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“ Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal ?” “ Do you bandy looks ?" is unmeaning. Lear reproves the steward sharply. To which the latter, from having been encouraged by Goneril, replies with pertness. I therefore read :
Do you bandy locks with me? i.e. Do you exchange catches, or snatches with me:
To lock was anciently to catch, to snatch. In Act II. we find :
'Tis not in thee,
Fool. I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou mad'st thy daughters thy mothers.
“I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou inad'st thy daughters thy mothers." “ Thy daughters thy mothers' cannot be right. It should be motheurs (fr.) The meaning of the word is inover, agitator, manager. daughters thy motheurs," i.e. "Since thou hast enabled thy daughters to move in thy affairs, to act for thee, In allusion to his relinquishment of the kingly power. Possibly, however, a quibble was intended. B. Lear. How now, daughter? what makes that
frontlet on? Methinks, you are too much of late i’ the frown.
that frontlet.] Lear alludes to the frontlet, which was anciently part of a woman's dress. Steev.
“ That frontlet.” A frontlet was, anciently, not ouly part of a woman's dress, but a head-piece, a helmet. It is in the latter sense that the words of Lear must be taken or the expression is without any kind of force. “ How now,” says the king, what is the reason that you thus appear as with a frontlet: why that show and appearance of defiance on your brow?" B.
Fool. He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
“ He that keeps nor crust wor crum,
“ Weary of all, shall want some.” “ Weary" has no force in this place. We must read wered, i. e. neglected, put off by all. See Chaucer. B.
Lear. Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Lear's shadow ?
Lear's shadow ?] The folio gives these words to the Foul. Steev.
-- for by the marks
Of sov'reignty, of knowledge, and of reason.] His danghters prove so unnatural, that, if he were only to judge by the reason of things, he must conclude, they cannot be his daughters. This is the thought. But how does his kingship or sovereignty enable him to judge of this matter? The line, by being false pointed, has lost its sense. We should read:
Of sovereignty of knowledge. i. e. the understanding. He calls it, by an equally fine phrase, in Hamlet,-Sou'reignty of reason. And it is remarkable that the editors bad depraved it there too. Wars. “ Who is it that can tell me who I am - Lear's shadow ? "I would learn that; for by the marks “ Of sov'reignty, of knowledge, and of reason, “ I should be false persuaded I had daughters.“ Your name, fair gentlewoman? "
I believe the present order of the words to be wrong, and would therefore transpose them thus :
“ Who is it that can tell me who I am ? • Lear's shadow ? I would learn that ; for by the marks “ Of sov'reignty, I should be false persuaded.“ Of knowledge and of reason I had daughters.“ Your pame, fair gentlewoman?”
The sense of the whole, when paraphrased, is this : ~ Where is the man who is able to tell me who or what I am? I seem to be merely the shadow of Lear. I would know that : if it be so, let me have assurance of it; for by the marks of sovereignty which remain with me, I might suppose myself Lear, but I should be false persuaded] deceived by them : it is scarcely possible I can be he." He would then express the same kind of doubt as to his being actually a father. “ If the power of recollection still is mine, if my faculties are clear, I may surely say that I had daughters ;" then, as if it were a matter he could not himself determine—" your name, fair gentlewoman?”
That this is the right reading, will, I think, be easily seen. As the passage now stands, the reasoning is unsound: the illative “for," indeed, will show that such is the case. In a word, no inference whatever can be drawn from the “marks of sovereignty,” in respect to the daughters of Lear, but only with regard to himself; that is, as they relate to the question of his own personal identity. Which question, however extravagant, must be admitted by reason of his perturbed state of mind. B.
Lear. If she must teem,
Thwart.] Thwart as a noun adjective is not frequent in our language, it is however to be found in Promos and Cassandra, 1578, “ Sith fortune thwart doth crossc my joys with care.” The quarto reads, a thuurt disvetur'd'torment, which I apprehend to be disfeatur'd. Hend.
-disnatur'da Disnatur'd is wanting natural affection. So Daniel in Hymen's Triumph, 1623 :
"I am not so disnatur'd a man." STEEV. Thwart is an adjective, and is very common with the earlier writers : it is sometimes employed as a substantive, as “ a thwart” for an abortion.
“ A thwart distetured torment to her” means an abortive, and seemingly, by necessary consequence, ill-featured, torment to her. B.
Lear. Turn all her inother's pains, and benefits, To laughter and contempt; that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child !
Turn all her mother's pains,and benefits,
To laughter and contempt. “ Her mother's pains" here signifies, not bodily sufferings, or the throbs of child-birth, (with which this “ disnatur'd babe" being unacquainted, it could not deride or despise them) but maternal cures; the solicitude of a mother for the welfare of her child. Benefits mean good offices ; her kind and beneficent attention to the education of her offspring, &c. Mr. Roderick has, in my opinion, explained both these words wrong. He is equally mistaken in supposing that the sex of this child is ascertained by the word her, which clearly relates, not to Goneril's issue, but to herself. “Her mother's pains" means, the pains she takes as a mother. MAL.
Mr. Malone's observation is very just. I would, lowever, read “mother pains ”- the sense will then be clear
It is the mark of the genitive case which obscures the meaning. B.
Lear. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
The untented woundings- Untented wounds means wounds in their worst state, not having a tent in them to digest them; and may possibly signify here such as will not admit of having a tent put into them for that purpose. One of the quartos reads, untender. STEEV.
“Untented wounds" may perhaps be understood; but “ untented woundings" is, in my opinion, without a meaning. I think we may read uns hented or unshended woundings. To shend, in Chaucer and Spenser, is to blame. Unshented woundings of a father's curse," may therefore mean the unblamed or unblameable curses of a father, &c.—Curses, which considering your conduct, no one will censure me for. B.
Gon. Inform her full of my particular fear;
Compact it more.] Unite one circumstance with another, so as to make a consistent account. John.
"Compact” is here used in the sense of strengthen or confirm. “ Compact it,” is, strengthen the feur,-that fear which she had just before spoken of. If we do not read the passage thus, it has no antecedent. B. Gon. This milky gentleness, and course of
yours, Though I condemn it not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more at task for want of wisdom, Than prais'd for harmful mildness.
More at task.] It is a common phrase now with parents and governesses. I'll take you to task, i.c. I will reprehend and correct you. To be at task, therefore, is to be liable to reprehension and correction. Joun.
Both the quartos instead of at task-read, alapt. A late editor of King Lear says, that the first quarto reads attask'd ; but unless there be a third quarto which I have never seen or heard of, bis assertion is erroneous. STEEV.
“ More at task.” “ At task” is not only harsh, but gives a weak and imperfect meaning. Alapt, the reading of the quartos, is not indeed to be understood ;-it comes, however, very near to the certainly right word, which is ajapt (japed) mocked, ridiculed : the a redundant, as in arise, awake, &c. “ You are more scoffed at, (says Goneril,) for want of wisdom, than praised for your gentleness.” B.
Cur. You have heard of the news abroad; I mean, the whisper'd ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments ?
Ear-kissing arguments.] Subjects of discourse; topics. Joun.
Ear-kissing arguments means that they are yet in reality only whisper'd ones. Steev. « Ear-kissing arguments
may mean, news that is only talked of
-“ news that is not confirmed.” To say that the news is whispered, is saying nothing as to its truth. Beside, he had observed, that the news was whispered immediately before. B.
Kent. Thou whoreson zed ! thou unnecessary letter!
Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter !] I do not well understand how a man is reproached by being called zed, nor how Z is an unnecessary letter. Scarron compares his deformity to the shape of Z, and it may be a proper word of insult to a črook-backed man; but why should Goneril's steward be crooked, unless the allusion be to his bending or cringing posture in the presence of his superiors. Perhaps it was written, thou whoreson C (for cuckold) thou unnecessary