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ness that infirm and cholerick years bring with them.

REG. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.


GON. There is further compliment of leavetaking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together: If our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.

REG. We shall further think of it.

GON. We must do something, and i' the heat".



A Hall in the Earl of GLOSTER'S Castle.

Enter EDMUND, with a letter.

EDм. Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law My services are bound: Wherefore should I

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- let us hit.

i' the heat.]

-] So the old quarto. The folio, let us sit.

i. e. let us agree. STEEVENS.


i. e. We must strike while the iron's hot. So in Chapman's version of the twelfth book of Homer's Ódyssey:

-and their iron strook

"At highest heat." STEEVENS.

8 Thou, nature, art my goddess;] Edmund speaks of nature in opposition to custom, and not (as Dr. Warburton supposes) to the existence of a God. Edmund means only, as he came not into the world as custom or law had prescribed, so he had nothing to do but to follow nature and her laws, which make no difference between legitimacy and illegitimacy, between the eldest and the youngest.

To contradict Dr. Warburton's assertion yet more strongly, Edmund concludes this very speech by an invocation to heaven: "Now gods stand up for bastards!" STEEVENS. Edmund calls nature his goddess, for the same reason that we call a bastard a natural son: one who, according to the law of na

Stand in the plague of custom'; and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me 11



ture, is the child of his father, but according to those of civil society is nullius filius. M. MASON.

9 Stand in the PLAGUE of custom ;] The word plague is in all, the old copies: I can scarcely think it right, nor can I reconcile myself to plage, the emendation proposed by Dr. Warburton, though I have nothing better to offer. JOHNSON.

The meaning is plain, though oddly expressed. Wherefore should I acquiesce, submit tamely to the plagues and injustice of custom?

Shakspeare seems to mean by the plague of custom, 'Wherefore should I remain in a situation where I shall be plagued and tormented only in consequence of the contempt with which custom regards those who are not the issue of a lawful bed?' Dr. Warburton defines plage to be the place, the country, the boun dary of custom; a word, I believe, to be found only in Chaucer. STEEVENS.

! The CURIOSITY of nations-] Curiosity, in the time of Shakspeare, was a word that signified an over-nice scrupulousness in manners, dress, &c. In this sense it is used in Timon: "When thou wast (says Apemantus) in thy gilt and thy perfume, they mocked thee for too much curiosity." Barrett, in his Alvearie, or Quadruple Dictionary, 1580, interprets it, piked diligence: something too curious, or too much affected: and again in this play of King Lear, Shakspeare seems to use it in the same sense, "which I have rather blamed as my own jealous curiosity." Curiosity is the old reading, which Mr. Theobald changed into courtesy, though the former is used by Beaumont and Fletcher, with the meaning for which I contend.

"The cour

It is true, that Orlando, in As You Like It, says: tesy of nations allows you my better;" but Orlando is not there inveighing against the law of primogeniture, but only against the unkind advantage his brother takes of it, and courtesy is a word that fully suits the occasion. Edmund, on the contrary, is turning this law into ridicule; and for such a purpose, the curiosity of nations, (i, e. the idle, nice distinctions of the world,) is a phrase of contempt much more natural in his mouth, than the softer expression of-courtesy of nations. STEEVENS.

Curiosity is used before in the present play, in this sense :"For equalities are so weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety."

Again, in All's Well That Ends Well:

"Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,

"Hath well compos'd thee."

In The English Dictionary, or Interpreter of Hard Words, by

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality,

H. Cockeram, 8vo. 1655, curiosity is defined—" More diligence than needs." MALONE.

By "the curiosity of nations" Edmund means the nicety, the strictness of civil institution. So, when Hamlet is about to prove that the dust of Alexander might be employed to stop a bung-hole, Horatio says, "that were to consider the matter too curiously."


M. MASON. -to DEPRIVE me,] To deprive was, in our author's time, synonymous to disinherit. The old dictionary renders exhæredo by this word: and Holinshed speaks of the line of Henry before deprived.


Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, b. iii. ch. xvi. :
To you, if whom ye have depriv'd ye shall restore again."
Again, ibid. :

"The one restored, for his late depriving nothing mov'd.”

3 Lag of a brother?] Edmund inveighs against the tyranny of custom, in two instances, with respect to younger brothers, and to bastards. In the former he must not be understood to mean himself, but the argument becomes general by implying more than is said, Wherefore should 1 or any man. HANMER. Why should he not mean himself in both instances? He was a younger brother. BoswELL.

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, &c.] How much the following lines are in character, may be seen by that monstrous wish of Vanini, the Italian atheist, in his tract De admirandis Naturæ, &c. printed at Paris, 1616, the very year our poet died. "O utinam extra legitimum et connubialem thorum essem procreatus! Ita enim progenitores mei in venerem incaluissent` ardentius, ac cumulatim affatimque generosa semina contulissent, è quibus ego formæ blanditiam et elegantiam, robustas corporis vires, mentemque innubilem, consequutus fuissem. At quia conjugatorum sum soboles, his orbatus sum bonis." Had the book been published but ten or twenty years sooner, who would not have believed that Shakspeare alluded to this passage? But the divinity of his genius foretold, as it were, what such an atheist as Vanini would say, when he wrote upon such a subject. Warburton.

Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake?—Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land :
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund,
As to the legitimate: Fine word,-legitimate * !
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

* Quartos omit these three words.

5 Shall TOP the legitimate.] Here the Oxford editor would show us that he is as good at coining phrases as his author, and so alters the text thus:

"Shall toe th' legitimate.-—

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i. e. says he, stand on even ground with him, as he would do with his author. WARBURTON.

Sir T. Hanmer's emendation will appear very plausible to him that shall consult the original reading. The quartos read:

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Edmund the base

"Shall tooth' legitimate


Edmund the base

"Shall to th' legitimate———.”

Hanmer, therefore, could hardly be charged with coining a word, though his explanation may be doubted. To toe him, is perhaps to kick him out, a phrase yet in vulgar use; or, to toe, may be literally to supplant. The word be [which stands in some editions] has no authority. JOHNSON.

Mr. Edwards would read-Shall top the legitimate.

I have received this emendation, because the succeeding expression, I grow, seems to favour it, and because our poet uses the same expression in Hamlet:


so far he topp'd my thought," &c. STEEVENS.

So, in Macbeth:


Not in the legions

"Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd,

"In evils to top Macbeth."

A passage in Hamlet adds some support to toe, Sir Thomas

Hanmer's reading:


- for the toe of the peasant comes so near to

the heel of the courtier, that he galls his kybe."

In Devonshire, as Sir Joshua Reynolds observes to me,

" to toe

a thing up, is, to tear it up by the roots in which sense the word is perhaps used here; for Edmund immediately adds-I grow, prosper." MALONE. I

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Enter GLOSster.

GLO. Kent banish'd thus! And France in choler


And the king gone to-night! subscrib'd his power 6! Confin'd to exhibition! All this done

Upon the gad!.

news ?

-Edmund! How now? what

EDM. So please your lordship, none.

[Putting up the Letter.

GLO. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that

letter ?

EDM. I know no news, my lord.

GLO. What paper were you reading?

EDM. Nothing, my lord.

GLO. No? What needed then that terrible despatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself.

6 --


SUBSCRIB'D his power!] To subscribe, is, to transfer by signing or subscribing a writing of testimony. We now use the term, He subscribed forty pounds to the new building.


To subscribe in Shakspeare is to yield, or surrender. So, afterwards: "You owe me no subscription." Again, in Troilus and Cressida :

"For Hector in his blaze of wrath subscribes

"To tender objects." MALONE.

The folio reads-prescribed.

7 - exhibition!] Is allowance. The term is yet used in the universities. JOHNSON.

So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona:

“ What maintenance he from his friends receives,

"Like exhibition thou shalt have from me." STEEVENS.

8 All this done

Upon the gad!] To do upon the gad, is, to act by the sudden stimulation of caprice, as cattle run madding when they are stung by the gad fly. JOHNSON.

Done upon the gad is done suddenly, or, as before, while the iron is hot. A gad is an iron bar. So, in I'll never Leave Thee, Scottish song, by Allan Ramsay :


"Bid iceshogles hammer red gads on the studdy."

The statute of 2 and 3 Eliz. 6, c. 27, is a "Bill against false forging of iron gadds, instead of gadds of steel." RITSON.

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