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But better service have I never done you,
How now, you dog? Serv. If you did wear a beard upon your chin, I'd shake it on this quarrel: What do you
? Corn. My villain !6 [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 pea
sant stand up thus!
[Snatches a Szuord, comes behind, and stabs him. Serv. 0, 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
Out, treacherous villain !
O my follies!
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,
• 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 fetclı some flax, and whites of
eggs, To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!
ACT IV..... SCENE I.
:"Yet better thus and known to be contemn’d, Yes, 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. Servants 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. Fohnson. meet the old course of death,] That is, die a natural death.
Malone. 1_some flax, &c.] This passage is ridiculed by Ben Jonson, in The Case is alter'd, 1609: “ -go, get a white of an egg, and a little flax, and close the breaches of the head, it is the most conducible thing that can be.” Steevens.
The Case is alter'd 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 contemnd,] 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 contemnd. When a man divests himself of his real character he feels no painz 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,
Enter GLOSTER, led by an old Man.
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 conteinn'd,
The lowest, C. 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. si,
“ Nos juvenem exanimum, et nil jam cælestibus ullis
“ Debentem, vano masti 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 affluence to beggary. He laughs at the idea of changing 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 miseries, 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 ihe 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.
Life would not yield to age.
Old Man. O my good lord, I have been your tenant, and your
father's tenant, these fourscore years.
Old Man. Alack, sir, you cannot see your way.
Glo. I have no way, and therefore want no eyes; I stumbled when I saw : Full oft'tis seen, Qur'mean secures" us ;6 and our mere defects wants Secure Prove our commodities.--Ah, dear son Edgar, The food of thy abused father's wrath! Might I but live to see thee in my touch, I'd say, I had eyes again! Old Man.
How now? Who's there?
And how much the pleasures of the body pervert the mind's judgment, and the perturbations of the mind disorder the body's frame, is known to all. Warburton.
O world! if reverses of fortune and changes such as I now see and feel, from ease and affluence to poverty and misery, did not show us the little value of life, we should never submit with any kind of resignation to the weight of years, and its necessary consequence, infirmity and death. Malone.
6 Our mean secures us ;] Mean is here a substantive, and signifies a middle state, as Dr. Warburton rightly interprets it. So again, in The Merchant of Venice: “ It is no mean happiness therefore to be seated in the mean." See more instances in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary.
Steevens. Both the quartos and the folio read-our means secure us. The emendation was made by Mr. Pope. I am not sure that it is necessary. In Shakspeare's age writers often thought it necessary to use a plural, when the subject spoken of related to more persons than one. So, in the last Act of this play---0, our live's sweetness!" not, "0, our life 's sweetness.” Again:
· O, you mighty gods, “ This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,” &c. Again, in King Richard 111:
“ To worry lambs, and lap their gentle bloods.” Means, therefore, might have been here used as the plural of , or moderate condition. Gloster's meaning is, that in a moderate condition or middle state of life, we are secure from those temptations to which the more prosperous and affluent are exposed; and our very wants prove in this respect an advantage. Malone. I believe, means is only a typographical error. Steevens.
to see thee in my touch,] So, in another scene, I see it feelingly. Steevens. VOL. XIV.
Edg. [aside] O gods! Who is 't can say, I am at the
worst? I am worse than e'er I was. Old Man.
'Tis poor mad Tom. Edg. [aside] And worse I may be yet: The worst is
Old Man. Fellow, where goest?
Is it a beggar-man? Old Man. Madman and beggar too.
Glo. He has some reason, else he could not beg.
How should this be? -
Glo. Is that the naked fellow?
Ay, my lord.
Alack, sir he's mad. Glo. 'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the
blind. Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure; Above the rest, be gone.
Old Man. I'll bring him the best 'parrel that I have,
Who is 't can say, I am at the worst?
The worst is not, So long as we can say, this is the worst.] i. e. While we live ; for while we yet continue to have a sense of feeling, something worse than the present may still happen. What occasioned this reflection was his rashly saying, in the beginning of this scene
To be worst,