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[Footnote 123: I leave undiscussed the position of King Lear in relation to the 'comedies' of Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and All's Well.]
[Footnote 124: See Note R.]
[Footnote 125: On some of the points mentioned in this paragraph see Note S.]
'Kent. I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
Glos. It did always seem so to us: but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most.'
For (Gloster goes on to say) their shares are exactly equal in value. And if the shares of the two elder daughters are fixed, obviously that of the third is so too.]
I loved her most, and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery.]
[Footnote 128: It is to Lear's altered plan that Kent applies these words.]
[Footnote 129: There is talk of a war between Goneril and Regan within a fortnight of the division of the kingdom (II. i. 11 f.).]
[Footnote 130: I mean that no sufficiently clear reason is supplied for Edmund's delay in attempting to save Cordelia and Lear. The matter stands thus. Edmund, after the defeat of the opposing army, sends Lear and Cordelia to prison. Then, in accordance with a plan agreed on between himself and Goneril, he despatches a captain with secret orders to put them both to death instantly (V. iii. 26-37, 244, 252). He then has to fight with the disguised Edgar. He is mortally wounded, and, as he lies dying, he says to Edgar (at line 162, more than a hundred lines after he gave that commission to the captain):
What you have charged me with, that have I done; And more, much more; the time will bring it out; 'Tis past, and so am I.
In 'more, much more' he seems to be thinking of the order for the deaths of Lear and Cordelia (what else remained undisclosed?); yet he says nothing about it. A few lines later he recognises the justice of his fate, yet still says nothing. Then he hears the story of his father's death, says it has moved him and 'shall perchance do good' (What good except saving his victims?); yet he still says nothing. Even when he hears that Goneril is dead and Regan poisoned, he still says nothing. It is only when directly questioned about Lear and Cordelia that he tries to save the victims who were to be killed 'instantly' (242). How can we explain his delay? Perhaps, thinking the deaths of Lear and Cordelia would be of use to Goneril and Regan, he will not speak till he is sure that both the sisters are dead. Or perhaps, though he can recognise the justice of his fate and can be touched by the account of his father's death, he is still too self-absorbed to rise to the active effort to 'do some good, despite of his own nature.' But, while either of these conjectures is possible, it is surely far from satisfactory that we should be left to mere conjecture as to the cause of the delay which permits the catastrophe to take place. The real cause lies outside the dramatic nexus. It is Shakespeare's wish to deliver a sudden and crushing blow to the hopes which he has excited.]
[Footnote 131: Everything in these paragraphs must, of course, be taken in connection with later remarks.]
[Footnote 132: I say 'the reader's,' because on the stage, whenever I have seen King Lear, the 'cuts' necessitated by modern scenery would have made this part of the play absolutely unintelligible to me if I had not been familiar with it. It is significant that Lamb in his Tale of King Lear almost omits the sub-plot.]
[Footnote 133: Even if Cordelia had won the battle, Shakespeare would probably have hesitated to concentrate interest on it, for her victory would have been a British defeat. On Spedding's view, that he did mean to make the battle more interesting, and that his purpose has been defeated by our wrong division of Acts IV. and V., see Note X.]
[Footnote 134: It is vain to suggest that Edmund has only just come home, and that the letter is supposed to have been sent to him when he was 'out' See I. ii. 38-40, 65 f.]
[Footnote 135: The idea in scene i., perhaps, is that Cordelia's marriage, like the division of the kingdom, has really been pre-arranged, and that the ceremony of choosing between France and Burgundy (I. i. 46 f.) is a mere fiction. Burgundy is to be her husband, and that is why, when Lear has cast her off, he offers her to Burgundy first (l. 192 ff.). It might seem from 211 ff. that Lear's reason for doing so is that he prefers France, or thinks him the greater man, and therefore will not offer him first what is worthless: but the language of France (240 ff.) seems to show that he recognises a prior right in Burgundy.]
[Footnote 136: See Note T. and p. 315.]
[Footnote 137: See Note U.]
[Footnote 138: The word 'heath' in the stage-directions of the storm-scenes is, I may remark, Rowe's, not Shakespeare's, who never used the word till he wrote Macbeth.]
[Footnote 139: It is pointed out in Note V. that what modern editors call Scenes ii., iii., iv. of Act II. are really one scene, for Kent is on the stage through them all.]
[Footnote 140: [On the locality of Act I., Sc. ii., see Modern Language Review for Oct., 1908, and Jan., 1909.]]
[Footnote 141: This effect of the double action seems to have been pointed out first by Schlegel.]
[Footnote 142: How prevalent these are is not recognised by readers familiar only with English poetry. See Simpson's Introduction to the Philosophy of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1868) and Mr. Wyndham's edition of Shakespeare's Poems. Perhaps both writers overstate, and Simpson's interpretations are often forced or arbitrary, but his book is valuable and ought not to remain out of print.]
[Footnote 143: The monstrosity here is a being with a woman's body and a fiend's soul. For the interpretation of the lines see Note Y.]
[Footnote 144: Since this paragraph was written I have found that the abundance of these references has been pointed out and commented on by J. Kirkman, New Shaks. Soc. Trans., 1877.]
[Footnote 145: E.g. in As You Like It, III. ii. 187, 'I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember'; Twelfth Night, IV. ii. 55, 'Clown. What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl? Mal. That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird. Clown. What thinkest thou of his opinion? Mal. I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion,' etc. But earlier comes a passage which reminds us of King Lear, Merchant of Venice, IV. i. 128:
O be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog! And for thy life let justice be accused. Thou almost makest me waver in my faith To hold opinion with Pythagoras, That souls of animals infuse themselves Into the trunks of men: thy currish spirit Govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter, Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet, And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam, Infused itself in thee; for thy desires Are wolvish, bloody, starved and ravenous.]
[Footnote 146: I fear it is not possible, however, to refute, on the whole, one charge,--that the dog is a snob, in the sense that he respects power and prosperity, and objects to the poor and despised. It is curious that Shakespeare refers to this trait three times in King Lear, as if he were feeling a peculiar disgust at it. See III. vi. 65, 'The little dogs and all,' etc.: IV. vi. 159, 'Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar ... and the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority': V. iii. 186, 'taught me to shift Into a madman's rags; to assume a semblance That very dogs disdain'd.' Cf. Oxford Lectures, p. 341.]
[Footnote 147: With this compare the following lines in the great speech on 'degree' in Troilus and Cressida, I. iii.:
Take but degree away, untune that string, And, hark, what discord follows! Each thing meets In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores And make a sop of all this solid globe: Strength should be lord of imbecility, And the rude son should strike his father dead: Force should be right; or, rather, right and wrong, Between whose endless jar justice resides, Should lose their names, and so should justice too. Then everything includes itself in power, Power into will, will into appetite; And appetite, an universal wolf, So doubly seconded with will and power, Must make perforce an universal prey, And last eat up himself.]
[Footnote 148: Nor is it believable that Shakespeare, whose means of imitating a storm were so greatly inferior even to ours, had the stage-performance only or chiefly in view in composing these scenes. He may not have thought of readers (or he may), but he must in any case have written to satisfy his own imagination. I have taken no notice of the part played in these scenes by anyone except Lear. The matter is too huge, and too strictly poetic, for analysis. I may observe that in our present theatres, owing to the use of elaborate scenery, the three Storm-scenes are usually combined, with disastrous effect. Shakespeare, as we saw (p. 49), interposed between them short scenes of much lower tone.]
[Footnote 149: 'justice,' Qq.]
[Footnote 150: =approve.]
[Footnote 151: The direction 'Storm and tempest' at the end of this speech is not modern, it is in the Folio.]
[Footnote 152: The gods are mentioned many times in King Lear, but 'God' only here (V. ii. 16).]
[Footnote 153: The whole question how far Shakespeare's works represent his personal feelings and attitude, and the changes in them, would carry us so far beyond the bounds of the four tragedies, is so needless for the understanding of them, and is so little capable of decision, that I have excluded it from these lectures; and I will add here a note on it only as it concerns the 'tragic period.'
There are here two distinct sets of facts, equally important, (1) On the one side there is the fact that, so far as we can make out, after Twelfth Night Shakespeare wrote, for seven or eight years, no play which, like many of his earlier works, can be called happy, much less merry or sunny. He wrote tragedies; and if the chronological order Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Timon, Macbeth, is correct, these tragedies show for some time a deepening darkness, and King Lear and Timon lie at the nadir. He wrote also in these years (probably in the earlier of them) certain 'comedies,' Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida, and perhaps All's Well. But about these comedies there is a peculiar air of coldness; there is humour, of course, but little mirth; in Measure for Measure perhaps, certainly in Troilus and Cressida, a spirit of bitterness and contempt seems to pervade an intellectual atmosphere of an intense but hard clearness. With Macbeth perhaps, and more decidedly in the two Roman tragedies which followed, the gloom seems to lift; and the final romances show a mellow serenity which sometimes warms into radiant sympathy, and even into a mirth almost as light-hearted as that of younger days. When we consider these facts, not as barely stated thus but as they affect us in reading the plays, it is, to my mind, very hard to believe that their origin was simply and solely a change in dramatic methods or choice of subjects, or even merely such inward changes as may be expected to accompany the arrival and progress of middle age.
(2) On the other side, and over against these facts, we have to set the multitudinousness of Shakespeare's genius, and his almost unlimited power of conceiving and expressing human experience of all kinds. And we have to set more. Apparently during this period of years he never ceased to write busily, or to exhibit in his writings the greatest mental activity. He wrote also either nothing or very little (Troilus and Cressida and his part of Timon are the possible exceptions) in which there is any appearance of personal feeling overcoming or seriously endangering the self-control or 'objectivity' of the artist. And finally it is not possible to make out any continuously deepening personal note: for although Othello is darker than Hamlet it surely strikes one as about as impersonal as a play can be; and, on grounds of style and versification, it appears (to me, at least) impossible to bring Troilus and Cressida chronologically close to King Lear and Timon; even if parts of it are later than others, the late parts must be decidedly earlier than those plays.
The conclusion we may very tentatively draw from these sets of facts would seem to be as follows. Shakespeare during these years was probably not a happy man, and it is quite likely that he felt at times even an intense melancholy, bitterness, contempt, anger, possibly even loathing and despair. It is quite likely too that he used these experiences of his in writing such plays as Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, King Lear, Timon. But it is evident that he cannot have been for any considerable time, if, ever, overwhelmed by such feelings, and there is no appearance of their having issued in any settled 'pessimistic' conviction which coloured his whole imagination and expressed itself in his works. The choice of the subject of ingratitude, for instance, in King Lear and Timon, and the method of handling it, may have been due in part to personal feeling; but it does not follow that this feeling was particularly acute at this particular time, and, even if it was, it certainly was not so absorbing as to hinder Shakespeare from representing in the most sympathetic manner aspects of life the very reverse of pessimistic. Whether the total impression of King Lear can be called pessimistic is a further question, which is considered in the text.]
[Footnote 154: A Study of Shakespeare, pp. 171, 172.]
[Footnote 155: A flaw, I mean, in a work of art considered not as a moral or theological document but as a work of art,--an aesthetic flaw. I add the word 'considerable' because we do not regard the effect in question as a flaw in a work like a lyric or a short piece of music, which may naturally be taken as expressions merely of a mood or a subordinate aspect of things.]
[Footnote 156: Caution is very necessary in making comparisons between Shakespeare and the Greek dramatists. A tragedy like the Antigone stands, in spite of differences, on the same ground as a Shakespearean tragedy; it is a self-contained whole with a catastrophe. A drama like the Philoctetes is a self-contained whole, but, ending with a solution, it corresponds not with a Shakespearean tragedy but with a play like Cymbeline. A drama like the Agamemnon or the Prometheus Vinctus answers to no Shakespearean form of play. It is not a self-contained whole, but a part of a trilogy. If the trilogy is considered as a unit, it answers not to Hamlet but to Cymbeline. If the part is considered as a whole, it answers to Hamlet, but may then be open to serious criticism. Shakespeare never made a tragedy end with the complete triumph of the worse side: the Agamemnon and Prometheus, if wrongly taken as wholes, would do this, and would so far, I must think, be bad tragedies. [It can scarcely be necessary to remind the reader that, in point of 'self-containedness,' there is a difference of degree between the pure tragedies of Shakespeare and some of the historical.]]
[Footnote 157: I leave it to better authorities to say how far these remarks apply also to Greek Tragedy, however much the language of 'justice' may be used there.]
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