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Enter Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl,--O you are men of stone, Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so, That heaven's vault should crack: she's gone for ever! I know, when one is dead, and when one lives; She's dead as earth! lend me a looking-glass, If that her breath will mift or stain the stone, Why then the lives.
Kent. Is this the promis'd end?
Lear. This feather stirs, the lives; if it be so,
[Kneeling: Lear. Pr’ythee, away Edg. 'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
Lear. A plague upon you, murd’rous traitors all!
, my Lords, he did. I've seen the ones
way, with my good biting faulchion I would have made them skip: I am old now, And these same crosses fpoil me.
Who are you? Mine eyes are none o'th' best. I'll tell you ftrait.
Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated, One of them we behold.
Lear. Are you not Kent?
Kent. The same; your servant Kent; Where is your servant Caius?
Lear. 'Twas a good fellow, I can tell you that, (62) He'd strike, and quickly too :-he's dead and rotten.
(62) He's a good fellow, I can tell you that,
He'll Arike and quickly too: he's dead and rotten.] We have seen Lear mad; but, never, a stark fool till this moment; to tell us, that - a dead and rotten man will Arike quickly. But it was a stupidity of the editors, and not chargeable on the poet.
Kent. No, my good Lord, I am the very man,
Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay,
Lear. You're welcome hither.
Kent. Nor no man else ;--all'scheerless, dark, and dead:
Lear. Ay, so I think.
Enter a Messenger.
Alb. That's but a trifle.
Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd: no, no, no life.
Edg. (63) Do you see this? look on her, look on ber lips;
Look tbere, look there...] Our poet has taken the liberty in the catastrophe of this play to depart from the Cbronicles; in which Lear is said to be reinstated in his throne by Cordelia, and to have reign'd upwards of two years after his restoration. He might have done this for two reasons. Either, to heighten the compassion towards the poor old King: or to vary from another, but most execrable, dramatic
Edg. He faints; my Lord,
Edg. performance upon this story: which I certainly believe to have preceded our author's piece, and which none of our ftage-historians appear to have had any knowledge of. The edition, which I have of it, bear's this title. The true chronicle history of King LLIR, and his three daught.rs, Gonorill, Rağan, and Cordella.' As it hath bene divers and fundry times lately acted. London; printed by Simon Stafford for John Wright, and are to be sold at bis hop at Christes Churcb dore nexe Newgate Market. 1605. That Shakespeare, however, may stand acquitted from the least suspicion of plagiarism, in the opinion of his readers, l'll subjoin a small taste of this other anonymous author's abilities both in conduct and diction. Leir, with one Perillus his friend, embarks for France to try what reception he should find from his daughter Cordella. When they come ashore, neither of them has a rag of money: and they are forc'd to give their cloaks to the mariners to pay for their passage. This, no doubt, our playwright intended for a mastery in distress: as he must think it a notable fetch of in. vention to bring the King and Queen of France disguis'd like rusticks, travelling a long way on foot into the woods, with a basket of provisions, only that they may have the casual opportunity of relieving Leir and Perillus from being starv’d. Now for a little specimen of style, and dignity of thinking. Cordella, now Queen of France, and in her own palace, comes in and makes this pathetick soliloquy.
I have been over negligent to day
Edg. Look up, my Lord.
Kent. Vex not his ghost: 0, let him pass! he hates him, That would upon the rack of this rough world Stretch him out longer.
Edg. He is gone, indeed.
Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long: He but usurpt his life.
Alb. Bear them from hence, our present business Is general woe: friends of my soul, you twain Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state suftain.
Kent. I have a journey, Sir, shortly to go; My master calls me; I must not say, no. [Dies.
Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey, (64) Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most; we, that are young, Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
[Exeunt with a dead March.
I know not how I him offended,
(Exit. This is, surely, such po.try as one might hammer out, Stans pode in uno; or, as our author says, “it is the right butter-wuman's rank “ to market: and a man might verlify you so eight years together, “ dinners, and suppers, and Neeping hours excepted.”...--Again, Shake peare was too well vers’d in Holingshead not to know, that King Lear reign'd above 800 years before the period of christianity. The gods his King talks of are Jupiter, Juno, Apollo; and not any dei ies more modern than his own time. Licentious as he was in anachro. nisms, he would have judg’d it an unpardonable absurdity to have made a Briton of Cordella's time talk of her Saviour. And, his not being trapt into such ridiculous flips of ignorance, seems a plain proof to me that he stole neither from his predecessors, nor contemporaries of the English theatre, both which abounded in them.
(64) Alb. The weight of this sad time, &c.] This speech from the authority of the old 4to is rightly plac'd to Albany: in the edition by the players it is given to Edgar, by whom, I doubt not, it was of custom spoken. And the case was this: He who play'd Edgar, being a more favourite actor, than he who personated Albany; in spight of decorum, it was thought proper he should have the last word.