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[graphic]

Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia :-
Nay, send in time.

Run, run, O, run

Edg. To who, my lord?-Who has the office?

Thy token of reprieve.

Edm. Well thought on; take my sword, Give it the captain.

Alb. Haste thee, for thy life. [Exit EDGAR. Edm. He hath commission from thy wife and me To hang Cordelia in the prison, and

To lay the blame upon her own despair,

That she fordid herself.2

Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence

awhile.

[EDMUND is borne off.

Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms; EDGAR, Officer, and Others.

Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O, you are men of stones;

Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack:-O, she is gone
for ever!-

I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She's dead as earth:-Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.

Is this the promis'd end? Edg. Or image of that horror?3

2 That she fordid herself.] To fordo, signifies to destroy.

3 Kent. Is this the promis'd end?

[graphic]

Edg. Or image of that horror?] 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.

Alb.

Fall, and cease!*

Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! if it be It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows

That ever I have felt.

Kent.

So,

O my good master! [Kneeling.

Lear. Pr'ythee, away.

Edg.

'Tis noble Kent, your friend. Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! I might have sav'd her; now she's gone for ever!Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!

What is't thou say'st?-Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman:I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee.

Off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.

Lear. Did I not, fellow? I have seen the day, with my good biting faulchion I would have made them skip: I am old now, And these same crosses spoil me.-Who are you? Mine eyes are none o'the best :-I'll tell you straight. Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated, One of them we behold.5

Lear. This is a dull sight: Are you not Kent? Kent, The same; Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius? Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that; He'll strike, and quickly too:-He's dead and rotten. Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man;

4 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.

If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,

One of them we behold.] i. e. If Fortune, to display the plenitude of her power, should brag of two persons, one of whom she had highly elevated, and the other she had wofully depressed, we now behold the latter.

Lear. I'll see that straight.

Kent. That, from your first of difference and

decay,

Have follow'd your sad steps.

Lear.

You are welcome hither.

Kent. Nor no man else; all's cheerless, dark,

and deadly.

Your eldest daughters have fore-doom'd themselves, And desperately are dead.

Lear.

Ay, so I think.

Alb. He knows not what he says; and vain it is That we present us to him.

Edg.

Very bootless.

Enter an Officer.

Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.

Alb.

That's but a trifle here.

8

You lords, and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come,
Shall be applied: For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,

To him our absolute power:-You, to your rights;
To EDGAR and KENT.
With boot," and such addition as your honours
Have more than merited.-All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings.-O, see, see!

Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd!' No, no, no life:

6 • of difference and decay.] Decay for misfortunes.

7 Nor no man else;] Kent means, I welcome! No, nor no man

else.

8

this great decay may come,] This great decay is Lear, this piece of decay'd royalty, this ruin'd majesty.

9 With boot,] With advantage, with increase.

And my poor fool is hang'd!] This is an expression of tenderness for his dead Cordelia (not his fool, as some have thought) on

1

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no

more,

Never, never, never, never, never!

2

Pray you, undo this button: Thank you, sir.Do you see this? Look on her,-look,-her lips,Look there, look there!—

Edg.

[He dies.

He faints! My lord, my lord,Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break! Look up, my lord.

Edg.

Kent. Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him,

That would upon the rack of this tough world.
Stretch him out longer.

Edg.

O, he is gone, indeed. Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long: He but usurp'd his life.

Alb. Bear them from hence.-Our present bu

siness

Is general woe. Friends of my soul, you twain

[TO KENT and EDGAR. Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain. Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls, and I must not say, no.

Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey;

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we, that are young, Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

[Exeunt, with a dead March.3

whose lips he is still intent, and dies away while he is searching there for indications of life. Poor fool, in the age of Shakspeare, was an expression of endearment.

2 Pray you undo this button:] The Rev. Dr. J. Warton judiciously observes, that the swelling and heaving of the heart is described by this most expressive circumstance.

The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the

attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.

On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And; perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.

My learned friend, Mr. Warton, [afterwards Dr. Joseph Warton,] who has in The Adventurer very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered, by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series of dialogue and action. But I am not able to apologize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatick exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to relieve its distresses by incredulity. Yet let it be remembered that our author well knew what would please the audience for which he wrote.

The injury done by Edmund to the simplicity of the action is abundantly recompensed by the addition of variety, by the art with which he is made to co-operate with the chief design, and the opportunity which he gives the poet of combining perfidy with perfidy, and connecting the wicked son with the wicked daughters, to impress this important moral, that villainy is never at a stop, that crimes lead to crimes, and at last terminate in ruin.

But though this moral be incidentally enforced, Shakspeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and

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