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Edg. What means that bloody knife ?
'Tis hot, it smokes; It came even from the heart of Alb.
Who, man ? speak 2. GENT. Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister By her is poison'd; she hath confess'd it *.
Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant 4. ALB. Produce their bodies, be they alive or
dead ! This judgments of the heavens, that makes us
... tremble, Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.
I- from the heart of --] Here the folio, in defiance of metre and propriety, adds --
--- she's dead !” STEEVENS. 2 Who, man? speak.] The folio reads, “Who dead ? Speak, man." STEEVENS.
3 — she CONFESSES it.] Thus the first and second folio. The quartos—" she has [and hath] confess’d it." As these readings are equally proper, I have chosen the more metrical of the two.
Steevens. It is surely more proper to say that a person who is already dead hath confessed it, than to speak in the present term. The metre would be set right if we read poisoned. Boswell.
4 Now marry in an instant.] In the folio, after these words, we have “ Edg. Here comes Kent.
“ Enter Kent.” and the words -" O, is this he,” are spoken by Albany, immediately after “ touches us not with pity.” I have followed the quartos. MALONE.
s This judgment, &c.] If Shakspeare had studied Aristotle all his life, he would not perhaps have been able to mark with more precision the distinct operations of terror and pity. TYRWHITT.
This is the reading of the folio. The quartos have " This justice," &c. Malone. 6 Here comes Kent, sir.] The manner in which Edgar here
Alb. O! it is he?
I am come
ALB. Great thing of us forgot !-
[The Bodies of GONERIL and REGAn are
brought in. Kent. Alack, why thus ? EDM.
Yet Edmund was belov'd 8 : The one the other poison’d for my sake, And after slew herself.
ALB. Even so.-Cover their faces.
EDM. I pant for life:-Some good I mean to do,
Run, run, 0, run-
send Thy token of reprieve. mentions Kent, seems to require the lines which are inserted from the first edition in the foregoing scene. Johnson. 10! it is he.] Thus the quartos. Folio, “ (), is this he ? "
MALONE. 8 Yet Edmund was belov'd :) Rowe's Dying Rake suggests to himself a similar consolation, arising froin the remembrance of successful gallantry :
“ Yet, let not this advantage swell thy pride;
“I conquer'd in my turn, in love I triumphod.” Dryden's Don Sebastian felicitates himself on the same circumstance. Thus also in The Double Marriage by Fletcher :
“ this happiness yet stays with me:
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 3;
EDGAR, Officer, and Others. LEAR. Howl, howl, howl, howl !-0, you are men of stones ;
* Quarto A omits this line. 9 Give it the captain.] The quartos read :
“ Take my sword, the captain,
• Give it the captain ." STEEVENS. Alb. Haste thee, for thy life.] Thus the quartos. In the folio this speech is improperly assigned to Edgar, who had the moment before received the token of reprieve, which Edmund enjoined him to give the officer, in whose custody Lear was.
MALONE. 2 That she FORDID herself.] To fordo, signifies to destroy. It is used again in Hamlet, Act V.:
" did, with desperate hand,
• Fordo its own life ,” STEEVENS. 3 -- Cordelia dead in his arms ;] This princess, according to the old historians, retired with victory from the battle which she conducted in her father's cause, and thereby replaced him on the throne : but in a subsequent one fought against her (after the death of the old king) by the sons of Goneril and Regan, she was taken, and died miserably in prison. The poet found this in history, and was therefore willing to precipitate her death, which he knew had happened but a few years after. The dramatick writers of this age suffered as small a number of their heroes and heroines to escape as possible; nor could the filial piety of this lady, any more than the innocence of Ophelia, prevail on Shakspeare to extend her life beyond her misfortunes. STEEVENS.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of this story, says, that Cordelia was thrown by her nephews into prison, “where, for grief at the loss of her kingdom, she killed herself.”
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
Is this the promis'd end ?
4 Kent. Is this the promis'd end?
Edg. Or image of that horror ?] It appears to me that 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. In St. Mark's Gospel, when Christ foretels to his disciples the end of the world, and is describing to them the signs that were to precede, and mark the approach of, our final dissolution, he says, “ For in those days shall be aliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, unto this time, neither shall be :” and afterwards he says, “ Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” Kent in contemplating the unexampled scene of exquisite affliction which was then before him, and the unnatural attempt of Goneril and Regan against their father's life, recollects these passages, and asks, whether that was the end of the world that had been foretold to us. To which Edgar adds, or only a representation or resemblance of that horror ?
So Macbeth, when he calls upon Banquo, Malcolm, &c. to view Duncan murdered, says
“- up, up, and see
“ The great doom's image!" There is evidently an allusion to the same passages in Scripture, in a speech of Gloster's, which he makes in the second scene of the first Act :
“ These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us :-love cools ; friendship falls off ; brothers divide ; in cities, mutinies ; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction ; there's son against father; the king falls from the bias of nature; there's father against child : We have seen the best of our time.”
If any criticks should urge it as an objection to this explanation, that the persons of the drama are pagans, and of consequence unAlb.
Fall, and cease 5! LEAR. This feather stirs 6; she lives! if it be so,
acquainted with the Scriptures, they give Shakspeare credit for more accuracy than I fear he possessed. M. Mason.
This note deserves the highest praise, and is inserted in the present work with the utmost degree of gratitude to its author.
STEEVENS. I entirely agree with Mr. Mason in his happy explanation of this passage. In a speech which our poet has put into the mouth of young Clifford in The Second Part of King Henry VI. a similar imagery is found. On seeing the dead body of his father, who was slain in battle by the Duke of York, he exclaims-
“ -0, let the vile world end,
" To cease!” There is no trace of these lines in the old play on which The Second Part of King Henry VI. was formed.
Image is again used for delineation or representation, in King Henry IV. Part I.: “ No counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed.”
Again, in Hamlet : “ The play is the image of a murder done in Vienna.”
Mr. M. Mason has not done justice to his ingenious explanation of these words, by not quoting the whole of the passage in Macbeth :
“- up, up, and see
“ To countenance this horror." Here we find disjecti membra poete ; the second and fourth line, taken together, furnishing us with the very expression of the text.
Malone. 5 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.” So, in All's Well, &c. to cease is used for to die : and in Hamlet, the death of majesty is called “the cease of majesty."
Again, in All's Well That Ends Well :