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And top extremity.'
Whilst I was big in clamor, came there a man,
Shunned my abhorred society; but then finding
But who was this?
Edg. Kent, sir, the banished Kent; who in disguise Followed his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.]
Enter a Gentleman, hastily, with a bloody knife.
Gent. Help! help! O, help!
What kind of help?
'Tis hot, it smokes ;
Edg. What means that bloody knife?
It came even from the heart of
Who, man? speak.
1 Of this difficult passage, which is probably corrupt, Steevens gives the following explanation:-" This would have seemed a period to such as love not sorrow, but—another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as will increase the horrors of what has been already told." It will be necessary, if we admit this interpretation, to point the passage thus:
Malone's explanation is:-"This would have seemed the utmost completion of woe, to such as do not delight in sorrow; but another, of a different disposition, to amplify misery would give more strength to that which hath too much;"" referring to the bastard's desiring to hear more, and to Albany's thinking that enough had been said.
2 The quartos read, "threw me on my father." The reading in the text is certainly more likely to be correct.
Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister By her is poisoned; she hath confessed it.'
Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant.
Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead!This judgment of the Heavens, that makes us tremble, Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.
Here comes Kent, sir.
Alb. O! it is he.
The time will not allow the compliment,
Which very manners urges.
1 am come
To bid my king and master aye good night;
Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's Cor
Seest thou this object, Kent?
[The bodies of GONERIL and REgan are brought in.
Kent. Alack, why thus?
Yet Edmund was beloved.
The one the other poisoned for my sake,
And after slew herself.
Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces.
Edm. I pant for life :-Some good I mean to do, Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send
Be brief in it-to the castle, for my writ
Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.—
Nay, send in time.
Run, run, O, run
Edg. To whom, my lord?-Who has the office? send
Thy token of reprieve.
Edm. Well thought on; take my sword,
Give it the captain.
1 Thus the quarto. The folio reads "she confesses it."
Haste thee, for thy life.
Edm. He hath commission from thy
[Exit EDGAR. wife and me
Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
[EDMUND is borne off.
Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms;2 EDGAR, Officer, and others.
Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O, you are men
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
Is this the promised end? 3 Edg. Or image of that horror?
Fall, and cease! 4 Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
O my good master! [Kneeling.
Lear. 'Pr'ythee, away.
Edg. 'Tis noble Kent, your friend. Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
1 To fordo signifies to destroy. It is used again in Hamlet.
2 The old historians say that Cordelia 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 Regan and Goneril, she was taken, and died miserably in prison. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the original relater of the story, says that she killed herself.
3 Kent, in contemplating the scene before him, recollects those passages of St. Mark's Gospel, in which Christ foretells to his disciples the end of the world; and hence his question. To which Edgar adds, Or only a representation or resemblance of that horror.
4 To cease is to die. "Rather fall, and cease to be at once, than con tinue in existence only to be wretched."
I might have saved her; now she's gone forever!
What is't thou say'st?—Her voice was ever soft,
Lear. Did I not, fellow? I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion, I would have made them skip; I am old now.And these same crosses spoil me.-Who are you? Mine eyes are none o' the best.-I'll tell you straight. Kent. If Fortune brag of two she loved and hated, One of them we behold.1
Lear. This is a dull sight:2 Are you not Kent? Kent. The same; Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius? Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that; He'll strike, and quickly too.-He's dead and rotten. Kent. No, my good lord, I am the very man ;Lear. I'll see that straight.
Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay, Have followed your sad steps.
You are welcome hither.
Kent. Nor no man else; all's cheerless, dark, and
Your eldest daughters have fore-doomed3 themselves, And desperately are dead.
Ay, so I think.
Alb. He knows not what he sees; and vain it is That we present us to him.
1 "If Fortune, to display the plenitude of her power, should brag of two persons, one of whom she had highly elevated, and the other she had wofully depressed, we now behold the latter." The quarto reads, "She loved or hated," which confirms this sense.
2 Lear means that his eyesight was bedimmed either by excess of grief, or, as is usual, by the approach of death.
3 Thus the quartos: the folio reads foredone, which is probably right See note 1, on page 130.
4 The quarto reads says.
Enter an Officer.
Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.
Alb. That's but a trifle here.You lords, and noble friends, know our intent. What comfort to this great decay1 may come, Shall be applied. For us, we will resign, During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power.-You, to your rights,
Have more than merited.2-All friends shall taste
The cup of their deservings.-O, see, see!
Lear. And my poor fool is hanged!3 No, no, no life;
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never!—
'Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.-
Do you see this ?-Look on her,-look,-her lips,Look there, look there!
He faints! My lord, my lord,Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break!
Look up, my lord.
Kent. Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
O, he is gone indeed.
Kent. The wonder is, he hath endured so long; He but usurped his life.
Alb. Bear them from hence.-Our present business
1 "This great decay" is Lear.
2 These lines are addressed to Kent as well as to Edgar. Boot is advantage, increase. By honors is meant honorable conduct.
3 This is an expression of tenderness for his dead Cordelia (not his fool, as some have thought), on whose tips he is still intent, and dies while he is searching there for indications of life. "Poor fool," in the age of Shakspeare, was an expression of endearment.
4 The Rev. Dr. J. Warton judiciously observes, that the swelling and heaving of the heart is described by this most expressive circumstance.