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Led him, begg'd for him, sav'd him from despair ;
Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Edm. This speech of yours hath mov'd me,
Alb. If there be more, more woful, hold it in;
Edg. 2 This would have seem'd a period
2 [Edg.] The lines between crotchets are not in the folio. Johnson.
This would have seein'da period
And top extremity.] The reader easily sees that this reflection refers to the Bastard's desiring to hear more; and to Albany's thinking he had said enough. But it is corrupted into miserable nonsense. We should read it thus:
- This would have seem'd a period. But such
To much, would make much more, and top extremity. i.e. This to a common humanity would have been thought the ut. most of my sufferings; but such as love cruelty are always for adding more to much, till they reach the extremity of misery.
Warburton. The sense may probably be this: This would have seemed a perion to such as love not sorrow; but-another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as will increase the horrors of what has been already told. So, in King Richard II:
« I play the torturer, by small and small,
“ 'To lengthen out the worst.”' Stecoens.
* Devise extremes beyond extremity.”
Whilst I was big in clamour, came there a man,
Too-much is here used as a substantive. A period is an end or conclusion. So, in King Richard III:
"O, let me make the period to my curse.” This reflection perhaps refers, as Dr. Warburton has observed, to the Bastard's desiring to hear more, and to Albany's thinking that enough had beea said. This, says Edgar, would have seemed the utmost completion of woe, to such as do not delight in sorrow; but another, of a different disposition, to amplify inisery, would " give more strength to that which hath too much.”
Edgar's words, however, may have no reference to what Edmund has said; and he may only allude to the relation he is about to give of Kent's adding a new sorrow to what Edgar already suffered, by recounting the miseries which the old king and his faithful follower had endured. Mr. Steevens points thus :
but another ;
And top extremity: But if such a punctuation be adopted, what shall we do with the word would, which is thus left without a nominative case ? A preceding editor, who introduced the above punctuation, to obtain some sense, reads and points :
Whilst I was big &c. and indeed without that alteration, the words thus pointed afford, in ny apprehension, no sense. Malone.
Mr. Malone’s explanation may be just ; and yet it is probable that we are struggling with a passage, the obscurity of which is derived from its corruption. Steevens.
threw him on my father;] The quartos read:
threw me on my father. The modern editors have corrected the passage, as it is now printed, and as I suppose it to have been originally written. There is tragick propriety in Kent's throwing himself on the body of a deceased friend; but this propriety is lost in the act of clumsily tumbling a son over the lifeless remains of his father. Steevens.
-threw me on my father ;] Thus both the quartos, where alone 'this speech is found. Mr. Theobald, and the subsequent editors, read -threw him on my father. This is a new and distinct idea; but I do not think myself warranted to adoptit; the text being intelligible, and it being very improbable that the word me should have been printed
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him,
But who was this?
Enter a Gentleman hastily, with a bloody Knife.
What kind of help?
Speak, man. Edg. What means that bloody knife ? Gent.
'Tis hot, it smokes; It came even from the heart of 6 Alb.
Who, man? speak? Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister By her is poison'd; she confesses it.s
Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant.
Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead! This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble;
instead of him.-Kent in his transport of joy, at meeting Edgar, em. braced him with such violence, as to throw him on the dead body of Gloster. Malone.
the trumpet sounded,] The quartos, where alone this speech is found, read trumpets ; but it was certainly a misprint, for one truin. pet only had sounded. Dr. Johnson made the correction. Malone.
-- from the heart of - ] Here the folio, in defiance of metre and propriety, adds
O she's dead. Steevens. 7 Who, man? speak.] The folio reads, Who dead? Speak man.
Steevens. she confesses it.] Thus the first and second folio. The quar. tos-she has [and hath] confess’d it. As these readings are equally proper, I have chosen the more metrical of the two. Steevens.
9 Now marry in an instant.] In the folio, after these words, we haveEdg. Here comes Kent.
Enter Kent. and the words—0, is this he, are spoken by Albany, immediately after touches us not with pity: I have followed the quartos. Malone.
1 This judgment &c.] If Shakspeare had studied Aristotle all his
Touches us not with pity.
[Exit Gent. Enter KENT. Edg.
Here comes Kent, sir. 2
I am come
Great thing of us forgot!
delia? See'st thou this object, Kent?
[The Bodies of Gon. and Reg. are brought in. Kent. Alack, why thus? Edm.
Yet Edmund was belov'd :4 The one the other poison’d for my sake, And after slew herself.
Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces.
Edm. I pant for life :-Some good I mean to do,
Run, run, (), run
life, he would not perhaps have been able to mark with more precision the distinct operations of terror and pity. Tyrwhitt.
This is the reading of the folio. The quartos have-This justice &c. Malone.
2 Here comes Kent, sir.] The manner in which Edgar here mentions Kent, seems to require the lines which are inserted from the first edition in the foregoing scene. Johnson.
3 0! it is he.] Thus the quartos. Folio: 0, is this he? Malone.
4 Yet Edmund was beloo'd:] Rowe's dying Rake suggests to him. self a similar consolation, arising from the remembrance of success. ful gallantry:
65 Dét, let not this advantage swell thy pride ;
“I conquer'd in my turn, in love I triumph’d.” Dryden's Don Sebastian felicitates himself on the same circum: stance. Thus also in The Double Marriage hy Fletcher:
this happiness yet stays with me: “ You have been mine.” Steevens.
Thy token of reprieve.
Edm. Well thought on; take my sword,
Haste thee, for thy life. Exit EDG.
[EDM. is borne off. Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms; EDGAR,
Officer, and Others. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O, you are men of
stones ; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack:-0, she is gone for
5 Give it the captain.] The quartos read:
“ Take my sword, the captain, “Give it the captain. Steevens. • Alb. Haste thee, for thy life.] Thus the quartos. In the folio this speech is improperly assigned to Edgar, who had the moment before received the token of reprieve, which Edmund enjoined him to give the officer, in whose custody Lear was. Malone.
7 That she fordid herself.] To fordo, signifies to destroy. It is used again in Hamlet, Act V:
did, with desperate hand, 6 Fordo its own life.” Steevens. Here the folio and quarto B unnecessarily add—That she fordid herself, i. e. destroyed herself. I have followed the quarto A.
Malone. Cordelia dead in his arms;] This princess, according to the old historians, retired with victory from the batile which she conducted in her father's cause, and thereby replaced him on the throne : but in a subsequent one fought against her (after the death of the old king) by the sons of Goneril and Regan, she was taken, and died miserably in prison. The poet found this in history, and was therefore willing to precipitate her death, which he knew had happened but a few years after. The dramatick writers of this age suffered as small a number of their heroes and heroines to escape as possible ; nor could the filial piety of this lady, any more than the innocence of Ophelia, prevail on Shakspeare to extend her life beyond her misfortunes. Steevens.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of this story, says, that Cordelia was thrown by her nephews into prison, “ where, for grief at the loss of her kingdom, she killed herself” Malone.