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You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?

Corn. Come, sir, what letters had you late from France ? Reg. Be simple-answer'd,? for we know the truth.

Corn. And what confederacy have you with the traitors Late footed in the kingdom?

Reg. To whose hands have you sent the lunatick king? Speak.

Glo. I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that 's of a neutral heart,
And not from one oppos'd.


And false.
Corn. Where hast thou sent the king?

To Dover.

Wherefore To Dover? Wast thou not charg'd at thy perils

Corn. Wherefore to Dover ? Let him first answer that.
Glo. I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the

Reg. Wherefore to Dover?
Glo. Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.1
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head



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“ Within the compass of man's face we see,

“ How many sorts of several favours be.'' Again, in David and Bethsabe, 1599:

“ To daunt the favours of his lovely face.” Steevens. 7 Be simple-answer'd,] The old quarto reads, Be simple answerer. -Either is good sense : simple means plain. Steevens.

thy peril - ] I have inserted the pronoun-thy, for the sake of metre. Steevens.

the course.] The running of the dogs upon me. Johnson.

stick boarish fangs.] The quartos read-rash boarish fangs. This verb occurs in Spenser's Fairy Queen B. IV, c. ii: " And shields did share, and mailes did rash, and helmes did

hew." Again, B. V, c iï:

Rashing off helmes, and ryving plates asunder.". To rash is the old hunting term for the stroke made by a wild boar with his fang's. So, in Chapman's version of the eleventh Iliad:

As when two chased boars “ Turn head gainst kennels of boid hounds, and race way

through their gores.” Steevens.


In hell-black night endur'd, would have buoy'd up,
And quench'd the stelled fires: yet, poor old heart,
He holp the heavens to rain.2
If wolves had at thy gate howľd that stern time,3
Thou should'st have said, Good porter, turn the key;
All cruels else subscrib’d:4-But I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
Corn. See it shalt thou never :-Fellows, hold the

Upon these eyes5 of thine I 'll set my foot.

[ held down in his Chair, while CORN.plucks

out one of his Eyes, and sets his Foot on it.
Glo. He, that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help:-0 cruel ! O ye gods!

Reg. One side will mock another; the other too.
Corn. If you see vengeance,

Hold your hand, my lord : I have serv'd you ever since I was a child;



to rain.] Thus the folio. The quartos read-to rage.

Steevens. that stern time,] Thus the folio. Both the quartos readthat dearn time. Dearn is a north-country word, signifying lonely, solitary, secret, obscure, melancholy, uncomfortable, far froni neighbours. So, in The Valiant Scot:

“Of all thy joys the dearne and dismal end." Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. II, c. i:

• They heard a rueful voice that dearnly cride." Again, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609:

“ By many a dearne and painful pearch." The reading in the text, however, is countenanced by the following passage in Chapman's version of the 24th Iliad:

- in this so sterne a tiine
" Of night and danger, —.” Steevens.

- subscribd:] Yielded, submitted to the necessity of the occasion. Fohnson.

5 Upon these eyes &c.] In Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, one of the sons of Bajazet pulls out the eyes of an Aga on the stage, and says

“ Yes, thou shalt live, but never see that day,
Wanting the tapers that should give thee light.

[Pulls out his eyes." Immediately after, his hands are cut off. I have introduced this passage to show that Shakspeare's drama was not more sanguinary than that of his contemporaries. Steevens.

In Marston's Antonio's Revenge, 1602, Piero's tongue is torn out 0x the stage. Malone.

But better service have I never done you,
Than now to bid


hold. Reg.

How now, you dog? Serv. If you did wear a beard upon your chin, I'd shake it on this quarrel: What do you mean? Corn. My villain !

[Draws and runs at him. Serv. Nay, then come on, and take the chance of anger.

[Draws. They fight. Corn. is wounded. Reg. Give me thy sword.--[To another Serv.] A peasant stand


thus! [Snatches a Sword, comes behind, and stabs him. Serv. O, I am slain !My lord, you have one eye left To see some mischief on him:-O!

[Dies. Corn. Lest it see more, prevent it:-Out, vile jelly ! Where is thy lustre now? [Tears out GLOSTER's other Eye, and throws it on

the Ground. Glo. All dark and comfortless. Where's my son Ed

mund ?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature,
To quit this horrid act.

Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call'st on him that hates thee: it was hç
That made the overture of thy treasons to us;
Who is too good to pity thee.

O my follies!
Then Edgar was abus’d.
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!

Reg. Go, thrust him out at gates, and let him smell His way to Dover.-How is 't, my lord? How look you?

Corn. I have receiv'd a hurt:- Follow me, lady:Turn out that eyeless villain ;-throw this slave Upon the dunghill.-Regan, I bleed apace: Untimely comes this hurt: Give me your arm. [Exit Corn. led by REG.;-Servants unbind Glo.

and lead him out. i Serv. I'll never care what wickedness I do,8


0 My villain.'] Villain is here perhaps used in its original sense of one in servitude. Steevens.

the overture of thy treasons — ] Overture is here used for an opening or discovery. It was he who first laid thy treasons open to us. Coles in his Dict. 1679, renders Overture by apertior apertura. An overt act of treason, is the technical phrase. Malone.

If this man comes to good. 2 Serv.

If she live long, And, in the end, meet the old course of death, Women will all turn monsters.

1 Serv. Let 's follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam To lead him where he would; his roguish madness Allows itself to any thing. 2 Serv. Go thou; I 'll fetch some flax, and whites of

eggs, To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!

[Exeunt severally.


The Heath.

Enter EDGAR. Edg. Yet better thus, and known to be contemn’d,2 Than still contemn'd and flatter'd. To be worst,



8 I'll never care what wickedness I do,] This short dialogue I have inserted from the old quarto, because I think it full of nature. Ser. vants could hardly see such a barbarity committed on their master, without pity; and the vengeance that they presume must overtake the actors of it, is a sentiment and doctrine well worthy of the stage.

Theobald. It is not necessary to suppose them the servants of Gloster; for Cornwall was opposed to extremity by his own servant. Johnson. -meet the old course of death,] That is, die a natural death.

Malone. some flax, &c.] This passage is ridiculed by Ben Jonson, in The Case is alter'd, 1609: “. - go, get a white of an egs, and a little flax, and close the breaches of the head, it is the most conducible thing that can be.” Steevens.

The Case is alterd was written before the end of the year 1599; but Ben Jonson might have inserted this sneer at our author, between the time of King Lear's appearance, and the publication of his own play in 1609. Malone.

2 Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd,] The meaning is, 'Tis better to be thus contemned, and known to yourself to be contemned. Or perhaps there is an error, which may be rectified thus:

Yet hetter thus unknown to be contemn'd. When a man divests himself of his real character he feels no pain from contempt, because he supposes it incurred only by a voluntary disguise which he can throw off at pleasure. I do not think any correction necessary. Johnson.

The lowest, and most dejected thing of fortune,
Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear:3
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome then,
Thou unsubstantial air, that I embrace!
The wretch, that thou hast blown unto the worst,
Owes nothing to thy blasts.—But who comes here?-

Enter GLOSTER, led by an old Man.
My father, poorly led ?- World, world, O world!
But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, 5

The sentiment is this:-It is better to be thus contemn'd and know it, than to be flattered by those who secretly contemn us. Henley. I cannot help thinking that this passage should be written thus:

Yet better thus unknown to be contemn'd,
Than still contemn'd and flatter'd to be worse.

The lowest, Sc. The quarto edition has no stop after flatter'd. The first folio, which has a comma there, has a colon at the end of the line.

The expression in this speech—owes nothing to thy blasts-(in a more learned writer) might seem to be copied from Virgil, Æn. xi, 51 :

Nos juvenem exanimum, et nil jam cælestibus ullis

“ Debentem, vano mæsti comitamur honore.Tyrwhitt. I think with Mr. Tyrwhitt that Dr. Johnson's conjecture is well founded, and that the poet wrote-unknown. Malone.

The meaning of Edgar's speech seems to be this. Yet it is better to be thus, in this fixed and acknowledged contemptible state, than, living in affluence, to be flattered and despised at the same time. He who is placed in the worst and lowest state has this advantage; he lives in hope, and not in fear, of a reverse of fortune. The lamentable change is from afluence to beggary. He laughs at the idea of change ing for the worse, who is already as low as possible. Sir J. Reynolds.

lives not in fear: ] So, in Milton's Paradise Regained, B. III: For where no hope is left, is left no fear.” Steevens.

Welcome then,] The next two lines and a half are omitted in the quartos. Steevens.

World, world, O world! But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee,] The sense of this obscure passage is, O world! so much are human minds captivated with thy pleasures, that were it not for those successive mise. ries, each worse than the other, which overload the scenes of life, we should never be willing to submit to death, though the infirmities of old age would teach us to choose it as a proper asylum. Besides, by uninterrupted prosperity, which leaves the mind at ease, the body would generally preserve such a state of vigour as to bear up long against the decays of time. These are the two reasons, I suppose, why he said.

Life would not yield to age.


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