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have already noted the likeness of the king's sunshine and hail at once to Cordelia's “ sunshine and rain at once,” her smiles and tears. Lear, as first presented to us, is so self-indulgent and unrestraind, has been so foold to the top of his bent, is so terribly unjust, not only to Cordelia, but to Kent, that one feels hardly any punishment can be too great for him. The motive that he puts to draw forth the desired expression of affection from Cordelia,
“ Do profess love to get a big reward,” is such that no girl with true love for a father could leave unrepudiated 1; and when his proposal gets the answer it deserves, he meets his daughter's nobleness by curses and revenge. Stript by his own act of his own authority, his Fool 3 with bitter sarcasm teaches him what a fool he's been. And few can regret that he was made to feel a bite even sharper than a serpent's tooth. Still one is glad to see that he was early struggling against his own first wild passion, and that he would blame
1 I can't help thinking that if Lear had asked the question as One asked it, free from selfishness of heart, “Lovest thou me more than these?” 'the answer would not have been_unlike Peter's, knowest that I love thee."-E. H. Hickey. Probably, as Prof. March suggests, Cordelia already lovd the King of France. Compare Rosalind's "What talk we of fathers, when there is such a man as Orlando?"- As You Like It, III. iv. p. 92.
2 The folly of parents giving up their property to their children, was often dwelt on by early English writers. İt is so by Robert of Brunne : see the tale he tells about it in my edition of His Handlyng Synne (written A.D. 1303), pp. 37-9, Roxb. Club, p. 40-2, E. E. Text Soc.
8 Note the growth in depth and tenderness of Shakspere's fools as he advances from his First Period. The late Mr. Grant White said in the Galaxy, January, 1877, p. 72:~"In King Lear the Fool rises into heroic proportions, and becomes a sort of conscience, or second thought, to Lear. Compared even with Touchstone he is very much more elevated, and shows not less than Hamlet, or than Lear himself, the grand development of Shakspere's mind at this period of maturity.” See Mr. Hetherington on this in Cornhill Mag., 1881.
" Thou 1 I intentionally keep up the historic use of like as a conjunction, as my friend William Morris did. Originally “like as junction, and “like to” the preposition. Then the as and to dropt ofl, and like became both conjunction and preposition, though some folk who don't know the history of the change object to the conjunctioual
his own jealous curiosity before seeing Goneril's purpose of unkindness. One sympathises with his prayer to Heaven to keep him in tempor," he would not be mad”--with his acquirement of some self-control, when excusing the hot duke's insolence by his illness. One sees tho’ how he still measures love by the allowances of knights it will give him; and it is not till driven out to the mercy of the winds and storm, till he knows that he is but a poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man," till he can think of the poor naked wretches of whom he has before taken too little care, that one pities the sufferer for the consequences of his own folly. When he recovers from his madness and has come to the knowledge of himself, has found, smelt out, those flatterers who 'd destroy him, then is he more truly “every inch a king,” though cut to the brains, than ever he was before. The pathos of his recognition of Cordelia, his submission to her, and seeking her blessing, his lamentation over her corpse, are exceeded by nothing in Shakspere. Professor Spalding dwells on the last scene as an instance of how Shakspere got his most intense effects by no grand situation like Massinger did, like Shakspere himself did in earlier time, but out of the simplest materials. Spalding says,
“ The horrors which have gathered so thickly throughout the last act are carefully removed to the background,
was the con.
use of “like
but free room is left for the sorrowful group on which every eye is turned. The situation is simple in the extreme; but how tragically-moving are the internal convulsions, for the representation of which the poet has worthily husbanded his force. Lear enters with frantic cries, bearing the body of his dead daughter in his arms; he alternates between agitating doubts and wishful unbelief of her death, and piteously experiments on the lifeless corpse ;
he bends over her with the dotage of an old man's affection, and calls to mind the soft lowness of her voice, till he fancies he can hear its murmurs. Then succeeds the dreadful torpor of despairing insanity, during which he receives the most cruel tidings with apathy, or replies to them with wild incoherence ; and the heart flows forth at the close with its last burst of love only to break in the vehemence of its emotion, commencing with the tenderness of regret, swelling into choking grief, and at last, when the eye catches the tokens of mortality in the dead, snapping the chords of life in an agonised horror.” all his quick passion, his fierce Keltic nature," says Mr. Munro, Lear could love deeply and tenderly. On the storm-swept heath, in the howl of the wind, the pitiless driving of the rain and the flash of the lightning, his first thought is for the Fool whom he loves : ‘In, boy, go first;' and all the memory of the loves of earlier days, and the bitter remembrance of the wrong he had done her and of his own sufferings, come to him as he gazes on the fair face of his dead Cordelia, and find expression in those terrible Nevers /
which pierce the heart of all who hear them repeated.” Cordelia is as the sun above the deeps of hell shown in Goneril and Regan. One can hardly help wishing that Shakspere had followed the old story told by Layamon and other repeaters of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and made Cordelia set her father on the throne again, and reign after him for a while in peace. But the tragedian, the preacher of Shakspere's ThirdPeriod lesson, did wisely for his art and meaning, in letting the daughter and father lie in one grave. Of the noble Kent, of Gloster,--who doubles Lear in error, and almost in suffering, -of Edmund, the Iago of this play, I have no time to speak. And while content that others should claim Lear as Shakspere's greatest work, for its diversity and contrast of character, its mixing the storms of nature with the passions of man?, I must yet claim Othello as the work which most deeply touches my heart. Its third Act is the greatest achievement of Shakspere as a dramatist; the first three Acts of Macbeth (I. v., vii.; II., III.) come next; Lear may follow. The date of Lear
i Coleridge says of Act III. sc. iv., “O, what a world's convention of agenies is here all external nature in a storm, all moral nature convulsed - the real inadness of Lear, the feigned madness of Edgar, the babbling of the fool, the desperate fidelity of Kent-surely such & scene was never conceived before or since."-Lit. Rem., ii. 201, 1836,
• In the volume of Macaulay's Notes on Books, lately publisht by Sir George Trevelyan, 1907, Macaulay is recorded to have written before Act III. sc. iv. ; "Here begins the finest of all human performances." When Lear breaks forth into the terrible apostrophe beginning
“O, let not woman's weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man's cheeks,” Macaulay writes, "Where is there anything like this in the world ?" As to Othello, he rightly held it “the best play extant in any language,” and he knew the whole of it by heart, says Sir George Trevelyan.
may be considered as fixt at 1605-6. It was enterd in the Stationers' Registers on Novr. 26, 1607 : “Nathanael Butter, John Busby. Enterd for their copie vnder th[e h]andes of Sir George Buck knight and Th(e) wardens a: booke called Master William Shakespeare his historye of Kinge Lear as yt was played before the kinges maiestie at Whitehall vppon Sainct Stephens night [26 Decr.] at Christmas Last by his maiesties servantes playinge vsually at the Globe on the Banksyde
vjd” (Arber's Transcript, iii. 366). Two quartos of it were publisht by Butter in 1608, independent texts, and neither copied by the Folio, which is the best version of the play, altho' it omits certain portions of the dialog. The title pages of 21, 22, confirm the Stat. Reg. date of the performance of the play. The source of the Lear story is Holinshed's Chronicle ; of the Gloster, Edmund, and Edgar story, Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, while suggestions for Edgar's “mad” speeches, the names of devils, were taken from A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, by Bishop Harsnet, 1603. Mr. Hazlitt has reprinted in his Shakspere's Library : 1. The History of Lear, from Holinshed (Pt. l., vol. ii., p. 314). 2. The same, from the English Gesta Romanorum (ab. 1440 A.D.), edit. Madden, pp. 450-3 (ib. p. 315), edit. Herrtage, p. 48, Early Eng. Text Soc., 1879. 3. The History of Leir and his Three Daughters, 1605, a play (Part II., vol. ii., p. 305. It was not used by Shakspere.). 4. Queen Cordela, an historical poem, by
1 Facsimiles of Quartos I. and II. vere edited with Introductory Notes by Mr. P. A. Daniel in 1885 as Nos. 83 and 84 of the Shakspero Quarto Facsimiles.