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The French Camp near Dover.
Enter Kent, and a Gentleman'. Kent. Why the king of France is so suddenly gone back' know you the reason ?
Gent. Something he left imperfect in the state, Which since his coming forth is thought of; which Imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger, That his personal return was most requir'd, And necessary.
[Scene III.) This scene, left out in all the common books, is restored from the old edition ; it being manifestly of Shakspeare's writing, and necessary to continue the story of Cordelia, whose behaviour is here most beautifully painted. . Pope.
The scene seems to have been left out only to shorten the play, and is necessary to continue the action. It is extant only in the quarto, being omitted in the first folio. I have therefore put it between crotchets. Johnson.
2 —a Gentleman.] The gentleman whom he sent in the foregoing act with letters to Cordelia. Johnson.
3 Why the king of France is so suddenly gone back, &c.] The king of France being no longer a necessary personage, it was fit that some pretext for getting rid of him should be formed before the play was too near advanced towards a conclusion. Decency required that a Monarch should not be silently shuffled into the pack of insignificant characters; and therefore his dismission (which could be effected only by a sudden recall to his own dominions) was to be accounted for before the audience. For this purpose, among others, the present scene was introduced. It is difficult indeed to say what use could have been made of the King, had he appeared at the head of his own armament, and survived the murder of his queen. His conjugal concern on the occasion might have weakened the effect of Lear's parental sorrow; and, being an object of respect as well as pity, he would naturally have divided the spectator's attention, and thereby diminished the consequence of Albany, Edgar, and Kent, whose exemplary virtues deserved to be ultimately placed in the most conspicuous point of view. STEEVENS.
Kent. Who hath he left behind him general ? Gent. The Mareschal of France, Monsieur le
Fer 4. Kent. Did your letters pierce the queen to any demonstration of grief? Gent. Ay, sir; she took them, read them in
my presence; And now and then an ample tear trilld down Her delicate cheek: it seem'd, she was a queen. Over her passion; who, most rebel-like, Sought to be king o'er her. KENT.
O, then it mov'd her. Gent. Not to a rage: patience and sorrow
strove 6 Who should express her goodliest. You have seen Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears Were like a better May?: Those happy smiles o,
4 The Mareschal of France, MonsieuR LE Fer.] Shakspeare seems to have been poor in the names of Frenchmen, or he would scarce have given us here a Monsieur le Fer as Mareschal of France, after he had appropriated the same appellation to a common soldier, who was ferid, ferreted, and ferk'd, by Pistol in King Henry V. STEVENS.
s Ay, sir;] The quartos read-I say. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. MALONE.
6 — patience and sorrow stroVE - The quartos for strove have streme. Mr. Pope made the correction. MALONE. 7 her smiles and tears
Were like a BETTER DAY :] It is plain we should read wetter May, i. e. A spring season wetter than ordinary.
WARBURTON. Both the quartos read—a better way ; which being perfectly unintelligible, I have adopted part of the emendation introduced by Dr. Warburton. The late editions have given-a better day, a reading which first appeared in a note of Mr. Theobald's. A better day, however it be understood, is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the context. If a better day means either a good day, or the best day, it cannot represent Cordelia's smiles and tears; for neither the one or the other necessarily implies rain, without which, there is nothing to correspond with her tears ; nor can a rainy day, occasionally brightened by sunshine, with any pro
That play'd on her ripe lip, seem'd not to know What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence,
priety be called a good or the best day. We are compelled therefore to make some other change.
A better May, on the other hand, whether we understand by it, a good May, or a May better than ordinary, corresponds exactly with the preceding image: for in every May, rain may be expected, and in a good, or a better May than ordinary, the sunshine, like Cordelia's smiles, will predominate.
Mr. Steevens has quoted a passage from Sidney's Arcadia, which Shakspeare may have had in view. Perhaps the following passage, in the same book, p. 163, edit. 1593, bears a still nearer resemblance to that before us : “ And with that she prettily smiled, which mingled with her tears, one could not tell whether it were a mourning pleasure, or a delightful sorrow; but like when a few April drops are scattered by a gentle zephyrus among finecoloured flowers." MALONE.
The thought is taken from Sidney's Arcadia, p. 244 : “ Her tears came dropping down like rain in sunshine.” ' Cordelia's behaviour on this occasion is apparently copied from Philoclea's. The same book, in another place, says, " that her tears followed one another like a precious rope of pearl.” The same comparison also occurs in a very scarce book, entitled A Courtlie Controversie of Cupid's Cautels, &c. Translated from the French, &c. by H. W. (Henry Wotton] 4o. 1578, p. 289. “Who hath viewed in the spring time, raine and sunne-shine in one moment, might beholde the troubled countenance of the gentlewoman, after she had read and over-read the letters of her Floradin with an eye now smyling, then bathed in teares.” The quartos read, better way, which may be an accidental inversion of the m.
A better day, however, is the best day, and the best day is a day most favourable to the productions of the earth. Such are the days in which there is a due mixture of rain and sunshine. ,
It must be observed that the comparative is used by Milton and others, instead of the positive and superlative, as well as by Shakspeare himself, in the play before us :
“ The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
" Its master thus." Again, in Macbeth :
“ it hath cow'd my better part of man.” Again :
" Go not my horse the better." Mr. Pope makes no scruple to say of Achilles, that
“ The Pelian javelin in his better hand
- Shot trembling rays,” &c. i. e. his best hand, his right.
As pearls from diamonds dropp'd'.-In brief, sor
"row Would be a rarity most belov’d, if all Could so become it.
Mr. Malone reads-a better May. As objections may be started against either reading, I declare my inability to decide between them. I have therefore left that word in the text which I found in possession of it [a better day). We might read
“Were like an April day :” So, in Troilus and Cressida : “ - he will weep you, an 'twere a man born in April.”
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra : . “ The April's in her eyes : it is love's spring,
“ And these the showers do bring it on." STEEVENS. Doth not Dr. Warburton's alteration infer that Cordelia's sorrow was superior to her patience ? But it seem'd that she was a queen over her passion; and the smiles on her lip appeared not to know that tears were in her eyes. “ Her smiles and tears were like a better day,” or “ like a better May,” may signify that they were like such a season where sunshine prevailed over rain. So, in All's Well That Ends Well, Act V. Sc. III. we see in the king “ sunshine and hail at once, but to the brightest beams distracted clouds give way: the time is fair again, and he is like a day of season," i. e. a better day. Tollet.
8 — smiles,] The quartos read-smilets. This may be a diminutive of Shakspeare's coinage. Steevens. : 9 As pearls from diamonds dropp'd, &c.] In The Two Gentlemen of Verona we have the same image: “A sea of melting pearl, which some call tears."
Malone. The harshness of the foregoing line, in the speech of the Gentleman, induces me to believe that our author might have written :
“ Like pearls from diamonds dropping." This idea might have been taken from the ornaments of the ancient carcanet or necklace, which frequently consisted of table diamonds with pearls appended to them, or, in the jewellers' phrase, dropping from them. Pendants for the ear are still called drops.
A similar thought to this of Shakspeare, occurs in Middleton's Game at Chess, no date:
“ the holy dew lies like a pearl
“Upon the bashful rose.”
“ Under the opening eye-lids of the morn.” Steevens.
Made she no verbal question ? Gent. ?Faith, once, or twice”, she heav'd the
name of father
· Made she no VÆRBAL QUESTION?] Means only, • Did she enter into no conversation with you?' In this sense our poet frequently uses the word question, and not simply as the act of interrogation. Did she give you to understand her meaning by words as well as by the foregoing external testimonies of sorrow? So, in All's Well that Ends Well :
" she told me
"In a sweet verbal brief,” &c. Steevens. 2 'FAITH, once, or twice,] Thus the quartos. Mr. Pape and the subsequent editors read — Yes, once, &c. Regan, in a subse. quent scene, in like manner, uses the rejected word, however inelegant it may now appear :
• Faith, he is posted hence on serious matter." MALONE. 3 Let pity not be believed !] i.e. Let not such a thing as pity be supposed to exist! Thus the old copies ; but the modern editors have hitherto read
" Let pity not believe it ." STEEVENS. 4 And clamour moisten'd:] It is not impossible but Shakspeare might have formed this fine picture of Cordelia's agony from holy writ, in the conduct of Joseph ; who, being no longer able to restrain the vehemence of his affection, commanded all his retinue from his presence; and then went aloud, and dis covered himself to his brethren. THEOBALD.
“ – clamour moisten'd.” That is, her out-cries were accompanied with tears.' JOHNSON.
The old copies read~" And clamour moisten'd her." I have no doubt that the word her was inserted by the compositor's eye glancing on the middle of the preceding line, where that word occurs; and therefore have omitted it. It may be observed that the metre is complete without this word. She moisten’d clamour, or the exclamations she had uttered, with tears. This is per-.