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vated and increased by the sudden appearance of Gonerill; upon the unexpected sight of whom he exclaims,
-Who comes here? O heavens !
Make it your cause, send down and take my part ! This address is surely pathetic beyond expression ; it is scarce enough to speak of it in the cold terms of criticism. There follows a question to Gonerill, that I have never read without tears :
Ar't not asham'd to look upon this beard? This scene abounds with many noble turns of passion, or rather conflicts of very different passions. The inhuman daughters urge him in vain, by all the sophistical and unfilial arguments they were mistresses of, to diminish the number of his train. He answers them by only four poignant words:
I gave you all! When Regan at last consents to receive him, but without any attendants, for that he might be served by her own domestics, he can no longer contain his disappointment and rage. First he appeals to the Heavens, and points out to them a spectacle that is, indeed, inimitably affecting :
You see me here, ye gods ! a poor old man,
Then suddenly he addresses Gonerill and Regan in the severest terms, and with the bitterest threats :
No, you unnatural hags!
Nothing occurs to his mind severe enough for them to suffer, or him to inflict. His passion rises to a height that deprives him of articulation. He tells them that he will subdue his sorrow, though almost irresistible; and that they shall not triumph over his weakness :
You think I'll weep!
Or e'er I'll weep!
O fool I shall go mad!
which is an artful anticipation, that judiciously prepares us for the dreadful event that is to follow in the succeeding acts.
* Adventurer, No. 113, December 4, 1753.
OBSERVATIONS ON KING LEAR CONTINUED.
THUNDER and a ghost have been frequently introduced into tragedy by barren and mechanical play-wrights, as proper objects to impress terror and astonishment, where the distress has not been important enough to render it probable that nature would interpose for the sake of the sufferers, and where these objects themselves have not been supported by suitable sentiments.
Thunder has, however, been made use of with great judgment and good effect by Shakspeare, to heighten and impress the distresses of Lear.
The venerable and wretched old king is driven out by both his daughters, without necessaries and without attendants, not only in the night, but in the midst of a most dreadful storm, and on a bleak and barren heath. On his first appearance in this situation, he draws an artful and pathetic comparison betwixt the severity of the tempest and of his daughters :
Rumble thy belly full! spit, fire ! spout, rain!
Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand your slave;
The storm continuing with equal violence, he drops for a moment the consideration of his own miseries, and takes occasion to moralize on the terrors which such commotions of nature should raise in the breast of secret and unpunished villainy:
Tremble, thou wretch!
Close pent-up guilts
He adds, with reference to his own case,
I am a man
Kent most earnestly intreats him to enter a hovel which he had discovered on the heath; and on pressing him again and again to take shelter there, Lear exclaims,
Wilt break my heart ?
Much is contained in these four words; as if he had said, the kindness and the gratitude of this servant exceeds that of my own children. Though I have given them a kingdom, yet have they basely discarded me, and suffered a head so old and white as mine to be exposed to this terrible tempest, while this fellow pities and would protect me from its rage. I cannot bear this kindness from a perfect stranger; it breaks my heart.' All this seems to be included in that short exclamation, which another writer, less acquainted with nature, would have displayed at large : such a suppression of sentiments, plainly implied, is judicious and affecting. The reflections that follow are drawn likewise from an intimate knowledge of man:
When the mind's free,
Here the remembrance of his daughters' behaviour rushes upon him, and he exclaims, full of the idea of its unparalleled cruelty,
Filial ingratitude !
He then changes his style, and vows with impotent menaces, as if still in possession of the power he had resigned, to revenge himself on his oppressors, and to steel his breast with fortitude:
But I'll punish home.
But the sense of his sufferings returns again, and he forgets the resolution he had formed the moment before :