« PreviousContinue »
All the unsigned footnotes in this volume are by the writer of the article to which they are appended. The interpretation of the initials signed to the others is: I. G. = Israel Gollancz, M.A.; H. N. H.= Henry Norman Hudson, A.M.; C. H. H. C. H. Herford, Litt.D.
Two quarto editions of King Lear appeared in the year 1608, with the following title-pages:-(i) “M. William Shak-speare: HIS | True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King LEAR and his three Daughters. | With the unfortunate life of Edgar, fonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his | sullen and assumed humor of Toм of Bedlam: As io was played before the Kings Maieftie at Whitehall vpon | S. Stephans night in Christmas Hollidayes. | By his Maiesties Seruants playing vsually at the Gloabe | on the Bancke-fide. [Device.] LONDON, Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his fhop in Pauls | Church-yard at the figne of the Pide Bull neere | St. Austins Gate, 1608.”
(ii) The title of the second quarto is almost identical with that of (i), but the device is different, and there is no allusion to the shop "at the signe of the Pide Bull."
It is now generally accepted that the "Pide Bull" quarto is the first edition of the play, but the question of priority depends on the minutest of bibliographical criteria, and the Cambridge editors were for a long time misled in their chronological order of the quartos; the problem is complicated by the fact that no two of the extant six copies of the first quarto are exactly alike; 1 they differ in having one, two, three, or four, uncorrected sheets. The Second Quarto was evidently printed from a copy of the
1 Capell's copy; the Duke of Devonshire's; the British Museum's two copies; the Bodleian two copies.
First Quarto, having three uncorrected sheets. A reprint of this edition, with many additional errors, appeared in 1655.
The Folio Edition of the play was derived from an independent manuscript, and the text, from a typographical point of view, is much better than that of the earlier editions; but it is noteworthy that some two hundred and twenty lines found in the quartos are not found in the folio, while about fifty lines in the folio are wanting in the quartos.1
Much has been written on the discrepancies between the two versions; among modern investigations perhaps the most important are those (i) Delius and (ii) Koppel; according to (i), "in the quartos we have the play as it was originally performed before King James, and before the audience of the Globe, but sadly marred by misprints, printers' sophistications, and omissions, perhaps due to an imperfect and illegible MS. In the Folio we have a later MS., belonging to the Theater, and more nearly identical with what Shakespeare wrote. The omissions of the Quartos are the blunders of the printers; the omissions of the Folios are the abridgments of the actors;" according to (ii), "it was Shakespeare's own hand that cut out many of the passages both in the Quarto text and the Folio text. The original form was, essentially, that of the Quarto, then followed a longer form, with the additions in the Folio, as substantially our modern editions have again restored them; then the shortest form, as it is preserved for us in the Folio." 2
1 To the latter class belong I. ii. 124–131; I. iv. 347–358; III. i. 22— 29; III. ii. 80-96; to the former, I. iii. 17-23; I. iv. 155–171, 256–259; II. . 150–153; III. vi. 19-60, 110-123; III. vii. 99–108; IV. i. 60-67; IV. ii. 31-50, 53-59, 62–69; IV. iii.; IV. vii. 88–95; V. i. 23–28; V. iii. 54-59, 207-224. Vide Prætorius' facsimiles of Q. 1 and Q. 2; Vietor's Parallel Text of Q. 1 and F. 1 (Marburg, 1886), Furness' Variorum, etc.
2 Delius' Essay appeared originally in the German Shakespeare Society Year-Book, X.; and was subsequently translated into English, (New Shak. Soc. Trans. 1875-6).
It seems probable that the quarto represents a badly printed revised version of the original form of the play, specially prepared by the poet for performance at Court, whereas the folio is the actors' abridged version. It seems hardly possible to determine the question more definitely.
For more than a century and a half, from the year 1680 until the restoration of Shakespeare's tragedy at Covent Garden in 1838, Tate's perversion of Lear held the stage,1 delighting audiences with "the Circumstances of Lear's Restoration, and the virtuous Edgar's Alliance with the amiable Cordelia." It was to this acting-edition that Lamb referred in his famous criticism, "Tate has put his hook into the nostrils of this leviathan for Garrick and his followers," etc. Garrick, Kemble, Kean, and other great actors were quite content with this travesty, but "the Lear of Shakespeare cannot be acted."
DATE OF COMPOSITION
The play of King Lear may safely be assigned to the year 1605:—(i) According to an entry in the Stationers' Register, dated November 26, 1607, it was "played before the King's Majesty at Whitehall upon S. Stephens' night at Christmas last," i. e., on December 26, 1606; (ii) the names of Edgar's devils, and many of the allusions in Act III, sc. iv, were evidently derived from Harsnett's Declaration of egregrious Popish Impostures, which was first published in 1603; (iii) the substitution of "British man" for “Englishman" in the famous nurseryrhyme (Act III, sc. iv, 192) seems to point to a time subsequent to the Union of England and Scotland under
Dr. Koppel's investigations are to be found in his Text-Kritische Studien über Richard III. u. King Lear (Dresden, 1877). A resumé of the various theories is given in Furness' edition, pp. 359–373. 1 Vide Furness, pp. 467-478.
James I; the poet Daniel in a congratulatory address to the King (printed in 1603) wrote thus:
"O thou mightie state,
Now thou art all Great Britain, and no more,
(iv) the allusions to the "late eclipses" (Act I, sc. ii, 117, 158, 164) have been most plausibly referred to the great eclipse of the sun, which took place in October, 1605, and this supposition is borne out by the fact that John Harvey's Discoursive Probleme concerning Prophesies, printed in 1588, actually contains a striking prediction thereof (hence the point of Edmund's comment, “I am thinking of a prediction I read this other day,” etc.), perhaps, too, there is a reference to the Gunpowder Plot in Gloucester's words, "machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves."
THE SOURCES OF THE PLOT
The story of "Leir, the son of Balderd, ruler over the Britaynes, in the year of the world 3105, at what time Joas reigned as yet in Juda," was among the best-known stories of British history. Its origin must be sought for in the dim world of Celtic legend, or in the more remote realm of simple nature-myths,2 but its place in literature dates from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin history of the Britons, Historia Britonum, composed about 1130, based in all probability on an earlier work connected with the famous name of Nennius, though Geoffrey alleges his chief authority was "an ancient British book." To the Historia Britonum we owe the stories of Leir, Gorboduc, Locrine; there, too, we find rich treasures of Arthurian romance.
1 It is noteworthy that in Act IV. scene vi. 260 the Folio reads "English," where the Quartos have "British."
2 According to some Celtic folk-lorists, "Lir"= Neptune; the two cruel daughters the rough Winds; Cordelia : the gentle Zephyr. I know no better commentary on the tempestuous character of the play; Shakespeare has unconsciously divined the germ of the myth.