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Enter GONERIL and Steward.
chiding of his fool ? Stew. Ay, madam. Gon. By day and night?! he wrongs me; every
hour He flashes into one gross crime or other, That sets us all at odds : I'll not endure it: His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us On every trifle ;-When he returns from hunting, I will not speak with him: say, I am sick: If you come slack of former services, You shall do well; the fault of it I'll answer. Stew. He's coming, madam; I hear him.
[Horns within. Gon. Put on what weary negligence you please, You and your fellows; I'd have it come to question: If he dislike it, let him to my sister, Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one, [Not to be over-ruld. Idle old man?, That still would manage those authorities, That he hath given away!-Now, by my life, Old fools are babes again; and must be us’d With checks, as flatteries, -when they are seen
abus'd] Remember what I have said.
1 See vol. vii. p. 191, note 22.
? This line and the four following are not in the folio. Theobald observes that they are fine in themselves, and much in character for Goneril.
3 I take the meaning of this passage to be · Old men are babes again, and must be accustomed to checks as well as flatteries, especially when the latter are seen to be abused by them.'
Very well, madam. Gon. And let his knights have colder looks among
you; What grows of it, no matter; advise your fellows so: [I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall, That I may speak * :]—I'll write straight to my sister, To hold my very course :-Prepare for dinner.
SCENE IV. A Hall in the same.
Enter Kent, disguised. Kent. If but as well I other accents borrow, That can my speech diffuse', my good intent May carry through itself to that full issue For which I raz’d? my likeness.-Now, banish'd
Kent, If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,
it come !) thy master, whom thou lov’st, Shall find thee full of labours.
Horns within. Enter LEAR, Knights, and
Attendants. Lear. Let me not stay a jot for dinner: go, get it ready. [Exit an Attendant.] How now, what art thou ? Kent. A man,
sir. Lear. What dost thou profess? What would'st thou with us?
4 The words in brackets are found in the quartos, but omitted in the folio.
1 To diffuse here means to disguise, to render it strange, to obscure it. See vol. v. p.518, note 6, and Merry Wives of Windsor, p. 269, note 6. We must suppose that Kent advances looking on his disguise. This circumstance very naturally leads to his speech, which otherwise would have no apparent introduction.
? i, e. effaced.
Kent. I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly, that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse 3 with him that is wise, and says little; to fear judgment; to fight, when I cannot choose: and to eat no fish 4.
Lear. What art thou?
Kent. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
Lear. If thou be as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What would'st thou ?
Kent. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance, which I would fain call master.
Lear. What's that?
3 To converse signifies immediately and properly to keep company, to have commerce with. His meaning is, that he chooses for his companions men of reserve and caution; men who are not tattlers nor talebearers.
4 It is not clear how Kent means to make the eating no fish a recommendatory quality, unless we suppose that it arose from the odium then cast upon the papists, who were the most strict observers of periodical fasts, which though enjoined to the people under the protestant government of Elizabeth, were not very palatable or strictly observed by the commonalty. Marston's Dutch Courtezan says, “I trust I am none of the wicked that eat fish a Fridays.' I cannot think with Mr. Blakeway, who says that Kent means to insinuate that he never desires to partake of fish because it was esteemed a luxury! and therefore incompatible with his situation as an humble and discreet dependant. The repeated promulgation of mandates from the court for the better observation of fish days disproves this. I have before me a Letter of Archbishop Whitgift, in 1596, strictly enjoining the clergy of his diocess to attend to the observance of the fasts and fish days among their respective parishioners, and severely animadverting upon the refractory spirit which disposed them to eat flesh out of due season contrary to law.
Lear. What services canst thou do?
Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.
Lear. How old art thou ?
Kent. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing ; nor so old, to dote on her for any thing: I have years on my back forty-eight.
Lear. Follow me; thou shalt serve me; if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.—Dinner, ho, dinner!—Where's my knave? my fool ? Go you, and call my fool hither:
[Exit. Lear. What
the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.—Where's my fool, ho?—I think the world's asleep.—How now? Where's that mongrel?
Knight. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
Lear. Why came not the slave back to me, when I call'd him?
Knight. Sir, he answer'd me in the roundest manner, he would not.
Lear. He would not.
Knight. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertain’d with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindness appears, as well in the general dependants, as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
Lear. Ha! say'st thou so?
Knight. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent, when I think your highness is wrong'd.
Lear. Thou but remember'st me of mine own conception; I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity, than as a very pretence and purpose
of unkindness: I will look further into't.But where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
Knight. Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away?.
Lear. No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you, and tell my daughter I would speak with her.—Go
Re-enter Steward. 0, you sir, you sir, come you hither : Who am I, sir ?
Stew. My lady's father.
Lear. My lady's father! my lord's knave: you whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
Stew. I am none of this, my lord; I beseech you, pardon me. Lear. Do you bandy8 8 looks with me, you rascal?
[Striking him. Stew. I'll not be struck, my lord.
Kent. Nor tripped neither ; you base foot-ball player.
[Tripping up his Heels.
By jealous curiosity Lear appears to' mean a punctilious jealousy resulting from a scrupulous watchfulness of his own dignity. See the second note on the first scene of this play.
6 A very pretence is an absolute design. So in a former scene, 'to no other pretence of danger.'
7 This is an endearing circumstance in the Fool's character, and creates such an interest in his favour as his wit alone might have failed to procure for him.-Steevens.
A metaphor from tennis. • Come in and take this bandy with the racket of patience.'— Decker's Satiromastir. • To bandy a ball’ Cole defines clava pilam torquere; “ To bandy at tennis,' reticulo pellere. "To bandy blows' is sti a common idiom.