 Safer than trust:) Here the old copies add-too far; as if these words were not implied in the answer of Goneril. The redundancy of the metre authorizes the present omission. Steevens.

Enter Steward.
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

Stew. Ay, madam.

Gon. Take you some company, and away to horse: Inforın her full of my particular fear; And thereto add such reasons of your own, As may compact it more.4 Get you gone; And hasten your return. [Exit Stew.] No, no, my lord, This milky gentleness, and course of yours, Though I condemn it not, yet, under pardon, You are much more aitask'cls for want of wisdom,


How now, Oswald? &c.] The quartos read—what Os. wald, ho!

Osw. Here, madum.
Gon. What, have you writ this letter, &c. Steevens.

compact it more.] Unite one circumstance with another, so as to make a consistent account. Johnson.

More is here used as a dissyllable. Malone.

I must still withhold my assent from such new dissyllables. Some monosyllable has in this place been omitted. Perhaps the author wroteGo, get you gone.

Steevens. 5 - more attask'd -] It is a common phrase now with parents and governesses: I'll take you to task, i.e. I will reprehend and correct you. To be at task, therefore, is to be liable to reprehension and correction. Johnson.

Borh the quartos instead of at task-read, alapt. A late editor of King Lear, (Mr. Jennens] says, that the first quarto reads-attask'd; but unless there be a third quarto which I have never seen or heard of, his assertion is erroneous. Steevens.

The quarto printed by N. Butter, 1608, of which the first signa. ture is B, reads-attask'd for want of wisdom, &c. The other quarto printed by the same printer, in the same year, of which the first signature is A, reads-alapt for want of wisdom, &c. Three copies of the quarto first described, (which concur in reading attask’d) and one copy of the other quarto, are now before me. The folio reads—at task. --The quartos have praise instead of prais'd. Attask'd I suppose, means, charged, censured. So, in King Henry IV:

How show'd his tasking ? seem'd it in contempt?" See Vol. VIII, p. 319, n. 6.

In the notes on this play I shall hereafter call the quarto first mentioned, quarto B: the other, quarfo A. Malone.

Both the quartos described by Mr. Malone are at this instant before me, and they concur in reading-alapt. I have left my two copies of Butter's publication (which I had formerly the honour of lending to Mr. Malone) at the shop of Messieurs White, Booksellers, in Fleet Street.

Than prais’d for harmful mildness.

Alb. How far your eyes may pierce, I cannot tell; (Striving to better, oft we mar what 's well. )

Gon. Nay, then -
Alb. Well, well; the event.



Court before the same.

Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool. Lear. Go you before to Gloster with these letters : acquaint my daughter no further with any thing you know, than comes from her demand out of the letter: If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there before you.?

I have no doubt, however, but that Mr. Malone and myself are equally justifiable in our assertions, though they contradict each other ; for it appears to me that some of the quartos (like the folio 1623) must have been partially corrected while a: press. Consequently the copies first worked off, escaped without correction. Such is the case respecting two of the three quartos (for three there are) of King Henry IV, P. II, 1600. Steevens

The word task is frequently used by Shakspeare, and indeed by other writers of his time, in the sense of tax. Goneril means to say, that he was more taxed for want of wisdom, than praised for mild.



So, in The Island Princess, of Beaumont and Fletcher, Quisana says to Ruy Dias:

“ You are too saucy, too impudent,

" To task me with those errors." M. Mason. 6 Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.] So, in our author's 103d Sonnet:

“ Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was weli ?Malone.

- there before you.] He seems to intend to go to his daughter, but it appears afterwards that he is going to the house of Gloster.

Steevens. The word there in this speech shows, that when the king says, "Go you before to Gloster," he means the town of Gloster, which, as Mr. Tyrwhitt has observed, Shakspeare chose to make the residence of the Duke of Cornwall and Regan, in order to give a probability to their setting out laie from thence, on a visit to the Earl of Gloster, whose castle our poet conceived to be in the neighbourhood of that city. Our old Eglish earls usually resided in the counties from whence they took their titles. Lear, not finding his son-in-law and his wife at home, follows them to the Earl of Gloster's castle. See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note, in Act II, sc. iv. Malone.

« PreviousContinue »