Imagini ale paginilor

Pr'ythee, nuncle, keep a school-master that can teach thy fool to lie; I would fain learn to lie.

Lear. If you lie, sirrah, we 'll have you whipped.

Fool. I marvel, what kin thou and thy daughters are: they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou 'It have me whipped for lying; and, sometimes, I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind of thing, than a fool and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides, and left nothing in the middle: Here comes one o' the parings.


Lear. How now, daughter? what makes that frontlet on? Methinks, you are too much of late i' the frown.

"When Tarquin first in court began,
"And was approved King,
"So men for sudden joy did weep,

"But I for sorrow sing."

I cannot ascertain in what year T. Heywood first published this play, as the copy in 1630, which I have used, was the fourth impression. Steevens.

8 That such a king should play bo-peep,] Little more of this game, than its mere denomination, remains. It is mentioned, however, in Churchyard's Charitie, 1593, in company with two other childish plays, which it is not my office to explain:

"Cold parts men plaie, much like old plaine bo-peepe,
"Or counterfait, in-dock-out-nettle, still." Steevens.

that frontlet -] Lear alludes to the frontlet, which was anciently part of a woman's dress. So, in a play called The Four P's, 1569:

"Forsooth, women have many lets,

"And they be masked in many nets:

"As frontlets, fillets, partlets, and bracelets:
"And then their bonets and their pioners "

Again, in Lyly's Midas, 1592; "— Hoods, frontlets, wires, caulş, curling irons, perriwigs, bodkins, fillets, hair-laces, ribbons, roles, knotstrings, glasses," &c.

Again, and more appositely, in Zepheria, a collection of sonnets, 4to. 1594:

"But now, my sunne, it fits thou take thy set,

"And vayle thy face with frownes as with a frontlet." Steevens. A frontlet was a forehead-cloth, used formerly by ladies at night to render that part smooth. Lear, I suppose, means to say, that Goneril's brow was as completely covered by a frown, as it would be by a frontlet.

So, in Lyly's Euphues and his England, 4to. 1580: "The next day I coming to the gallery where she was solitarily walking, with her frowning cloth, as sicke lately of the sullens," &c. Malone.

Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow, when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.-Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face [to GoN.] bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum,

He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.-

That's a shealed peascod.3

[Pointing to LEAR.

Gon. Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd fool, But other of your insolent retinue

Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth

In rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir,

I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
That you protect this course, and put it on4

By your allowance ;5 which if you should, the fault
Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep;
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,


1 now thou art an O without a figure:] The Fool means to that Lear, having pared his wit on both sides, and left nothing in the middle,” is become a mere cypher; which has no arithmetical value, unless preceded or followed by some figure. In The Winter's Tale we have the same allusion, reversed:


and therefore, like a cypher,

"Yet standing in rich place, I multiply,

"With one-we thank you,-many thousands more
66 Standing before it." Malone.

I am better than thou &c.] This bears some resemblance to Falstaff's reply to the Prince, in King Henry IV, P. I: "A better than thou; I am a gentleman, thou art a drawer Steevens.

[ocr errors]

3 That's a shealed peascod.] i. e. Now a mere husk, which contains nothing. The outside of a king remains, but all the intrinsick parts of royalty are gone: he has nothing to give. Johnson.

That's a shealed peascod.] The robing of Richard IId's effigy in Westminster Abbey is wrought with peascods open, and the peas out; perhaps an allusion to his being once in full possession of sovereignty, but soon reduced to an empty title. See Camden's Remains, 1674, p. 453, edit. 1657, p. 340. Tollet.

4 • put it on —] i. e. promote, push it forward. So, in Matbeth:

[blocks in formation]

5 By your allowance ;] By your approbation. Malone.

Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.

Fool. For you trow, nuncle,

The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had its head bit off by its young.

So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.*
Lear. Are you our daughter?

Gon. Come, sir, I would, you would make use of that good wisdom whereof I know you are fraught; and put away these dispositions, which of late transform you from what you rightly are.

Fool. May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?-Whoop, Jug! I love thee.


[ocr errors]

were left darkling.] This word is used by Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I:

as the wakeful bird

"Sings darkling."

and long before, as Mr. Malone observes, by Marston, &c. Dr. Farmer concurs with me in supposing, that the words-So our went the candle, &c. are a fragment of some old song


Shakspeare's Fools are certainly copied from the life. The origi. nals whom he copied were no doubt men of quick parts; lively and sarcastick. Though they were licensed to say any thing. it was still necessary to prevent giving offence, that every thing they said should have a playful air: we may suppose therefore that they had a custom of taking off the edge of too sharp a speech by covering it hastily with the end of an old song, or any glib nonsense that came into the mind I know no other way of accounting for the incoherent words with which Shakspeare often finishes this Fool's speeches.

Sir Reynolds.

In a very old dramatick piece, entitled A very mery and pythie Comedy, called The longer thou livest the more Fooie thou art, printed about the year 1580, we find the following stage direction: "Entrech Moros, counterfaiting a vaine gesture and a foolish counteraunce, singing the foote of many songs, as fools were wont.” Malone.

See my note on Act III, sc. vi, in which this passage was brought forward long ago, [1778] for a similar purpose of illustration.


7 transform you-] Thus the quartos. The folio readstransport you. Steevens

8 ·Whoop, Jug! &c.] There are in the Fool's speeches several passages which seem to be proverbial allusions, perhaps not now to be understood. Johnson

Whoop, Jug! I love thee.] This, as I am informed, is a quotation from the bur hen fa. old song Steevens. Whoop, Jug, I'll do thee no harm, occurs in The Winter's Tale.


Lear. Does any here know me?-Why this is not Lear: does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes? Either his notion weakens, or his discernings are lethargied. Sleeping or waking?-Ha! sure 'tis not so. -Who is it that can tell me who I am?-Lear's shadow ?1 I would learn that; for by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded I had daughters.2

sleeping or waking 2-Ha! sure 'tis not so.] Thus the quartos. The folio: Ha! waking? 'Tis not so. Malone.

[ocr errors]


Lear's shadow 2] The folio gives these words to the Fool.

And, I believe, rightly. M. Mason.


-for by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, &c.] His daughters prove so unnatural, that, if he were only to judge by the reason of things, he must conclude, they cannot be his daughters. This is the thought. But how does his kingship or sovereignty enable him to judge of this matter? The line, by being false pointed, has lost its sense. We should read:

Of sovereignty, of knowledge.

i.e. the understanding. He calls it, by an equally fine phrase, in Hamlet,-Sovereignty of reason. And it is remarkable that the editors had depraved it there too. See note, Act I, sc. vii, of that play. Warburton. The contested passage is wanting in the folio. Steevens.

The difficulty, which must occur to every reader, is, to conceive how the marks of sovereignty, of knowledge, and of reason, should be of any use to persuade Lear that he had, or had not daughters. No logick, I apprehend, could draw such a conclusion from such premises. This difficulty, however, may be entirely removed, by only pointing the passage thus:for by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded—I had daughters.-Your name fair gen


The chain of Lear's speech being thus untangled, we can clearly trace the succession and connection of his ideas. The undutiful behaviour of his daughter so disconcerts him, that he doubts, by turns, whether she is Goneril, and whether he himself is Lear. Upon her first speech he only exclaims,

[blocks in formation]

Upon her going on in the same style, he begins to question his own sanity of mind, and even his personal identity. He appeals to the bystanders,

Who is it that can tell me who I am?

I should be glad to be told. For (if I was to judge myself) by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, which once distinguished Lear, (but which I have now lost) I should be faise (against my own consciousness) persuaded (that I am not Lear). He then slides to the examination of another distinguishing mark of Lear :

I had daughters.

Fool. Which they will make an obedient father.*

But not able, as it should seem, to dwell upon so tender a subject, he hastily recurs to his first doubt concerning Goneril,

Your name, fair gentlewoman? Tyrwhitt.

This note is written with confidence disproportionate to the conviction which it can bring Lear might as well know by the marks and tokens arising from sovereignty, knowledge, and reason, that he had or had not daughters, as he could know by any thing else. But, says he, if I judge by these tokens, I find the persuasion false by which I long thought myself the father of daughters. Johnson.

I cannot approve of Dr. Warburton's manner of pointing this pas sage, as I do not think that sovereignty of knowledge can mean understanding; and if it did, what is the difference between understanding and reason? In the passage he quotes from Hamlet, sovereignty of reason appears to me to mean, the ruling power, the governance of reason; a sense that would not answer in this place.

Mr. Tyrwhitt's observations are ingenious, but not satisfactory; and as for Dr. Johnson's explanation, though it would be certainly just had Lear expressed himself in the past, and said "I have been false persuaded I had daughters," it cannot be the just explanation of the passage as it stands. The meaning appears to me to be this:

"Were I to judge from the marks of sovereignty, of knowledge, or of reason, I should be induced to think I had daughters, yet that must be a false persuasion;-It cannot be."

I could not at first comprehend why the tokens of sovereignty should have any weight in determining his persuasion that he had daughters; but by the marks of sovereignty he means. those tokens of royalty which his daughters then enjoyed as derived from him.

M. Mason.

Lear, it should be remembered, has not parted with all the marks of sovereignty. In the midst of his prodigality to his children, he reserved to himself the name and all the additions to a king.-Shakspeare often means more than he expresses. Lear has just asked whether he is a shadow. I wish, he adds, to be resolved on this point; for if I were to judge by the marks of sovereignty, and the consciousness of reason, I should be persuaded that I am not a shadow, but a man, a king, and a father. But this latter persuasion is false; for those whom I thought my daughters, are unnatural hags, and never proceeded from these loins.

As therefore I am not a father, so neither may I be an embodied being; I may yet be a shadow. However, let me be certain. Your name, fair gentlewoman?

All the late editions, without authority, read—by the marks of sovereignty, of knowledge, and of reason.-The words-I would learn that, &c to—an obedient father, are omitted in the folio. Malone.

3 Which they will make an obedient father.] Which, is on this occasion used with two deviations from present language. It is referred, contrary to the rules of grammarians, to the pronoun I, and is em ployed, according to a mode now obsolete, for whom, the accusative case of who. Steevens.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »