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No, but not yet:-may be, he is not well:
Whereto our health is bound; we are not ourselves,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
For the sound man.-Death on my state! wherefore
Is practice only.9 Give me my servant forth:
Go, tell the duke and his wife, I'd speak with them,
Till it cry-Sleep to death.1
Glo. I'd have all well betwixt you.
[Exit. Lear. O me, my heart, my rising heart!-but, down. Fool. Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney2 did to the eels,
Tell the hot duke, that] The quartos read-Tell the hot duke, that Lear - Steevens.
This act persuades me,] As the measure is here defective, perhaps our author wrote:
This act almost persuades me, Steevens.
this remotion] From their own house to that of the Earl of Gloster.
9 Is practice only.] Practice is, in Shakspeare, and other old writers, used commonly in an ill sense for unlawful artifice. Johnson.
1 Till it cry-Sleep to death.] This, as it stands, appears to be a mere nonsensical rhapsody. Perhaps we should read-Death to sleep, instead of Sleep to death. M. Mason.
The meaning of this passage seems to be-I'll beat the drum till it cries out-Let them awake no more;-Let their present sleep be their last.
Somewhat similar occurs in Troilus and Cressida :
the death tokens of it
"Cry No recovery."
The sentiment of Lear does not therefore, in my opinion, deserve the censure bestowed on it by Mr. M. Mason, but is, to the full, as defensible as many other bursts of dramatick passion. Steevens.
2 the cockney-] It is not easy to determine the exact power of this term of contempt, which, as the editor of The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer observes, might have been originally borrowed from the kitchen. From the ancient ballad of The Turnament of Tottenham, published by Dr. Percy in his second volume of Ancient Poetry, p. 24, it should seem to signify a cook :
when she put them i' the paste3 alive; she rapp'd 'em1 o' the coxcombs with a stick, and cry'd, Down, wantons, down: 'Twas her brother, that, in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GLOSTER, and Servants. Lear. Good morrow to you both.
"At that feast were they served in rich array;
i. e. a cook, or scullion, to attend them.
Shakspeare, however, in Twelfth Night, makes his Clown say. "I am afraid this great lubber the world, will prove a cockney." In this place it seems to have a signification not unlike that which it bears at present; and, indeed, Chaucer, in his Reve's Tale, ver. 4205, appears to employ it with such a meaning:
"And when this jape is tald another day,
"I shall be halden a daffe or a cokenay."
Meres, likewise, in the Second Part of his Wit's Commonwealth, 1598, observes, that many cockney and wanton women are often sick, but in faith they cannot tell where." Deckar, also, in his Newes from Hell, &c. 1606, has the following passage: ""Tis not their fault, but our mother's, our cockering mothers, who for their labour made us to be called cockneys." See the notes on The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, Vol. IV, p. 253, where the reader will meet with more information on this subject. Steevens.
Cockenay, as Dr. Percy imagines, cann: be a cook or scullion, but is some dish which I am unable to ascertain. My authority is the following epigram from Davies:
"He that comes every day, shall have a cock-nay,
"And he that comes but now and then, shall have a fat hen." Epigram on English Proverbs, 179. Whalley. Mr. Malone expresses his doubt whether cockney means a scullion, &c. in The Turnament of Tottenham; and to the lines already quoted from J. Davies's Scourge of Folly, adds the two next:
"But cocks that to hens come but now and then,
"Shall have a cock-nay, not the fat hen."
I have been lately informed, by an old lady, that, during her childhood, she remembers having eaten a kind of sugar pellets called at that time cockneys. Steevens.
the eels, when she put them i' the paste-] Hinting that the eel and Lear are in the same danger. Johnson.
The Fool does not compare Lear himself to the eels, but his rising choler.
This reference is not sufficiently explained. The paste, or crust of a pie, in Shakspeare's time, was called a coffin.
she rapp'd 'em -] So the quartos. The folio reads-she knapt 'em. Malone.
Rapp'd must be the true reading, as the only sense of the verb-to knap, is to snap, or break asunder. Steevens.
Hail to your grace! [KENT is set at Liberty.
Reg. I am glad to see your highness.
Lear. Regan, I think you are; I know what reason I have to think so: if thou should'st not be glad,
I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb,
Reg. I pray you, sir, take patience; I have hope,
Than she to scant her duty.8
5 Sepúlch'ring -] This word is accented in the same manner by Fairfax and Milton:
"As if his work should his sepúlcher be." C. i, st. 25.
she hath tied
Milton on Shakspeare, line 15. Steevens.
Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here,] Alluding to the fable of Prometheus. Warburton.
7 Of how deprav'd a quality —] Thus the quarto. The folio reads: With how deprav'd a quality —
8 Than she to scant her duty.] The word scant is directly contrary to the sense intended. The quarto reads:
slack her duty,
which is no better. May we not change it thus:
You less know how to value her desert,
Than she to scan her duty.
To scan may be to measure or proportion. Yet our author uses his negatives with such licentiousness, that it is hardly safe to make any alteration. Scant may mean to adapt, to fit, to proportion; which sense seems still to be retained in the mechanical term scantling.
Sir Thomas Hanmer had proposed this change of scant into scan; but surely no alteration is necessary. The other reading-slack, would answer as well. You less know how to value her desert, than she (knows) to scant her duty, i. e. than she can be capable of being wanting in her duty. I have at least given the intended meaning of the passage. Steevens.
Shakspeare, without doubt, intended to make Regan say—I have hope that the fact will rather turn out, that you know not how to appre ciate her merit, than that she knows how to scant, or be deficient in, her duty. But that he has expressed this sentiment inaccurately, will,
Say, how is that?
Lear. My curses on her!
O, sir, you are old;
I think, clearly appear from inverting the sentence, without changing a word. "I have hope (says Regan) that she knows more [or better] how to scant her duty, than you now how to value her desert." i.e. I have hope, that she is more perfect, more an adept, (if the expression may be allowed) in the non performance of her duty, than you are perfect, or accurate, in the estimation of her merit.
In The Winter's Tale we meet with an inaccuracy of the same kind:
I ne'er heard yet,
"That any of these bolder vices wanted
"Less impudence to gainsay what they did,
"Than to perform it first."
where, as Dr. Johnson has justly observed, "wanted should be had, or less should be more." Again, in Cymbeline: "- be it but to fortify her judgment, which else an easy battery might lay flat, for tak ing a beggar without less quality." Here also less should certainly be
Again, in Macbeth:
"Who cannot want the thought how monstrous
"It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain
"To kill the gracious Duncan ?"
Here unquestionably for cannot the poet should have written can. See also Antony and Cleopatra, Act IV, sc. xii, Vol. XIII.
If Lear is less knowing in the valuation of Goneril's desert, than she is in her scanting of her duty, then she knows better how to scant or be deficient in her duty, than he knows how to appreciate her desert. Will any one maintain, that Regan meant to express a hope that this would prove the case?
Shakspeare perplexed himself by placing the word less before know; for if he had written, "I have hope that you rather know how to make her desert less than it is, (to under-rate it in your estimation) than that she at all knows how to scant her duty," all would have been clear; but, by placing less before know, this meaning is destroyed.
Those who imagine that this passage is accurately expressed as it now stands, deceive themselves by this fallacy: in paraphrasing it, they always take the word less out of its place, and connect it, or some other synonymous word, with the word desert. Malone.
9 Say, &c.] This, as well as the following speech, is omitted in t quartos. Steevens.
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Say, you have wrong'd her, sir.
Ask her forgiveness? Do you but mark how this becomes the house:1 Dear daughter, I confess that I am old; Age is unnecessary :2 on my knees I beg,
That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.
1 Do you but mark how this becomes the house?] The order of families duties of relation. Warburton.
In The Tempest we have again nearly the same sentiment: "But O how oddly will it sound that I
"Must ask my child forgiveness?" Malone.
Dr. Warburton's explanation may be supported by the following passage in Milton on Divorce, B. II, ch xii: " the restraint whereof who is not too thick-sighted, may see how hurtful, how destructive, it is to the house, the church, and commonwealth!" Tollet.
The old reading may likewise receive additional support from the following passage in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, 1598: "Come up to supper; it will become the house wonderfull well."
Mr. Tollet has since furnished me with the following extract from` Sir Thomas Smith's Commonwealth of England, 4to. 1601, chap. II, which has much the same expression, and explains it. "They two together [man and wife] ruleth the house. The house I call here, the man, the woman, their children, their servants, bond and free," &c.
Again, in Painter's Palace of Pleasure:-"The gentleman's wife one day could not refraine (beholding a s'agges head set up in the gentleman's house) from breaking into a laughter before his face, saying how that head became the house very well." Henderson.
2 Age is unnecessary:] i. e. Old age has few wants. Johnson." This usage of the word unnecessary is quite without example; and I believe my learned coadjutor has rather improved than explained the meaning of his author, who seems to have designed to say no more than that it seems unnecessary to children that the lives of their parents should be prolonged Age is unnecessary, may mean, old people are useless. So, in The Old Law, by Massinger:
your laws extend not to desert,
"But to unnecessary years; and, my lord,
Unnecessary in Lear's speech, I believe, means-in want of necessaries, unable to procure them. Tyrwhitt.