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[Footnote 158: Of course I do not mean that he is beginning to be insane, and still less that he is insane (as some medical critics suggest).]
[Footnote 159: I must however point out that the modern stage-directions are most unfortunate in concealing the fact that here Cordelia sees her father again for the first time. See Note W.]
[Footnote 160: What immediately follows is as striking an illustration of quite another quality, and of the effects which make us think of Lear as pursued by a relentless fate. If he could go in and sleep after his prayer, as he intends, his mind, one feels, might be saved: so far there has been only the menace of madness. But from within the hovel Edgar--the last man who would willingly have injured Lear--cries, 'Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom!'; the Fool runs out terrified; Edgar, summoned by Kent, follows him; and, at sight of Edgar, in a moment something gives way in Lear's brain, and he exclaims:
|Hast thou given all|
To thy two daughters? And art thou come to this?
Henceforth he is mad. And they remain out in the storm.
I have not seen it noticed that this stroke of fate is repeated--surely intentionally--in the sixth scene. Gloster has succeeded in persuading Lear to come into the 'house'; he then leaves, and Kent after much difficulty induces Lear to lie down and rest upon the cushions. Sleep begins to come to him again, and he murmurs,
'Make no noise, make no noise; draw the curtains; so, so, so. We'll go to supper i' the morning. So, so, so.'
At that moment Gloster enters with the news that he has discovered a plot to kill the King; the rest that 'might yet have balm'd his broken senses' is again interrupted; and he is hurried away on a litter towards Dover. (His recovery, it will be remembered, is due to a long sleep artificially induced.)]
[Footnote 161: III. iv. 49. This is printed as prose in the Globe edition, but is surely verse. Lear has not yet spoken prose in this scene, and his next three speeches are in verse. The next is in prose, and, ending, in his tearing off his clothes, shows the advance of insanity.]
[Footnote 162: [Lear's death is thus, I am reminded, like père Goriot's.] This interpretation may be condemned as fantastic, but the text, it appears to me, will bear no other. This is the whole speech (in the Globe text):
And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt 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!
The transition at 'Do you see this?' from despair to something more than hope is exactly the same as in the preceding passage at the word 'Ha!':
A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! I might have saved her; now she's gone for ever! Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
What is't thou say'st? Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
As to my other remarks, I will ask the reader to notice that the passage from Lear's entrance with the body of Cordelia to the stage-direction He dies (which probably comes a few lines too soon) is 54 lines in length, and that 30 of them represent the interval during which he has absolutely forgotten Cordelia. (It begins when he looks up at the Captain's words, line 275.) To make Lear during this interval turn continually in anguish to the corpse, is to act the passage in a manner irreconcilable with the text, and insufferable in its effect. I speak from experience. I have seen the passage acted thus, and my sympathies were so exhausted long before Lear's death that his last speech, the most pathetic speech ever written, left me disappointed and weary.]
[Footnote 163: The Quartos give the 'Never' only thrice (surely wrongly), and all the actors I have heard have preferred this easier task. I ought perhaps to add that the Quartos give the words 'Break, heart; I prithee, break!' to Lear, not Kent. They and the Folio are at odds throughout the last sixty lines of King Lear, and all good modern texts are eclectic.]
[Footnote 164: The connection of these sufferings with the sin of earlier days (not, it should be noticed, of youth) is almost thrust upon our notice by the levity of Gloster's own reference to the subject in the first scene, and by Edgar's often quoted words 'The gods are just,' etc. The following collocation, also, may be intentional (III. iv. 116):
Fool. Now a little fire in a wild field were like an old lecher's heart; a small spark, all the rest on's body cold. Look, here comes a walking fire. [Enter GLOSTER with a torch.]
Pope destroyed the collocation by transferring the stage-direction to a point some dozen lines later.]
[Footnote 165: The passages are here printed together (III. iv. 28 ff. and IV. i. 67 ff.):
Lear. Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them, And show the heavens just.
Glo. Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched Makes thee the happier: heavens, deal so still! Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly; So distribution should undo excess, And each man have enough.]
[Footnote 166: Schmidt's idea--based partly on the omission from the Folios at I. ii. 103 (see Furness' Variorum) of the words 'To his father that so tenderly and entirely loves him'--that Gloster loved neither of his sons, is surely an entire mistake. See, not to speak of general impressions, III. iv. 171 ff.]
[Footnote 167: Imagination demands for Lear, even more than for Othello, majesty of stature and mien. Tourgénief felt this and made his 'Lear of the Steppes' a gigantic peasant. If Shakespeare's texts give no express authority for ideas like these, the reason probably is that he wrote primarily for the theatre, where the principal actor might not be a large man.]
[Footnote 168: He is not present, of course, till France and Burgundy enter; but while he is present he says not a word beyond 'Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.' For some remarks on the possibility that Shakespeare imagined him as having encouraged Lear in his idea of dividing the kingdom see Note T. It must be remembered that Cornwall was Gloster's 'arch and patron.']
[Footnote 169: In this she stands alone among the more notable characters of the play. Doubtless Regan's exclamation 'O the blest gods' means nothing, but the fact that it is given to her means something. For some further remarks on Goneril see Note T. I may add that touches of Goneril reappear in the heroine of the next tragedy, Macbeth; and that we are sometimes reminded of her again by the character of the Queen in Cymbeline, who bewitched the feeble King by her beauty, and married him for greatness while she abhorred his person (Cymbeline, V. v. 62 f., 31 f.); who tried to poison her step-daughter and intended to poison her husband; who died despairing because she could not execute all the evil she purposed; and who inspirited her husband to defy the Romans by words that still stir the blood (Cymbeline, III. i. 14 f. Cf. King Lear, IV. ii. 50 f.).]
[Footnote 170: I. ii. 1 f. Shakespeare seems to have in mind the idea expressed in the speech of Ulysses about the dependence of the world on degree, order, system, custom, and about the chaos which would result from the free action of appetite, the 'universal wolf' (Troilus and Cr. I. iii. 83 f.). Cf. the contrast between 'particular will' and 'the moral laws of nature and of nations,' II. ii. 53, 185 ('nature' here of course is the opposite of the 'nature' of Edmund's speech).]
[Footnote 171: The line last quoted is continued by Edmund in the Folios thus: 'Th' hast spoken right; 'tis true,' but in the Quartos thus: 'Thou hast spoken truth,' which leaves the line imperfect. This, and the imperfect line 'Make instruments to plague us,' suggest that Shakespeare wrote at first simply,
Make instruments to plague us.
Edm. Th' hast spoken truth.
The Quartos show other variations which seem to point to the fact that the MS. was here difficult to make out.]
[Footnote 172: IV. i. 1-9. I am indebted here to Koppel, Verbesserungsvorschläge zu den Erläuterungen und der Textlesung des Lear (1899).]
[Footnote 173: See I. i. 142 ff. Kent speaks, not of the injustice of Lear's action, but of its 'folly,' its 'hideous rashness.' When the King exclaims 'Kent, on thy life, no more,' he answers:
My life I never held but as a pawn To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it, Thy safety being the motive.
(The first Folio omits 'a,' and in the next line reads 'nere' for 'nor.' Perhaps the first line should read 'My life I ne'er held but as pawn to wage.')]
[Footnote 174: See II. ii. 162 to end. The light-heartedness disappears, of course, as Lear's misfortunes thicken.]
[Footnote 175: This difference, however, must not be pressed too far; nor must we take Kent's retort,
Now by Apollo, king, Thou swear'st thy gods in vain,
for a sign of disbelief. He twice speaks of the gods in another manner
[Footnote 176: The 'clown' in Antony and Cleopatra is merely an old peasant. There is a fool in Timon of Athens, however, and he appears in a scene (II. ii.) generally attributed to Shakespeare. His talk sometimes reminds one of Lear's fool; and Kent's remark, 'This is not altogether fool, my lord,' is repeated in Timon, II. ii. 122, 'Thou art not altogether a fool.']
[Footnote 177: [This is no obstacle. There could hardly be a stage tradition hostile to his youth, since he does not appear in Tate's version, which alone was acted during the century and a half before Macready's production. I had forgotten this; and my memory must also have been at fault regarding an engraving to which I referred in the first edition. Both mistakes were pointed out by Mr. Archer.]]
[Footnote 178: In parts of what follows I am indebted to remarks by Cowden Clarke, quoted by Furness on I. iv. 91.]
[Footnote 179: See also Note T.]
[Footnote 180: 'Our last and least' (according to the Folio reading). Lear speaks again of 'this little seeming substance.' He can carry her dead body in his arms.]
[Footnote 181: Perhaps then the 'low sound' is not merely metaphorical in Kent's speech in I. i. 153 f.:
|answer my life my judgment,|
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least; Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound Reverbs no hollowness.]
[Footnote 182: I. i. 80. 'More ponderous' is the reading of the Folios, 'more richer' that of the Quartos. The latter is usually preferred, and Mr. Aldis Wright says 'more ponderous' has the appearance of being a player's correction to avoid a piece of imaginary bad grammar. Does it not sound more like the author's improvement of a phrase that he thought a little flat? And, apart from that, is it not significant that it expresses the same idea of weight that appears in the phrase 'I cannot heave my heart into my mouth'?]
[Footnote 183: Cf. Cornwall's satirical remarks on Kent's 'plainness' in
[Footnote 184: Who, like Kent, hastens on the quarrel with Goneril.]
[Footnote 185: I do not wish to complicate the discussion by examining the differences, in degree or otherwise, in the various cases, or by introducing numerous qualifications; and therefore I do not add the names of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.]
[Footnote 186: It follows from the above that, if this idea were made explicit and accompanied our reading of a tragedy throughout, it would confuse or even destroy the tragic impression. So would the constant presence of Christian beliefs. The reader most attached to these beliefs holds them in temporary suspension while he is immersed in a Shakespearean tragedy. Such tragedy assumes that the world, as it is presented, is the truth, though it also provokes feelings which imply that this world is not the whole truth, and therefore not the truth.]
[Footnote 187: Though Cordelia, of course, does not occupy the position of the hero.]
[Footnote 188: E.g. in King Lear the servants, and the old man who succours Gloster and brings to the naked beggar 'the best 'parel that he has, come on't what will,' i.e. whatever vengeance Regan can inflict. Cf. the Steward and the Servants in Timon. Cf. there also (V. i. 23), 'Promising is the very air o' the time ... performance is ever the duller for his act; and, but in the plainer and simpler kind of people, the deed of saying [performance of promises] is quite out of use.' Shakespeare's feeling on this subject, though apparently specially keen at this time of his life, is much the same throughout (cf. Adam in As You Like It). He has no respect for the plainer and simpler kind of people as politicians, but a great respect and regard for their hearts.]
[Footnote 189: 'I stumbled when I saw,' says Gloster.]
[Footnote 190: Our advantages give us a blind confidence in our security. Cf. Timon, IV. iii. 76,
Alc. I have heard in some sort of thy miseries.
Tim. Thou saw'st them when I had prosperity.]
[Footnote 191: Biblical ideas seem to have been floating in Shakespeare's mind. Cf. the words of Kent, when Lear enters with Cordelia's body, 'Is this the promised end?' and Edgar's answer, 'Or image of that horror?' The 'promised end' is certainly the end of the world (cf. with 'image' 'the great doom's image,' Macbeth, II. iii. 83); and the next words, Albany's 'Fall and cease,' may be addressed to the heavens or stars, not to Lear. It seems probable that in writing Gloster's speech about the predicted horrors to follow 'these late eclipses' Shakespeare had a vague recollection of the passage in Matthew xxiv., or of that in Mark xiii., about the tribulations which were to be the sign of 'the end of the world.' (I do not mean, of course, that the 'prediction' of I. ii. 119 is the prediction to be found in one of these passages.)]
[Footnote 192: Cf. Hamlet, III. i. 181:
This something-settled matter in his heart, Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus From fashion of himself.]
[Footnote 193: I believe the criticism of King Lear which has influenced me most is that in Prof. Dowden's Shakspere, his Mind and Art (though, when I wrote my lectures, I had not read that criticism for many years); and I am glad that this acknowledgment gives me the opportunity of repeating in print an opinion which I have often expressed to students, that anyone entering on the study of Shakespeare, and unable or unwilling to read much criticism, would do best to take Prof. Dowden for his guide.]
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