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LEAR. What art thou?
KENT. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
LEAR. If thou be as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldest thou ?
LEAR. Who wouldest thou serve ?
LEAR. Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance, which I would fain call master.
LEAR. What's that?
LEAR. What services canst thou do?
KENT. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence. LEAR. How old art thou?
KENT. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old, to dote on her for any thing: I have years on my back forty-eight.
called Cecil's fast. To this disgraceful badge of popery Fletcher alludes in his Woman-hater, who makes the courtezan say, when Lazarillo, in search of the umbrano's head, was seized at her house by the intelligencers for a traytor: Gentlemen, I am glad you have discovered him. He should not have eaten under my roof for twenty pounds. And sure I did not like him, when he called for fish." And Marston's Dutch Courtezan: "I trust I am none of the wicked that eat fish a Fridays." WARBUrton.
Fish was probably then, as now, esteemed the most delicate and costly part of an entertainment, and therefore Kent, in the character of an humble and discreet dependant, may intend to insinuate that he never desires to partake of such luxuries. That eating fish on a religious account was not a badge of popery, may be shewn by what is related of Queen Elizabeth in Walton's Life of Hooker; that she would never eat flesh in Lent without obtaining a licence from her little black husband [Archbishop Whitgift].
LEAR. Follow me; thou shalt serve me; if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.-Dinner, ho, dinner!-Where's my knave? my fool? Go you, and call my fool hither:
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
[Erit. LEAR. What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.-Where's my fool, ho?—I think the world's asleep.-How now? where's that mongrel? KNIGHT. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
LEAR. Why came not the slave back to me, when I called him?
KNIGHT. Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
LEAR. He would not!
KNIGHT. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindness 5 appears, as well in the general dependants, as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
LEAR. Ha! sayest thou so?
KNIGHT. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent, when I think your highness is wronged.
LEAR. Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception; I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity, than as a very pretence and
* Quartos, Kent.
5- of kindness-] These words are not in the quartos. MALONE. -jealous curiosity,] By this phrase King Lear means, I be
FOOL. I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mother': for when thou gavest them the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,
Then they for sudden joy did weep', [Singing.
That such a king should play bo-peep3,
Pr'ythee, nuncle, keep a school-master that can teach thy fool to lie; I would fain learn to lie.
LEAR. If you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped. FOOL. I marvel, what kin thou and thy daughters are: they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou❜lt have me whipped for lying; and, sometimes, I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind of thing, than a fool and yet. I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o'both sides, and left nothing in the middle: Here comes one o'the parings.
since thou madest thy daughters thy MOTHER :] i. e. when you invested them with the authority of a mother. Thus the quartos. The folio reads with less propriety,-thy mothers. MALONE.
2 Then they for sudden joy did weep, &c.] So, in The Rape of Lucrece, by Heywood, 1630:
"When Tarquin first in court began,
"Some men for sodden joy gan weep,
I cannot ascertain in what year T. Heywood first published this play, as the copy in 1630, which I have used, was the fourth impression. STEEVENS.
The first edition was in 1608. I have corrected Mr. Steevens's quotation from that copy. BOSWELL.
3 That such a king should play BO-PEEP,] Little more of this game, than its mere denomination, remains. It is mentioned, however, in Churchyard's Charitie, 1593, in company with two other childish plays, which it is not my office to explain :
"Cold parts men plaie, much like old plaine bo-peepe,
LEAR. How now, daughter? what makes that frontlet on? Methinks, you are too much of late i' the frown.
FOOL. Thou wast a pretty fellow, when thou had'st no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure3: I am better than thou
4 that frontlet-] Lear alludes to the frontlet, which was anciently part of a woman's dress. So, in a play called The Four P's, 1569:
"Forsooth, women have many lets,
As frontlets, fillets, partlets, and bracelets:
Again, in Lyly's Midas, 1592: "Hoods, frontlets, wires, cauls, curling-irons, perriwigs, bodkins, fillets, hair-laces, ribbons, roles, knotstrings, glasses," &c.
Again, and more appositely, in Zepheria, a collection of sonnets, 4to. 1594:
But now, my sunne, it fits thou take thy set
A frontlet was a forehead-cloth, used formerly by ladies at night to render that part smooth. Lear, I suppose, means to say, that Goneril's brow was as completely covered by a frown, as it would be by a frontlet.
So, in Lyly's Euphues and his England, 4to. 1580: "The next day I coming to the gallery where she was solitarily walking, with her frowning cloth, as sicke lately of the sullens," &c. MALONE.
5 Now thou art an O WITHOUT A FIGURE:] The Fool means to say, that Lear, having pared his wit on both sides, and left nothing in the middle," is become a mere cypher; which has no arithmetical value, unless preceded or followed by some figure. In The Winter's Tale we have the same allusion, reversed:
and therefore, like a cypher,
"Yet standing in rich place, I multiply,
"With one-we thank you,-many thousands more
Standing before it." MALONE.
6 I am better than thou, &c.] This bears some resem
art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.-Yes, for-
Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth
I had thought, by making this well known unto
To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
FOOL. For you trow, nuncle,
blance to Falstaff's reply to the Prince, in King Henry IV. Part I.: "A better than thou; I am a gentleman, thou art a drawer." STEEVENS.
7 That's a shealed peascod.] i. e. Now a mere husk, which contains nothing. The outside of a king remains, but all the intrinsick parts of royalty are gone: he has nothing to give.
"That's a shealed peascod." The robing of Richard II.'s effigy in Westminster Abbey is wrought with peascods open, and the peas out; perhaps an allusion to his being once in full possession of sovereignty, but soon reduced to an empty title. See Camden's Remains, 1674, p. 453, edit. 1657, p. 340. TOLLET. put it on-] i. e. promote, push it forward. So, in Macbeth:
the powers above
By your ALLOWANCE ;] By your approbation. MALONE.