« PreviousContinue »
our hopes and sympathies go with it. Four lines are spoken. The scene does not change; but 'alarums' are heard, and * afterwards a retreat,' and on the same field over which that great army has this moment passed, fresh and full of hope, reappears, with tidings that all is lost, the same man who last left the stage to follow and fight in it.” The suggested rearrangement is plausible, for it would remove the defects alluded to without altering a word of the text. But there is nothing to show that the scene is not as Shakespeare left it. A fuller description of the battle would have tended to divert the attention from the main interest of the story. Indeed the dramatic purpose would have been as adequately fulfilled by a bare narration of the result of the battle. Moreover, the circumstances of the play demand the sympathy of the audience for the French army rather than for the British, and the sturdy Elizabethan patriotism probably weighed with Shakespeare in making the description so meager.
11. Ripeness, readiness. Cf. Hamlet, v. 2. 234, “ if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”
The wheel is come full circle." All the chief characters, who, contrary to Shakespeare's general custom, had been brought on to the stage at the very beginning of the play to participate in an event on which the whole play turns, reappear in this last scene to taste the wages of their virtue and the cup of their deservings.” The dénouement, as in so many of Shakespeare's plays, is rapidly achieved, and somewhat resembles, with its bustle and wealth of incident, the closing scene of Hamlet; and, as in Hamlet, the guiltless fall with the guilty.
2. their greater pleasures, the wills of these greater persons. 3. censure, pass sentence on. See note on iji. 5. 3. 18. packs, confederacies. See note on iii. 1. 26.
23. fire us hence like foxes. An allusion to the practice of smoking foxes out of their holes.
24. good-years. See Glossary.
35. write happy, call yourself happy. Cf. All's Well, ii. 3. 208, “I must tell thee, sirrah, I write man.”
49. To pluck . . . side, to win the affection of the common people.
50. impress'd, pressed into our service. lances, i.e. lancers.
65. immediacy, close connection with nothing intervening, i.e. direct tenure of authority.
68. addition, title. Cf. i. 1. 138.
72. That eye, etc. Alluding to the proverb: ‘Love being jealous makes a good eye look asquint'” (Steevens).
74. stomach. The stomach was supposed to be the seat of anger, as the liver was of courage (ii. 2. 18). Cf. Titus Andronicus, iii. 1. 234, To ease their stomachs with their bitter tongues."
76. the walls are thine: apparently a metaphor signifying complete surrender. Wright thinks the words refer to Regan's castle, mentioned in l. 245. Theobald conjectured “they are all thine."
79. The let-alone, the prohibition. As events prove, Goneril has already taken means to frustrate Regan's wishes. _103. virtue, valor, as frequently in E. E. Cf. Latin virtus. 124. cope, commonly used transitively in E. E., as here.
129. I.e. It is my privilege, as I'am a knight, to engage you, who are a traitor.
132. fire-new, brand-new; fresh from the fire or forge.
137. descent," that to which one descends, the lowest part "; the only known instance of this use.
138. toad-spotted, treasonable as the toad is spotted.
Edmund's character is not all bad. He could have refused to fight a nameless antagonist, but he manfully will not avail himself of this excuse. His subsequent statement, “ Some good I mean to do, despite of mine own nature,” is not out of keeping with his character, as it would have been with Goneril's or Regan's. Great as is his villainy, he had to some extent been prompted to it by the disabilities which he incurred by his birth and the taunts which he had to suffer even from his father.
147. hell-hated, hated like hell.
161. Save him, save him! Albany is anxious not to have Edmund killed on the spot, so that his guilt may be made known before his death.
practice, false play, treachery. Cf. i. 2. 198.
166. this paper, Goneril's love letter to Edmund; 6. 267.
160. Ask me not what I know. The Ff assign this speech to Edmund, the Qq give it to Goneril, and modern editors are divided in their choice. Those who follow the Ff ask why the question, Know'st thou this paper?" should be addressed to Goneril, considering Albany has already said to her, "I perceive you know it." But this objection is not conclusive. 194. success, issue, result. Cf. i. 2. 157.
196. flaw'd, broken. Cf. ii. 4. 288.
204-221. This would . . . slave. Omitted in the Ff. 204. period, termination; note the different sense in iv. 7. 96. 205-207. but another, etc., but another story, amplifying what is already too much, would make what is much even more, and so pass the extreme limits.
234. manners: treated as a singular; but contrast i. 4. 184 and iv. 6. 264.
235. It is fitting that at this juncture attention should be drawn to Lear by Kent, who at the beginning of the play had professed his constant devotion to the king.
255. fordid, destroyed. Cf. 1. 291.
262. stone, a crystal mirror.
263. the promised end, i.e. of the world. Mason compares St. Mark, xiii. 12 and 19. For image of that horror, cf. Macbeth, ii. 3. 82-83,
66 up, up, and see The great doom's image!"
285. Lear's thoughts again begin to wander. He cannot realize what Kent's devotion has been, and even the announcement of Regan's and Goneril's death has no effect.
288. your first of difference, beginning of your change.
290. Nor no man else, i.e. No, nor is any other man welcome. 301. boot, increase, enhancement.
305. poor fool, i.e. Cordelia; a common term of endearment. Some (e.g. Sir Joshua Reynolds) think that Lear refers to his Fool; but the Fool was not "hanged"; he has long since passed out of the play (iii. 6); and it is not likely that Lear would think of him when dying of grief at the death of Cordelia.
313. pass. Cf. iv. 6. 47.
322. My master, i.e. Lear. Kent's devotion is unbroken. 323-326. This concluding speech is given in the Qq to Albany, in the Ff to Edgar. It is assigned more fittingly to the latter.
THE SOURCES OF THE PLOT
The Lear story is here given as told by Raphael Holinshed, in his Chronicles (1577; second edition, 1587), by Higgins in The Mirror for Magistrates (1574), and by Spenser in the Faërie Queene (1590), and is followed by the passage in Sidney's Arcadia (1590), which is the undoubted original of the Gloucester story.
I. Holinshed's Chronicles. The Historie of Britain, second edition, Book ii, chapter 5, pp. 12–13.
Leir the sonne of Baldud was admitted ruler ouer the Britaines in the yeare of the world 3105, at what time Joas reigned in Juda. This Leir was a prince of right noble demeanor, gouerning his land and subiects in great wealth. He made the towne of Caerleir now called Leicester, which standeth vpon the riuer of Sore. It is written that he had by his wife three daughters without other issue, whose names were Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordeilla, which daughters he greatly loued, but specially Cordeilla the yoongest farre aboue the two elder. When this Leir therefore was come to great yeres, and began to waxe vnweldie through age, he thought to vnderstand the affections of his daughters towards him, and preferre hir whome he best loued, to the succession ouer the kingdome. Whervpon he first asked Gonorilla the eldest, how well she loued him: who calling hir gods to record, protested that she loued him more than hir owne life, which by right and reason should be most deere vnto hir. With which answer the father being well pleased, turned to the second, and demanded of hir how well she loued him: who answered (confirming hir saiengs with great othes) that she loued him more than toong could expresse, and farre aboue all other creatures of the world.
Then called he his yoongest daughter Cordeilla before him, and asked of hir what account she made of him, vnto whome she made this answer as followeth: “Knowing the great loue and fatherlie zeale that you haue alwaies borne towards me (for the which I
1 The evidence of other plays shows that Shakespeare used the second edition; see Shakspere's Holins The Chronicle and the Historical Plays compared, by W. G. Boswell-Stone.
maie not answere you otherwise than I thinke, and as my conscience leadeth me) I protest vnto you, that I haue loued you euer, and shall continuallie (while I liue) loue you as my naturall father. And if you would more vnderstand of the loue that I beare you, assertaine your selfe, that so much as you haue, so much you are worth, and so much I loue you, and no more." The father being nothing content with this answere, married his two eldest daughters, the one vnto Henninus the duke of Cornewall, and the other vnto Maglanus the duke of Albania, betwixt whome he willed and ordeined that his land should be deuided after his death, and the one halfe thereof immediatelie should be assigned to them in hand : but for the third daughter Cordeilla he reserued nothing.
Nevertheless it fortuned that one of the princes of Gallia (which now is called France) whose name was Aganippus, hearing of the beautie, womanhood, and good conditions of the said Cordeilla, desired to haue hir in mariage, and sent ouer to hir father, requiring that he might haue hir to wife: to whome answer was made, that he might haue his daughter, but as for anie dower he could haue none, for all was promised and assured to hir other sisters already. Aganippus notwithstanding this answer of deniall to receiue anie thing by way of dower with Cordeilla, tooke hir to wife, onlie moued thereto (I saie) for respect of hir person and amiable vertues. This Aganippus was one of the twelue kings that ruled Gallia in those daies, as in the British historie it is recorded. But to proceed.
After that Leir was fallen into age, the two dukes that had married his two eldest daughters, thinking it long yer the gouernment of the land did come to their hands, arose against him in armour, and reft from him the gouernance of the land, vpon conditions to be continued for terme of life: by the which he was put to his portion, that is, to liue after a rate assigned to him for the maintenance of his estate, which in processe of time was diminished as well by Maglanus as by Henninus. But the greatest griefe that Leir tooke, was to see the vnkindnesse of his daughters, which seemed to thinke that all was too much which their father had, the same being neuer so little : in so muche that going from the one to the other, he was brought to that miserie, that scarslie they would allow him one seruaunt to wait vpon him.
In the end, such was the vnkindnesse, or (as I maie saie) the vnnaturalnesse which he found in his two daughters, notwithstanding their faire and pleasant words vttered in time past, that being constreined of necessitie, he fled the land, & sailed into Gallia, there to seeke some comfort of his yongest daughter Cordeilla, whom before time he hated. The ladie Cordeilla hearing that he was arriued in poore estate, she first sent to him priuilie a certeine summe of monie to apparell himselfe withall, and to reteine a certeine number of seruants that might attend vpon him in honorable wise, as apperteined to the estate which he had borne: and then so accompanied, she appointed him to come to the court, which he