Enter Steward.
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

Stew. Ay, madam.

Gon. Take you some company, and away to horse: Inforın her full of my particular fear; And thereto add such reasons of your own, As may compact it more. Get you gone; And hasten your return. [Exit Stew.] No, no, my lord, This milky gentleness, and course of yours, Though I condemn it not, yet, under pardon, You are much more attask’ds for want of wisdom,


How now, Oswall? &c.] The quartos readwhat Oswald, ho !

Osw. Here, madum.
Gon. What, have you writ this letter, &c. Steevens.

compact it more.] Unite one circumstance with another, so as to make a consistent account. Johnson.

More is here used as a dissyllable. Malone.

I must still withhold my assent from such new dissyllables. Some monosyllable has in this place been omitted. Perhaps the author


Go get you gone.

Steevens. 5 more atta-ad-] It is a common phrase now with parents and governesses: I'll take you to task, i.e. I will reprehend and correct you. To be at task, therefore, is to be liable to reprehension and correction. Fohnson.

Both the quartos instead of at task-read, alapt. A late editor of King Lear, (Mr. Jennens) says, that the first quarto reads—attasks; but unless there be a third quarto which I have never seen or heard of, his assertion is erroneous. Steevens.

The quarto printed by N. Butter, 1608, of which the first signature is B, reads-attask'd for want of wisdom, &c. The other quarto printed by the same printer, in the same year, of which the first sig. nature is A, reads--alapt for want of wisdom, &c. Three copies of the quarto first described. (which concur in reading attask’d) and one copy of the other quarto, are now before me. The folio readsmat task — The quartos have praise instead of prais’d. Attask'd I suppose, means, charged, censured. So, in King Henry IV:

“ How show'd his tasking ? seemd it in contempt?” See Vol. VIII, p. 319, n. 6.

In the notes on this play I shall hereafter call the quarto first mentioned quarto B: the orher, quarto A. Malone.

Both the quartos described by Mr. Malone are at this instant before me and chey concur in reading-alapt. I have left my two copies of Bu'ter's publication (which I had formerly the honour of tending to Mr. Malone) at the shop of Messieurs White, Booksellers, in Fleet Street.

Than prais'd for harmful mildness.

Alb. How far your eyes may pierce, I cannot tell ;
Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.o

Gon. Nay, then
Alb. Well, well; the event.



Court before the same.

Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool. * Lear. Go you before to Gloster with these letters : acquaint my daughter no further with any thing you know, than comes from her demand out of the leiter: If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there before you.?

I have no doubt, however, but that Mr. Malone and myself are equally justifiable in our assertions, though they contradict each other; for it appears to me that some of the quartos (like the folio 1623) must have been partially corrected while at press. Consequently the copies first worked off, escaped without correction. Such is the case respecting two of the three quartos (for three there are) of King Henry IV, P. II, 1600. Steevens

The word task is frequently used by Shakspeare, and indeed by other writers of his time, in the sense of tax. Goneril means to say, that he was more taxed for want of wisdom, than praised for mild.


So, in The Island Princess, of Beaumont and Fletcher, Quisana says to Ruy Dias:

“ You are too saucy, too impudent,

6. To task me with those errors." M. Mason. 6 Striving to better, oft we mar what 's well.] So, in our author's 103d Sonnet:

“ Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
si To mar the subject that before was weli 2Malone.

there before you.] He seems to intend to go to his daughter, but it appears afterwards that he is going to the house of Gloster.

Steevens. The word there in this speech shows, that when the king says, “ Go you before to Gloster," he means the town of Gloster, which, as Mr. Tyrwhitt has observed, Shakspeare chose to make the residence of the Duke of Cornwall and Regan, in order to give a probability to their setting out late from thence, on a visit to the Earl of Gloster, whose castle our poet conceived to be in the neighbourhood of that city. Our old English earls usually resided in the counties from whence they took their titles. Lear, not finding his son-in-law. and his wife at home, follows them to the Earl of Gloster's castle. See Mr. Tyrwhitt's note, in Act II, sc. iv. Malone.

[ocr errors]

your letter.

Kent. I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered

[Erit. Fool. If a man's brains were in his heels, were't not in danger of kibes?

Lear. Ay, boy.

Fool. Then, I pr’ythee, be merry; thy wit shall not go slip-shod.

Lear. Ha, ha, ha!

Fool. Shalt see, thy other daughter will use thee kindly:8 for though she's as like this as a crab is like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.

Lear. Why, what canst thou tell, my boy ?9

Fool. She will taste as like this, as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell, why one's nose stands i' the middle of his face?

Lear. No.

Fool. Why, to keep his eyes on either side his nose; that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

Lear. I did her wrong:1
Fool. Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?
Lear. No.

Fool. Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.

Lear. Why?

Fool. Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case.

Lear. I will forget my nature.--So kind a father! Be my horses ready?

Fool. Thy asses are gone about 'em. The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven, is a pretty reason.

Lear. Because they are not eight?
Fool. Yes, indeed: Thou wouldest make a good fool.

Lear. To take it again perforce !2— Monster ingratitude !


thy other daughter will use thee kindly : ] The Fool uses the word kindly here in two senses; it means affectionately, and like the rest of her kind. M. Mason.

9 Why, what canst tholi tell, my boy ?] So, the quartos. The folio reads-What canst tell, boy? Malone.

1 I did her wrong :] He is musing on Cordelia Johnson. 2 To take it again perforce!!] He is meditating on the resumption of his royalty. Johnson.

He is rather meditating on his daughter's having in so violent a

Fool. If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I 'd have thee beaten for being old before thy time.

Lear. How's that?

Fool. Thou should'st not have been old, before thou hadst been wise.

Lear. O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!-

Enter Gentleman.
How now! Are the horses ready?

Gent. Ready, my lord.
Lear. Come, boy.

Fool. She that is maid now; and laughs at my departure, Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.3


manner deprived him of those privileges which before she had agreed to grant him.

Steevens. The subject of Lear's medi:ation is the resumption of that moiety of the kingdom which he had given to Goneril. This was what Albany apprehended, when he replied to the upbraidings of his wife:

Well, well; the event:"—what Lear himself projected when he left Goneril to go to Regan :

Yet I have lefi a daughter,
" Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable ;
“ When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
“ She 'll flay thy wolfish visage. Thou shalt find,
“ That I'll resume the shape, which thou dost think

I have cast of for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.” And what Curan af:erwards refers to, when he asks Edmund : “ Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 'twixt the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?" Henley.

unless things be cut shorter.] This idle couplet is apparently addressed to the females present at the performance of the play ; and, not improbably, crept into the playhouse copy from the mouth of some blittoon ac or, who "spoke more than was se: down for him."

It should seem, from Shakspeare's speaking in this strong manner, that he had suffered the injury he describes. Indecent jokes, which the applause of the groundlings might occasion to be repeated, would, at last, find their way into the prompter's books, &c.

I am aware, that such liberties were exercised by the authors of Locrine, &c ; but can such another offensive and extraneous address to the audience be pointed out among all the dramas of Shakspeare ?




.4 Court within the Castle of the Earl of Gloster.

Enter EDMUND and CURAN, meeting. Edm. Save thee, Curan.

Cur. And you, sir. I have been with your father; and given him notice, that the duke of Cornwall, and Regan his duchess, will be here with him to-night.

Edm. How comes that?

Cur. Nay, I know not: You have heard of the news abroad; I mean, the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments ?4

Edm. Not I; 'Pray you, what are they?

Cur.5 Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 'twixt the dukes of Cornwall and Albany?

Edm. Not a word.
Cur. You may then, in time. Fare you well, sir. (Exit.

Edm. The duke be here to-night? The better! Best! This weaves itself perforce into my

My father hath set guard to take my brother;
And I have one thing, of a queazy question,
Which I must act :- Briefness, and fortune, work!
Brother, a word ;-descend :-Brother, I say;

Enter EDGAR.
My father watches :-O sir, fly this place;
Intelligence is given where you are hid;
You have now the good advantage of the night:-
Have you not spoken 'gainst the duke of Cornwall?



ear-kissing arguments ?] Ear-kissing arguments means that they are yet in reality only whisperid ones. Steevens.

5 Cur.] This, and the following speech, are omitted in one of the quartos. Steevens.

queazy question, ] Something of a suspicious, questionable, and uncertain nature. This is, I think, the meaning. Johnson.

Queazy, I believe, rather means delicate, unsettled, what requires to be handled nicely.' So, Ben Jonson, in Sejanus :

“ Those times are somewhat queazy to be touch'd

Have you not seen or read part of his book ?” Again, in Much Ado about Nothing :

“Despight of his quick wit, and queazy stomach.” Steevens. Queazy is still used in Devonshire, to express that sickishness of stomach which the slightest disgust is apt to provoke. Henley.

« ForrigeFortsett »