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Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him,
But who was this?
Enter a Gentleman hastily, with a bloody Knife.
What kind of help?
Speak, man. Edg. What means that bloody knife ? Gent.
'Tis hot, it smokes; It came even from the heart of 6 Alb.
Who, man? speak.? Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister By her is poison’d; she confesses it.8
Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant.9
Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead! This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
instead of him.---Kent in his transport of joy, at meeting Edgar, embraced him with such violence, as to throw him on the dead body of Gloster. Malone.
the trumpet sounded,] The quartos, where alone this speech is found, read trumpets; but it was certainly a misprint, for one trumpet only had sounded. Dr. Johnson made the correction. Malone.
- from the heart of -] Here the folio, in defiance of metre and propriety, adds
O she's dead. Steevens. 7 Who, man? speak.] The folio reads, Who dead? Speak man.
Steevens, she confesses it.] Thus the first and second folio. The quartos-she has (and hath] confess'd it. As these readings are equally proper, I have chosen the more metrical of the two. Steevens.
9 Now marry in an instant.] In the folio, after these words, we haveEdg. Here comes Kent.
Enter Kent. and the words-0, is this he, are spoken by Albany, immediately after touches us not with pity: I have followed the quartos. Malone.
i This judgment &c. ] If Shakspeare had studied Aristotle all his
Touches us not with pity.
[Exit Gent. Enter KENT. Edg.
Here comes Kent, sir. 2
I am come
Great thing of us forgot
delia? See'st thou this object, Kent?
[The Bodies of Gon. and Reg. are brought in. Kent. Alack, why thus ? Edm.
Yet Edmund was belov'd:4 The one the other poison'd for my sake, And after slew herself.
Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces.
Edm. I pant for life :—Some good I mean to do,
Run, run, (), run
life, he would not perhaps have been able to mark with more precision the distinct operations of terror and pity. Tyrwhitt.
This is the reading of the folio. The quartos have This justice &c. Malone.
2 Here comes Kent, sir.) The manner in which Edgar here men. tions Kent, seems to require the lines which are inserted from the first edition in the foregoing scene. Johnson.
3 0! it is he.] 'Thus the quartos. Folio: 0, is this he? Malone.
4 Yet Edmund was beloo'd:] Rowe's dying Rake suggests to himself a similar consolation, arising from the remembrance of success. ful gallantry:
“ Yet, let not this advantage swell thy pride;
" I conquerd in my turn, in love I triumph’d.” Dryden's Don Sebastian felicitates himself on the same circum: stance. Thus also in The Double Marriage hy Fletcher:
this happiness yet stays with ine : 66 You have been mine.” Steevens.
Thy token of reprieve.
Edm. Well thought on; take my sword,
Haste thee, for thy life. [Exit Eng.
[EDM. is borne off Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms;& EDGAR,
Officer, and Others. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl.-0, you are men of
stones ; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack:-0, she is gone for
5 Give it the captain.] The quartos read:
“ Take my sword, the captain, “Give it the captain. Steevens. • Alb. Haste thee, for thy life.] Thus the quartos. In the folio this speech is improperly assigned to Edgar, who had the moment before received the token of reprieve, which Edmund enjoined him to give the officer, in whose custody Lear was. Malone.
7 That she fordid herself.] To fordo, significs to destroy. It is used again in Hamlet, Act V:
did, with desperate hand, - Fordo its own life.” Steevens. Here the folio and quarto B unnecessarily add--That she fordid herself, i. e. destroyed herself. I have followed the quarto A.
Malone. Cordelia dead in his arms;] This princess, according to the old historians, retired with victory from the battle which she conducted in her father's cause, and thereby replaced him on the throne : but in a subsequent one fought against her (after the death of the old king) by the sons of Goneril and Regan, she was taken, and died miserably in prison. The poet found this in history, and was there. fore willing to precipitate her death, which he knew had happened but a few years after. The dramatick writers of this age suffered as small a number of their heroes and heroines to escape as possible ; nor could the filial piety of this lady, any more than the innocence of Ophelia, prevail on Shakspeare to extend her life beyond her misfor. tunes. Steevens.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of this story, says, that Cordelia was thrown by her nephews into prison," where, for grief at the loss of her kingdom, she killed herself.” Malone.
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
Is this the promis'd end?
9 Kent. Is this the promis'd end?
Edg. Or image of that horror?] It appears to me that by the promised end Kent does not mean that conclusion which the state of their affairs seemed to promise, but the end of the world. In St. Mark's Gospel, when Christ foretels to his disciples the end of the world, and is describing to them the signs that were to precede, and mark the approach of, our final dissolution, he says, “For in those days shall be affliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, unto this time, neither shall be:” and afterwards he says, “Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” Kent in contemplating the unexam. pled scene of exquisite affliction which was then before him, and the unnatural attempt of Goneril and Regan against their father's life, recollects these passages, and asks, whether that was the end of the world that had been foretold to us. To which Edgar adds, or only a representation or resemblance of that horror?
So Macbeth, when he calls upon Banquo, Malcolm, &c. to view Duncan murdered, says
up, up, and see “ The great doom's image.!” There is evidently an allusion to the same passages in scripture, in a speech of Gloster's, which he makes in the second scene of the first Act:
“ These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us; love cools; friendship falls off; brothers divide; in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father; the king falls from the bias of nature; there's father against child: We have seen the best of our time.”
If any critick should urge it as an objection to this explanation, that the persons of the drama are pagans, and of consequence unacquainted with the scriptures, they give Shakspeare credit for more accuracy than I fear he possessed. M. Mason.
This note deserves the highest praise, and is inserted in the present work with the utmost degree of gratitude to its author. Steevens.
I entirely agree with Mr. Mason in his happy explanation of this passage. In a speech which our poet has put into the mouth of young Clifford in The Second Part of King Henry VI, a similar imagery is found. On seeing the dead body of his father, who was slain in battle by the duke of York, he exclaims
- 0, let the vile world end,
Fall, and cease!1 Lear. This feather stirs ;? she lives! if it be so,
“ Now let the general trumpet blow his blast,
“ To cease!" There is no trace of these lines in the old play on which The Second Part of King Henry VI was formed.
Image is again used for delineation or representation, in King Henry IV, P. I: “ No counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life in. deed."
Again, in Hamlet: “The play is the image of a murder done in Vienna."
Mr. M. Mason has not done justice to his ingenious explanation of these words, by not quoting the whole of the passage in Macbeth!
up, up, and see
" To countenance this horror." Here we find disjecti membra poetæ; the second and fourth line, taken together, furnishing us with the very expression of the text.
Malone, 1 Fall, and cease! ] Albany, is looking with attention on the pains employed by Lear to recover his child, and knows to what miseries he must survive, when he finds them to be ineffectual. Having these images present to his eyes and imagination, he cries out, Rather fall, and cease to be, at once, than continue in existence only to be wretched. So, in All's Well, &c. to cease is used for to die: and in Hamlet, the death of majesty is called “the cease of majesty." Again, in All's Well that Ends Well:
6 Or, ere they meet, in me, O nature, cease!
“ And both shall cease, without your remedy.” Steevens. The word is used nearly in the same sense in a former scene in this play:
“ Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
“ That things might change or cease.” I doubt, however, whether Albany's speech is addressed to Lear.
Malone. To whom then is it addressed? Steevens.
There is a passage in The Double Marriage of Fletcher, which supports Steevens's conjecture: Juliana says to Virolet
“ Be what you please, this happiness yet stays with me,
Nay break, and die.
“ And then " M. Mason. 2 This feather stirs;] So, in The White Devil, or Vittoria Corom