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tual: the explosions of his passions are terrible as a volcano ; they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that rich sea, his mind, with all its vast riches: it is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see nothing but corporal infirmities and weakness, the impotence of age; while we read it we see not Lear, but we are Lear ;--we are in his mind; we are sustained by a grandeur, which baffles the malice of his daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason, we discover a mighty irregular power of reasoning, unmethodised from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind blows where it listeth, at will on the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks or tones to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves, when, in his reproaches to them for conniving at the injustice of his children, he reminds them that “they themselves are old !” What gesture shall we appropriate to this? What has voice or the eye to do with such things ? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show: it is too hard and stony; it must have love-scenes, and a bappy ending. It is not enough that Cordelia is a daughter, she must shine as a lover too. Fate has put his hook in the nostrils of this Leviathan, for Garrick and his followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw it about more easily. A happy ending !—as if the living martyrdom that Lear had gone through, the flaying of his feelings alive, did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If he is to live and be happy after, if he could sustain this world's bur. den after, why all this pudder and preparation—why torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy? As if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over again his misused station,
,-as if at his years, and with his experience, any thing was left but to die.'
LEAR, King of Britain.
Knights attending on the King, Officers, Messengers,
Soldiers, and Attendants.
SCENE I. A Room of State in King Lear’s
Kent. I thought the king had more affected the duke of Albany, than Cornwall.
Glo. It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division of the kingdom?, it
appears not which of the dukes he values most; for equalities are so weigh’d, that curiosity? in neither can make choice of either's moiety
Kent. Is not this your son, my lord ?
Glo. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blush'd to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.
1 There is something of obscurity or inaccuracy in this preparatory scene. The king has already divided his kingdom, and yet when he enters he examines his daughters to discover in what proportions he should divide it. Perhaps Kent and Gloster only were privy to his design, which he still kept in his own hands, to be changed or performed as subsequent reasons should determine him.-Johnson.
2 Curiosity is scrupulous exactness, finical precision. See vol. viii. p. 88, note 48.
3 Moiety is used by Shakspeare for part or portion. See King Henry IV. Part 1. p. 189, note 8.
Kent. I cannot conceive you.
Glo. Sir, this young fellow's mother could: whereupon she grew round-wombed; and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle, ere she had a husband for her bed. Do
smell a fault? Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper*.
Glo. But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some years elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came somewhat saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged.—Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
Edm. No, my lord.
Glo. My lord of Kent; remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.
Edm. My services to your lordship.
Kent. I must love you, and sue to know you better.
Edm. Sir, I shall study deserving.
and shall again :—The king is coming.
[Trumpets sound within Enter LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL,
REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants. Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloster. Glo. I shall, my liege.
[Exeunt GLOSTER, and EDMUND. Lear. Mean time we shall express our darker 6
Proper is comely, handsome. See vol. i. p. 153. 5 i. e. ' about a year elder.' 6 • We shall express our darker purpose ;' that is, we have
Give me the map there.—Know, that we have
divided, In three, our kingdom; and 'tis our fast intent? To shake all cares and business from our age; Conferring 8 them on younger strengths, while we Unburder'd crawl toward death.–Our son of Corn
wall, And you, our no less loving son of Albany, We have this hour a constant will to publish Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife May be prevented now. The princes, France and
doth love us most?
Sir, I Do love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour: already made known our desire of parting the kingdom; we will now discover what has not been told before, the reasons by which we shall regulate the partition. This interpretation will justify or palliate the exordial dialogue.-Johnson.
7 i. e. our determined resolution. The quartos read, ‘first intent.
8 The quartos read, confirming.
9 Constant will, which is a confirmation of the reading “ fast intent,' means a firm, determined will: it is the certa voluntas of Virgil. The lines from while we to prevented now are omitted in the quartos.
10 The two lines in a parenthesis are omitted in the quartos.
shall we say,