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But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
[Alarums. They fight. Edm. falls.
This is mere practice, Gloster:9
By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer
“ An unknown opposite.” Malone. . And that thy tongue some'say of breeding breathes,] 'Say, for essay some show or probability. Pope. Say is sample, a taste. So, in Sidney:
“ So good a say invites the eye
“ A little downward to espy -" Again, in the Preface to Maurice Kyffin's translation of the Andria of Terence, 1588: “ Some other like places I could recite, but these shall suffice for a say." Again, in Revenge for Honour, by Chapman:
But pray do not « Take the first say of her yourselves -." Again, in The Unnatural Combat, by Massinger:
or to take “ A say of venison, or stale fowl." Again, in Holinshed, p. 847: “ He (C. Wolsey) made dukes and erles to serve him of wine, with a say taken,” &c. To take the assaie was the technical term. Steevens.
7 What safe and nicely &c.] The phraseology is here very licentious. I suppose the meaning is, That delay which by the law of knighthood I might make, I scorn to make. Nicely is, punctiliously; if I stood on minute forms. This line is not in the quartos; and furnishes one more proof of what readers are so slow to admit, that a whole line is sometimes omitted at the press. The subsequent line without this is nonsense. See Vol. XI, p. 67, n. 5. Malone.
8 Where they shall rest for ever.) To that place, where they shall rest for ever; i. e. thy heart. Malone. 9 Alb. O save him, save him!
Gon. This is mere practice, Gloster :] Thus all the copies; but I have ventured to place the two hemistichs to Goneril. 'Tis absurd that Albany, who knew Edmund's treasons, and his own wife's pas. sion for him, should be solicitous to have his life saved. Theobald.
Albany desires that Edmund's life might be spared at present,
By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer2
Shut your mouth, dame,
[Gives the Letter to EDM.
Most monstrous !3
Ask me not what I know. [Exit Gon. Alb. Go after her: she's desperate; govern her.
[To an Officer, who goes out. Edm. What you have charg'd me with, that have I
And more, much more: the time will bring it out;
Let's exchange charity.
only to obtain his confession, and to convict him openly by his own letter. Johnson.
The words—Hold, sir, in Albany's next speech, show that the old copies are right. Malone. 1 By the law of arms,] So the quartos. Folio-of war. Malone. -thou wast not bound to answer -] One of the quartos reads-
thou art not bound to offer 5 c. Steevens. 3 Most monstrous !] So the quarto, of which the first signature is B, and the folio. The other quarto reads-Monster, know'st thou this paper? The folio-Most monstrous, O know'st, &c. Malone.
" Knowest thou these letters?” says Leir to Ragan, in the old anonymous play, when he shows her both her own and her sister's letters, which were written to procure his death. Upon which she snatches the letters and tears them. Steevens.
4 Let 's exchange charity.] Our author, by negligence, gives his Heathens the sentiments and practices of Christianity. In Hamlet there is the same solemn act of final reconciliation, but with exact propriety, for the personages are Christians: Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet,” &c.
My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true; The wheel is come full circle ;6 I am here.
Alb. Methought, thy very gait did prophecy
Where have you hid yourself?
Edg. By nursing them, my lord.List a brief tale; And, when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!The bloody proclamation to escape, That follow'd me so near, (O our lives' sweetness! That with the pain of death we'd hourly die, Rather than die at once!) taught me to shifto Into a mad-man's rags; to assume a semblance That very dogs disdain’d: and in this habit Met I my father with his bleeding rings, Their precious stones new lost;' became his guide,
to scourge us : ] Thus the quartos. The folio reads:
Steevens. full circle:] Quarto, full-circled. Fohnson. 7 I know it well.] The adverb-well, was supplied by Sir Thomas Hanmer for the sake of metre. Steevens.
8 That with the pain of death &c.] Thus both the quartos. The folio reads unintelligibly, That we the pain, &c. The original copies have would; but this was, I apprehend, a misprint in those copies for w’ould, i. e. we would, or, as we should now write, we'd. In The Tempest we have sh’ould for she would. See Vol. II, p. 52, n. 1.
Malone. 9 The bloody proclamation to escape,
taught me to shift - ) A wish to escape the bloody procla. mation, taught me, &c. Malone. 1 his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones. new lost ;] So, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609:
“ Her eye-lids, cases to those heavenly jewels
Led him, begg'd for him, sav'd him from despair ;
Edm. This speech of yours hath mov'd me,
Alb. If there be more, more woful, hold it in;
[Edg: 2 This would have seem'd a periodh
2 [Edg.] The lines between crotchets are not in the folio. Fohnson
This would have seem'd a period
And top extremity.] The reader easily sees that this reflection re. fers to the Bastard's desiring to hear more ; and to Albany's think. ing he had said enough. But it is corrupted into miserable nonsense. We should read it thus:
r. This would have seem'd a period. But such
To much, would make much more, and top extremity. i. e. This to a common humanity would have been thought the utmost of my sufferings; but such as love cruelty are always for adding more to much, till they reach the extremity of misery.
Warburton. The sense may probably be this: This would have seemed a period to such as love not sorrow; but-another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as will increase the horrors of what has been already told. So, in King Richard II:
I play the torturer, by small and small,
“ To lengthen out the worst." Steevens.
si Devise extremes beyond extremity.”
Whilst I was big in clamour, came there a man,
Too-much is here used as a substantive. A period is an end or conclusion. So, in King Richard III:
"O, let me make the period to my curse." This reflection perhaps refers, as Dr. Warburton has observed, to the Bastard's desiring to hear more, and to Albany's thinking that enough had been said. This, says Edgar, would have seemed the ut. most completion of woe, to such as do not delight in sorrow; but another, of a different disposition, to amplify misery, would "give more strength to that which hath too much."
Edgar's words, however, may have no reference to what Edmund has said; and he may only allude to the relation he is about to give of Kent's adding a new sorrow to what Edgar already suffered, by recounting the miseries which the old king and his faithful follower had endured. Mr. Steevens points thus:
And top extremity: But if such a punctuation be adopted, what shall we do with the word would, which is thus left without a nominative case ? A preceding editor, who introduced the above punctuation, to obtain some sense, reads and points:
but another :
Whilst I was big &c. and indeed without that alteration, the words thus pointed afford, in my apprehension, no sense. Malone.
Mr. Malone’s explanation may be just ; and yet it is probable that we are struggling with a passage, the obscurity of which is derived froin its corruption. Steevens.
threw him on my father ;] The quartos read:
threw me on my father. The modern editors have corrected the passage, as it is now printed, and as I suppose it to have been originally written. There is tragick propriety in Kent's throwing himself on the body of a deceased friend; but this propriety is lost in the act of clumsily tumbling a son over the lifeless remains of his father. Steevens.
-threw me on my father ;] Thus both the quartos, where alone this speech is found. Mr. Theobald, and the subsequent editors, read --threw him on my father. This is a new and distinct idea; but I do not think myself warranted to adopt it; the text being intelligible, and it being very improbable that the word me should have been printed