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Edg. Shall I hear from you anon?
Edm. I do serve you in this business. (Exit Edgar.
S C E N E III.
Enter Gonerill and Steward.
Stew. Ay, madam.
Gon. By day and night he wrongs me; every hour
1 Idle old man,
Idle old man,] The following lines, as they are fine in themselves, and very much in character for Gonerill, I have restored from the old quarto. The last verse, which I have ventur'd to amend, is there printed thus : With checks, like fatt'ries when they are seen abus'd.
That still would manage those authorities,
Stew. 2 Old fools are babes again; and must be used
With checks Like flatı'ries when they are seen abus’d.] Thus the old quarto reads these lines. It is plain they are corrupt. But they have been made worse by a fruitless attempt to correct them. And first, for
Old fools are babes again ;A proverbial expression is here plainly alluded to; but it is a ftrange proverb which only informs us that fools are innocents. We should read,
Old folks are babes again; Thus speaks the proverb, and with the usual good sense of
The next line is jumbled out of all meaning:
With checks like Hatt’ries when they're seen abus’d. Mr. Theobald restores it thus,
With checks like fatt'rers when they're seen to abuse us. Let us consider the sense a little. Old folks, says the speaker, are babes again; well, and what then? Why then they must be used like flatterers. But when Shakespeare quoted the proverb, we may be assured his purpose was to draw some inference from it, and not run rambling after a similitude. And that inference was not difficult to find, had common sense been attended to, which tells us Shakespeare must have wrote,
Old folks are babes again ; and must be used
With checks, not flatt'ries, when they're seen abus’d. i. e. Old folks being grown children again, they should be used as we use children, with checks, when we find that the little flatt'ries we employed to quiet them are abufed, by their becoming more peevith and perverse by indulgence,
when they're seen abus'd. i. e. When we find that those fatt'ries are abus'd. WARB.
These lines hardly deserve a note, though Mr. Theobald thinks them very fine.
Whether fools or folks should be read is not worth enquiry. The controverted line is yet in the old quarto, not as the editors represent it, but thus:
With checks as flatteries when they are seen abus’d. I am in doubt whether there is any error of transcription. The sense seems to be this: Old men must be treated with checks, when as they are seen to be deceived with flatteries: or, when they are weak enough to be seen abused by fiatteries, they are then weak enough to be used with checks. There is a play of the words
Siew. Very well, madam.
Enter Kent disguised.
used and ałufid. To abuse is, in our author, very frequently the fame as to deccive. This construction is harth and ungrammatical; Shakespeare perhaps thought it vicious, and chose to throw away the lines rather than correct them, nor would now thank the ctficiouiness of his editors, who restore what they do not understand. JOHNSON.
If but as well I ciber accents borrow,
And can my speech disuse, — - ] The first folio reads the whole passage thus :
If but as will I other accents borrow,
May carry thro', &c. Mr. Rowe originally made the alteration ; but, printed in the manner I have inserted them in the text, I believe the former words will convey as forcible a meaning. To diffuse speech, fignifies to disorder it, and so to disguise it; as Merry Wives, &c. act iv, scene 7.
rush at once “ With some diffused song."So in a book entitled, A Green Foreft, or A Natural History, &c. by John Maplet, 1567. “ In this stone is apparently seene • verie often the verie forme of a tode, with bespotted and 6 coloured feete, but those uglye and defusedly.'
-Το difuje speech may however mean to speak broad, with a clownish accent. — The two eldeft quarto's concur with the folio, except that they read well instead of will. STEEVENS,
For which I raz’d my likeness.- Now, banish'd Kent, If thou can'ft serve where thou doft ftand condemn'd, So may it come! thy master, whoin thou lov'it, Shall find thee full of labours.
Horns within. Enter Lear, Knights, and Attendants. Lear. Let me not stay a jot for dinner: go, get
it ready. How now, what art thou ?
[To Kent. Kent. A man, Sir.
Lear. What dost thou profess? What wouldit thou with us?
Kent. I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with a him that is wise and says little; to fear judgment; to fight when I cannot chute; 3 and to eat no filh.
2 --- him that is wife AND SAYS little ;---] Though saying little may be the character of wisdom, it was not a quality to chufe a companion by for his conversation. We should read, TO SAY little ; which was prudent when he chose a wise companion to profit by. So that it was as much as to say, I profess to talk little myself, that I may profit the more by the conversation of the wise.
To converse fignifies immediately and properly to keep company, not to discourse or talk. His meaning is, that he chutes for his companions men of reserve and caution; men who are no tattlers nor tale-bearers. The old reading is the true. Johns.
and to eat no fish.] In queen Elizabeth's time the Papists were esteemed, and with good reason, enemies to the government. Hence the proverbial phrase of, He's an hone/t man, and eats no figh; to signify he's a friend to the government and a Protestant. The eating fish, on a religious account, being then esteemed such a badge of popery, that when it was enjoin'd for a season by act of parliament, for the encouragement of the fiih-towns, it was thought necessary to declare the reason; hence it was called Cecil's faft. To this disgraceful badge of popery Fletcher alludes in his Woman-hater, who makes the courtezan say, when Lazarillo, in search of the Umbrano's head, was seized at her house by the intelligencers Y 4
Lear. What art thou ?
Kent. A very honeft-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king
Lear. If thou be'st as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
Kent. No, Sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master,
Lear. What's that?
Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualify'd in; and the best of me is diligence.
Lear. How old art thou ?
Kent. Not so young, Sir, to love a woman for singing; nor fo old, to doat on her for any thing. I have years on my back forty-eight.
Lear. Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet. !
Dinner, ho, dinner ! - Where's my knave? my fool ?
Go you, and call my fool hither, You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter ? Stew. So please you
[Exit. Lear. What says the fellow there ? Call the clot
for a traytor; “ Gentlemen, I am glad you have discovered 66 him. He should not have eatin under my roof for twenty “ pounds. And sure I did not like him, when he called for
fish.” And Marston's Dutch Courtezan: “ I trust I am none " of the wicked that eat fish a Fryday.” WARBŲRTON.