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wound is fatal. We have seen in Othello, how the unsuspecting frankness and impetuous passions of the Moor are played upon and exasperated by the artful dexterity of lago. In the present play, that which aggravates the sense of sympathy in the read
and of uncontrolable anguish in the swoln heart of Lear, is the petrifying indifference, the cold, calculating, obdurate selfishness of his daughters. His keen passions seem whetted on their stony hearts. The contrast would be too painful, the shock too great, but for the idtervention of the Fool, whose well-timed levity comes in to break the continuity of feeling when it can no longer be borne, and to bring into play again the fibres of the heart just as they are growing rigid from overstrained excitement. The imagination is glad to take refuge in the half-comick, half-serious comments of the Fool, just as the mind, under the extreme anguish of a surgical operation, vents itself in sallies of wit. The character was also a grotesque ornament of the barbarous times, in which alone the tragick groundwork of the story could be laid. In another point of view it is indispensable, in as much as while it is a diversion to the too great intensity of our disgust, it carries the pathos to the highest pitch of which it is capable, by shewing the pitiable weakness of the old king's conduct, and its irretrievable consequences in the most familiar point of view. Lear may well " beat at the gate which let his folly in," after, as the Fool says, “ he has made his daughters his mothers.” The character is dropped in the third act to make room for the entrance of Edgar as Mad Tom, which well accords with the
increasing bustle and wildness of the incidents; and nothing can be more complete than the distinction between Lenr's real and Edgar's assumed madness, while the resemblance in the cause of their distress es, from the severing of the nearest ties of natural affection, keeps up a unity of interest. Shakspeare's mastery over bis subject, if it was not art, was owing to a knowledge of the connecting links of the passions, and their effect upon the mind, still more wonderful than any systematick adherence to rules, and that anticipated and outdid all the efforts of the most refined art, not inspired and rendered instinctive by genius.
One of the most perfect displays of dramatick power is the first interview between Lear and his daughter, after the designed affronts upon him, which till one of his knights reminds him. of them, his sanguine temperament had led him to overlook. He returns with bis train from hunting, and bis usual impatience breaks out in his first words, “ Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go, get it ready.” He then encounters the faithful Kent in disguise, and retains him in his service ; and the first trial of his honest duty is to trip up the heels of the officious Steward who makes so prominent and despicable a figure through the piece. On the entrance of Gonerill the following dialogue takes place :
“Lear. How now, daughter ? what makes that frontlet on? Methinks, you are too much of late i’ the frowo. Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow, when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning ; now thou art an O without a figure: I am bet. ter than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.--Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; (To Gonerill.] so your face bids me, though you say nothing. Muin, mum.
He that keeps nur crust nor cruin,
Weary of all, shall want some.
[Pointing to Lear.
The hedge sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
'That it had its head bit off by its young. So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Lear. Are you our daughter ?
Gonerill. Come, sir,
Whoop, Jug, I love thee.
Gonerill. Come, sir :
of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
be wise :
Lear. Darkness and devils !-
Gonerill. You strike my people; and your disorder'd rabble. Make servants of their betters.
Lear. Woe, that too late repents—0, sir, are you come ! Is it your will ? speak, şir.--- Prepare my horses.
Albany. Pray, sir, be patient.
Albany. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant Of what hath mov'd you.
Lear. It may be so, my lordHear, nature, hear! dear goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend To make this creature fruitful! loto her womb convey sterility ; Dry up in her the organs of increase ; And from her derogate body never spring A babe to honour her! If she must teem, Create her child of spleen: that it may live, To be a thwart dispatur'd torment to her! Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth; With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks; l'urn 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 thaukless child ! --Away, away! (Exit.
Albany. Now, gods, that we adore, whereof comes this?
Gonerill. Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
Lear. What, Sfty of my followers at clap! Withiu a fortuight !
Albany. 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 :
(To Gonerill. That these hot tears, which break from me perforce, Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee! The untented woundings of a father's curse Pierce every sense about thee !Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck you out; And cast you, with the waters that you loose, To temper clay. -Ha ! is it come to this? Let it he 80 : Yet have I left a daughter, Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable; When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
Old fond eyes