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I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.?
[Exeunt LEAR, KENT, and Attendants. Gon. Do you mark that, my lord ?
Alb. I cannot be so partial, Goneril, To the great love I bear you,
Gon. Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho! You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
[To the Fool: Fool. Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry, and take the fool with thee.
A fox, when one has caught her,
[Exit. *G071.8 This man hath had good counseli. A hundred
knights! 'Tis politick, and safe, to let him keep At point, a hundred knights. Yes, that on every dream, Each buz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, Ile may enguard his dotage with their powers, And hold our lives in mercy.--Oswald, I say!
Alb. Well, you may fear too far.
Safer than trust:2
thou shalt, I warrant thee.] These words are omitted in the folio. Malone.
8 *Gon.] All from this asterisk to the next is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
9 At point, ] I believe, means completely armed, and consequently ready at appointment or command on the slightest notice. Steevens.
1 And hold our lives in mercy.] the old copies. Mr. Pope who could not endure that the language of Shakspeare's age should not correspond in every instance with that of modern tiines, reads at mercy; and the subsequent editors have adopted his innovation.
Malone. 2 Safer than trust:] Here the old copies add-too far; as if these words were not implied in the answer of Goneril. The redundancy of the metre authorizes the present omission. Steevens.
Stew. Ay, madam.
Gon. Take you some company, and away to horse: Inforın her fuil of my particular fear; And ereto 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'd5 for want of wisdom,
How now, Oswald? &c.] The quartos read—what Oswald, ho!
Osw. Here, madam.
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. - more attask'd --] 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. Johnson.
Both the quartos instead of at task-read, alapt. A late editor King Lear, (Mr. Jennens] says, that the first quarto reads-attask'd; 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 signaturé 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 reads—at 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 ? seem'd 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 other, quarto A. Malone.
Both the quartos described by Mr. Malone are at this instant before me, and they concur in reading-alapt. I have left my two copies of Butter's publication (which I had formerly the honour of lending 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;
Gom. Nay, then
Court before the same.
Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool. Lear. Go
before to Gloster with these letters : acs quaint 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 quarios (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 Kings 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 salicy, too impudent,
66 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 merd,
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.
Kent. I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.
Erit. Fool. If a man's brains were in his heels, were 't not in danger of kibes?
Lear. Ay, boy.
Fool. Then, I prythee, 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?
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. Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.
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?
Lear. To take it again perforce !--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 thou 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 yiolent a
Fool. If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'd have thee beaten for being oid 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!-
Gent. Ready, my lord.
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 mediation 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 left a daughter,
“ I have cast off 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 buffoon ac or, who "spoke more than was sei 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 libertiewere 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 ?