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What is your study?
Edg. How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
Kent. Impórtune him once more to go, my lord,
Canst thou blame him?
Storm continues The grief hath craz’d my wits. What a night's this! I do beseech your grace, – Lear.
O, cry you mercy,
Edg: Tom 's a-cold.
This way, my lord.
With him : I will keep still with my philosopher. Kent. Good my lord, sooth him; let him take the
fellow. Glo. Take hiin you on.
learned Theban:] Ben Jonson, in his Masque of Pan's An-, niversary, has introduced a Tinker whom he calls a learned Theban, perhaps in ridicule of this passage. Steevens.
4 His wits begin to unsettle.) On this occasion, I cannot prevail on myself to omit the following excellent remark of Mr. Horace Wal. pole, (now Lord Orford] inserted in the postscript to his Mysterious Mother. He observes, that when “ Belvidera talks of
“ Lutes, laurels, seas of milk, and ships of Amber, she is not mad, but light-headed. When madness has taken possession of a person, such character ceases to be fit for the stage, or at least should appear there but for a short time ; being the business of the theatre to exhibit passions, not distempers. The finest picture ever drawn, of a head discomposed by misfortune, is that of King Lear. His thoughts dwell on the ingratitude of his daughters, and every sentence that falls from his wildness excites reflection and pity. Had frenzy entirely seized him, our compassion would abate: we should conclude that he no longer felt unhappiness. Shakspeare wrote as a philosopher, Otway as a poet.” Steevens.
Kent. Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
No words, no words:
I smell the blood of a British man. Exeunt:
A Room in Gloster's Castle.
Enter CORNWALL and EDMUND. Corn. I will have my revenge, ere I depart his house:
5 Child Rowland to the dark tower came,] The word child (however it came to have this sense) is often applied to Knights, &c. in old his. torical songs and romances; of this, innumerable instances occur in The Reliques of ancient English Poetry. See particularly in Vol. I, s. iv, v. 97, where, in a description of a battle between two knights, we find these lines:
“ The Eldridge knighte, he prick'd his steed;
“ Syr Cawline bold abode :
“ So soon in sunder slode." See in the same volumes the ballads concerning the child of Elle, child waters, child Maurice, (Vol. III, s. xx,) &c. The same idiom occurs in Spenser's Fairy Queen, where the famous knight sir Tristram is frequently called Child Tristram. See B. V, c. ii, st. 8, 13, B. VI, c. ii, st. 36, ibid. c. viii, st. 15. Percy.
Child is a common term in our old metrical romances and ballads; and is generally, if not always, applied to the hero or principal per. sonage, who is sometimes a knight, and sometimes a thief. Syr Tryamoure is repeatedly so called both before and after his knighthood. I think, however, that this line is part of a translation of some Spanish, or perhaps, French, ballad. But the two following lines evidently be. long to a different subject: I find them in the Second part of Fack and the Giants, which, if not as old as Shakspeare's time, may have been compiled from something that was so : They are uttered by a giant:
“ Fee, fam, fum,
“ I'll grind his bones to make me bread." English is here judiciously changed to British, because the charac. ters are Britons, and the scene is laid long before the English had any. thing to do with this country. Our aathor is not so attentive to propriety on every occasion. Ritson.
Edm. How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of.
Corn. I now perceive, it was not altogether your brother's evil disposition made him seek his death; but a provoking merit,o set a-work by a reprovable badness in himself.
Edm. How malicious is my fortune, that I must repent to be just! This is the letter he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent party to the advantages of France. O heavens! that this treason were not, or not I the detector.
Corn. Go with me to the duchess.
Edm. If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.
Corn. True, or false, it hath made thee earl of Gloster. Seek out where thy father is, that he may be ready for our apprehension.
Edm. [aside] If I find him comforting the king, it will stuff his suspicion more fully.— I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and
blood. Corn. I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt find a dearer father in
A Chamber in a Farm-House, adjoining the Castle. Enter GLOSTER, LEAR, KENT, Fool, and EDGAR. Glo. Here is better than the open air ; take it thanks
but a provoking merit,] Provoking, here means stimulating; a merit he felt in himself, which irritated him against a father that had none. M. Mason.
Cornwall, I suppose, means the merit of Edmund, which, being noticed by Gloster, provoked or instigated Edgar to seek his father's death. Dr. Warburton conceived that the merit spoken of was that of Edgar. But how is this consistent with the rest of the sentence?
Malone. comforting -] He uses the word in the juridical sense for supporting, helping. according to its derivation ; salvia confortat ner. vos. Schol. Sal. Fohnson.
Johnson refines too much on this passage ; comforting means merely giving comfort or assistance. So Gloster says, in the beginning of the next scene: 6 I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can." M. Mason.
fully: I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can: I will not be long from you.
Kent. All the power of his wits has given way to his impatience:-The gods reward your kindness!
[Exit Glo. Edg. Frateretto calls me; and tells me, Nero is an anglers in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and be. ware the foul fiend.
Fool: Pr’ythee, nuncle, tell me, whether a madman be a gentleman, or a yeoman? Lear. A king, a king!
Fool.2 No; he's a yeoman, that has a gentleman to his son: for he's a mad yeoman, thạt sees his son a gentleman before him.
Lear. To have a thousand with red burning spits Come hizzing in upon them:
Edg.3 The foul fiend bites my back.
: Frateretto calls me; and tells me, Nero is an angler &c.] See p. 253, n. 9.
Mr. Upton observes that Rabelais, B. II, c. xxx, says that Nero was a fidler in hell, and Trajan an angler.
Nero is introduced in the present play above 800 years before he was born. Malone.
The History of Gargantua had appeared in English before 1575, being mentioned in Langham's Letter, printed in that year. Ritson.
Pray, innocent,] Perhaps he is here addressing the Fool. Fools were anciently called Innocents. So, in All's Well that Ends Well: “the Sheriff's Fool,-a dumb innocent, that could not say him nay." See Vol. V, p. 271, n.7.
Again, in The Whipper of the Satyre his Pennance in a white Sheete, &c. 1601 :
“ A gentleman that had a wayward foole,
“ The innocent had spi'd him, and cri'd stay,” &c. Steevens. 1 Fool. Prythee, nuncle, tell me,] And before, in the same Act, sc. iii :-"Cry to it, nuncle.” Why does the Fool call the old King nuncle? But we have the same appellation in The Pilgrim, by Fletcher: “ Farewel, nuncle,
,99 Act IV, sc.i. And in the next scene, alluding to Shakspeare:
“ What mops and mowes it makes." Whalley. See Mr. Vaillant's very decisive remark on this appellation, p. 170,
Steevens 2 Fool.] This speech is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
3 Edg.] This and the next thirteen speeches (which Dr. Johnson had enclosed in crotchets) are only in the quartos. Steevens.
Fool. He's mad, that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health,4 a boy's love, or a whore's oath.
Lear. It shall be done, I will arraign them straight:Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer ;5—[To EDG. Thou, sapient sir, sit here. [To the Fool.]-Now, you she
foxes! Edy. Look, where he stands and glares ! Wantest thou eyes6 at trial, madam??
Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me :8-
And she must not speak
a horse's health,] Without doubt we should read heels, i.e. to stand behind him. Warburton.
Shakspeare is here speaking not of things maliciously treacherous, but of things uncertain and not durable. A horse is above all other animals subject to diseases. Johnson.
Heels is certainly right. “ Trust not a horse's heel, nor a dog's tooth," is a proverb in Ray's Collection; as ancient at least as the time of our Edward II. Ritson.
5 - most learned justicer;] The old copies read—justice. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. Malone.
6 Wantest &c.] I am not confident that I understand the meaning of this desultory speech. When Edgar says, Look where he stands and glares! he seems to be speaking in the character of a mad man, who thinks he sees the fiend. Wantest thou eyes at trial, Madam? is a question which appears to be addressed to the visionary Goneril, or some other abandoned female, and may signify, Do you want to attract admiration, even while you stand at the bar of justice.? Mr. Seward proposes to read, wanton" st instead of wantesť. Steevens.
at trial, madam?] It may be observed that Edgar, being supposed to be found by chance, and therefore to have no knowledge of the rest, connects not his ideas with those of Lear, but pursues his own train of delirious or fantastick thought. To these words, At trial, madam? I think therefore that the name of Lear should be put. The process of the dialogue will support this conjeccure. Fohnson.
8 Come o'er the bourn, Bessy, to me:] Both the quartos and the folio have-o'er the broome. The correction was made by Mr. Stee.
Malone. As there is no relation between broom and a boat, we may better read:
Come o'er the brook, Bessy, to me. Johnson. At the beginning of A very mery and pythie Commedie, called, The longer thou livest, the more Foole thou art, &c. Impr.nred at London by Wyllyam How, &c. black letter, no date, “Entreth Moros, counterfaiting a vaine gesture and foolish countenance, synging the foote of