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So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father's heart from her!-Call France ;-Who stirs ?
Call Burgundy.-Cornwall, and Albany,
That troop with majesty.-Ourself, by monthly
With reservation of an hundred knights,
Revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part between you. [Giving the Crown. Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honour'd as my king,
Mr. M. Mason observes, that Kent did not yet deserve such treatment from the King, as the only words he had uttered were "Good my liege." REED.
Surely such quick transitions or inconsistencies, whichever they are called, are perfectly suited to Lear's character. I have no doubt that the direction now given is right. Kent has hitherto said nothing that could extort even from the cholerick king so harsh a sentence, having only interposed in the mildest manner. Afterwards indeed, when he remonstrates with more freedom, and calls Lear a madman, the King exclaims-" Out of my sight! MALONE. Folio: we
7-only we STILL retain] Thus the quarto. shall retain. MALONE.
8 all the ADDITIONS to a king.] All the titles belonging to a king. See vol. viii. p. 313. MALONE.
execution of the rest.] The execution of the rest is, I suppose, all the other business As my great patron thought on in my prayers,] An allusion
LEAR. The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.
KENT. Let it fall rather, though the fork invade The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly, When Lear is mad. What would'st thou do, old man ?
Think'st thou, that duty shall have dread to speak2, When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound,
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
to the custom of clergymen praying for their patrons, in what is commonly called the bidding prayer. HENLEY.
See also note to the epilogue to King Henry IV. Part II.
2 Think'st thou, that duty shall have dread to speak, &c.] I have given this passage according to the old folio, from which the modern editions have silently departed, for the sake of better numbers, with a degree of insincerity, which, if not sometimes detected and censured, must impair the credit of ancient books. One of the editors, and perhaps only one, knew how much mischief may be done by such clandestine alterations. The quarto agrees with the folio, except that for reserve thy state, it gives, reverse thy doom, and has stoops, instead of falls to folly. The meaning of answer my life my judgment, is, Let my life be answerable for my judgment, or, I will stake my life on my opinion. The reading which, without any right, has possessed all the modern copies, is this:
to plainness honour
"Is bound, when majesty to folly falls.
"Reserve thy state; with better judgment check
I am inclined to think that reverse thy doom was Shakspeare's first reading, as more apposite to the present occasion, and that he changed it afterwards to reserve thy state, which conduces more to the progress of the action, JOHNSON.
Reserve was formerly used for preserve. So, in our poet's 52d Sonnet :
"Reserve them for my love, not for their rhymes." But I have followed the quartos. MALONE.
Nor are those empty-hearted, whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
Kent, on thy life, no more. KENT. My life I never held but as a pawn To wage against thine enemies *; nor fear to lose it, Thy safety being the motive.
Out of my sight! KENT. See better, Lear; and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye3. LEAR. Now, by Apollo,
3 Reverbs] This is, perhaps, a word of the poet's own making, meaning the same as reverberates. STEEVENS.
TO WAGE AGAINST thine enemies ;] i. e. I never regarded my life, as my own, but merely as a thing of which I had the possession, not the property; and which was entrusted to me as a pawn or pledge, to be employed in waging war against your enemies.
To wage against is an expression used in a Letter from Guil. Webbe to Rob'. Wilmot, prefixed to Tancred and Gismund, 1592: -you shall not be able to wage against me in the charges growing upon this action." STEEVENS.
"My life, &c." That is, I never considered my life as of more value than that of the commonest of your subjects. A pawn, in chess, is a common man, in contradistinction to the knight; and Shakspeare has several allusions to this game, particularly in King John:
"Who painfully with much expedient march, "Have brought a counter-check before your gates." Again, in King Henry V.:
"Therefore take heed how you impawn our person."
s The true BLANK of thine eye.] The blank is the white or exact mark at which the arrow is shot. 'See better,' says Kent,
' and keep me always in your view.' JOHNSON.
See vol. v. p. 522, n. 8. MALONE.
6- by APOLLO,-] Bladud, Lear's father, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, attempting to fly, fell on the temple of Apollo, and was killed. This circumstance our author must have noticed, both in Holinshed's Chronicle and The Mirrour for Magistrates. MALONE.
Are we to understand, from this circumstance, that the son VOL. X. с
Now, by Apollo, king,
O, vassal! miscreant * ! [Laying his hand on his Sword.
ALB. CORN. Dear sir, forbear 7.
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift;
Hear me, recreant!
LEAR. On thine allegiance hear me!Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow, (Which we durst never yet,) and, with strain'd pride 9,
To come betwixt our sentence and our power'; (Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,) Our potency make good2, take thy reward.
* Quartos, recreant.
swears by Apollo, because the father broke his neck on the temple of that deity? STEEVENS.
We are to understand that Shakspeare learnt from hence that Apollo was worshipped by our British ancestors, which will obviate Dr. Johnson's objection in a subsequent note to Shakspeare's making Lear too much a mythologist? MALONE.
7 Dear sir, forbear.] This speech is omitted in the quartos. STEEVENS.
8- thy gift ;] The quartos read-thy doom. STEEVens. 9-STRAIN'D pride,] The oldest copy reads-strayed pride: that is, pride exorbitant; pride passing due bounds. JOHNSON. sentence and our POWER;] Power, for execution of the sentence. WARBURTON.
To come betwixt our
Rather, as Mr. Edwards observes, our power to execute that sentence. STEEVENS.
2 (Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,)
Our potency MADE good,] "As thou hast come with unreasonable pride between the sentence which I had passed, and the power by which I shall execute it, take thy reward in another sentence which shall make good, shall establish, shall maintain, that power."
Five days we do allot thee, for provision
* Quartos, four.
Mr. Davies thinks, that our potency made good, relates only to our place. Which our nature cannot bear, nor our place, without departure from the potency of that place. This is easy and clear. -Lear, who is characterized as hot, heady, and violent, is, with very just observation of life, made to entangle himself with vows, upon any sudden provocation to vow revenge, and then to plead the obligation of a vow in defence of implacability. JOHNSON.
In my opinion, made, the reading of all the editions, but one of the quartos, [Quarto B.] (which reads make good,) is right. Lear had just delegated his power to Albany and Cornwall, contenting himself with only the name and all the additions of a king. He could therefore have no power to inflict on Kent the punishment which he thought he deserved. "Our potency made good" seems to me only this: They to whom I have yielded my power and authority, yielding me the ability to dispense it in this instance, take thy reward.' STEEVENS.
The meaning, I think, is,-As a proof that I am not a mere threatner, that I have power as well as will to punish, take the due reward of thy demerits; hear thy sentence. The words our potency made good are in the absolute case.
In Othello we have again nearly the same language: My spirit and my place have in them power "To make this bitter to thee." MALONE.
3 To shield thee from DISEASES of the world;] Thus the quartos. The folio has disasters. The alteration, I believe, was made by the editor, in consequence of his not knowing the meaning of the original word. Diseases, in old language, meant the slighter inconveniencies, troubles, or distresses of the world. So, in King Henry VI. Part I. Act II. Sc. V.:
And in that ease I'll tell thee my disease." Again, in A Woman Kill'd With Kindness, by T. Heywood, 1617:
'Fie, fie, that for my private businesse
"I should disease a friend, and be a trouble
Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, book vi. c. ix.:
Leading a life so free and fortunate,
"From all the tempests of these worldly seas,
The provision that Kent could make in five days, might in some measure guard him against the diseases of the world, but could not shield him from its disasters. MALONE.