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If this man comes to good. 2 Serv.
If she live long, And, in the end, meet the old course of death, Women will all turn monsters.
I Serv. Let 's follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam To lead him where he would ; his roguish madness Allows itself to any thing. 2 Serv. Go thou; I'll fetch some flax, and whites of
eggs, To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!
ACT IV..... SCENE I.
8 I'll never care what wickedness I do,] This short dialogue I have inserted from the old quarto, because I think it full of nature. Ser. vants could hardly see such a barbarity committed on their master, without pity; and the vengeance that they presume must overtake the actors of it, is a sentiment and doctrine well worthy of the stage.
Theobald. It is not necessary to suppose them the servants of Gloster; for Cornwall was opposed to extremity by his own servant. Fohnson. 9 meet the old course of death,] That is, die a natural death.
Malone. - some flax, &c.] This passage is ridiculed by Ben Jonson, in The Case is alter'd, 1609: “ go, get a white of an egs, and a little flax, and close the breaches of the head, it is the most conducible thing that can be.” Steevens.
The Case is alter'd was written before the end of the year 1599; but Ben Jonson might have inserted this sneer at our author, between the time of King Lear's appearance, and the publication of his own play in 1609. Malone.
2 Yet better thus, and known to be contemnd,] The meaning is, 'Tis better to be thus contemned, and known to yourse!f to be contemned. Or perhaps there is an error, which may be rectified thus:
Tet hetter thus unknown to be contemi'd. When a man divests himself of his real character he feels no pain froin contempt, because he supposes it incurred only by a voluntary disguise which he can throw off at pleasure. I do not think any correction necessary. Johnson.
The lowest, and most dejected thing of fortune,
Enter GLOSTER, led by an old Man.
The sentiment is this:-It is better to be thus contemnd and know it, than to be flattered by those who secretly contemn us. Henley. I cannot help thinking that this passage should be written thus:
Yet better thus unknown to be contemn'd,
Than still contemn’d and flatter'd to be worse.
The lowest, &c. The quarto edition has no stop after flatter'd. The first folio, which has a comma there, has a colon at the end of the line.
The expression in this speech-owes nothing to thy blasts-(in a more learned writer) might seem to be copied from Virgil, Æn. xi, 51:
“ Nos juvenem exanimum, et nil jam cælestibus ullis
“ Debentem, vano masti comitamur honore.” Tyrwhitt. I think with Mr. Tyrwhitt that Dr. Johnson's conjecture is well founded, and that the poet wrote-unknown. Malone.
The meaning of Edgar's speech seems to be this. Yet it is better to be thus, in this fixed and acknowledged contemptible state, than, living in afluence, to be flattered and despised at the same time. He who is placed in the worst and lowest state has this advantage ; he lives in hope, and not in fear, of a reverse of fortune. The lamentable change is from affluence to beggary. He laughs at the idea of changing for the worse, who is already as low as possible. Sir 7. Reynolds.
lives not in fear :] So, in Milton's Paradise Regained, B. III: “ For where no hope is left, is left no fear.” Steevens.
Welcome then,] The next two lines and a half are omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
World, world, O world! But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, ] The sense of this obscure passage is, O world ! so much are human minds captivated with thy pleasures, that were it not for those successive miseries, each worse than the other, which overload the scenes of life, we should never be willing to submit to death, though the infirmities of old age would teach us to choose it as a proper asylum. Besides, by uninterrupted prosperity, which leaves the mind at ease, the body would generally preserve such a state of vigour as to bear up long against the decays of time. These are the two reasons, I suppose, why he said,
Life would not yield to aze.
Life would not yield to age.
Old Man. O my good lord, I have been your tenant, and your
father's tenant, these fourscore years.
Old Man. Alack, sir, you cannot see your way.
Glo. I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;
How now? Who's there?
And how much the pleasures of the body pervert the mind's judgment, and the perturbations of the mind disorder the body's frame, is known to all. Warburton.
O world! if reverses of fortune and changes such as I now see and feel, from ease and affluence to poverty and misery, did not show us the little value of life, we should never submit with any kind of resignation to the weight of years, and its necessary consequence, infirmity and death. Malune.
6 Our mean secures us ;] Mean is here a substantive, and signifies a middle state, as Dr. Warburton rightly interprets it. So again, in The Merchant of Venice: “ It is no mean happiness therefore to be seated in the mean.” See more instances in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary.
Steevens. Both the quartos and the folio read our means secure us. The emendation was made by Mr. Pope. I am not sure that it is necessary. In Shakspeare's age writers often thought it necessary to use a plural, when the subject spoken of related to more persons than one. So, in the last Act of this play—“0, our live's sweetness not, “O, our life's sweetness.” Again:
O, you mighty gods, “ This world I do renounce, and, in your sights," &c. Again, in King Richard 111:
“ To worry lambs, and lap their gentle bloods.” Means, therefore, might have been here used as the plural of mean, or moderate condition. Gloster's meaning is, that in a moderate condition or middle state of life, we are secure from those temptations to which the more prosperous and affluent are exposed ; and our very wants prove in this respect an advantage Malone. I believe, means is only a typographical error. Steedens.
to see thee in my touch,] So, in another scene, I see it feelingly. Steevens. VOL. XIV.
Edg. [aside] O gods! Who is 't can say, I am at the
worst? I am worse than e'er I was. Old Man.
'Tis poor mad Tom. Edg. [aside] And worse I may be yet: The worst is
not, So long as we can say, This is the worst.8 Old Man. Fellow, where goest
Is it a beggar-man? • Old Man. Madman and beggar too.
Glo. He has some reason, else he could not beg.
How should this be?--
Glo. Is that the naked fellow?
Ay, my lord.
Alack, sir he's mad. Glo. 'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the
blind. Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure; Above the rest, be gone.
Old Man. I'll bring him the best 'parrel that I have,
Who is ’t can say, I am at the worst?
The worst is not, So long as we can say, this is the worst.] i. e. While we live; for while we yet continue to have a sense of feeling, something worse than the present may still happen. What occasioned this reflection was his rashly saying, in the beginning of this scene
To be worst, “ The lowest, and most dejected thing of fortune, &c. “ The wretch, that thou hast blown unto the worst,” &c.
Come on 't what will.
[Exit. Glo. Sirrah, naked fellow. Edg. Poor Tom 's a-cold. I cannot daub ito further.
[Aside. Glo. Come hither, fellow. Edg. [aside] And yet I must.-Bless thy sweet eyes,
they bleed. Glo. Know'st thou the way to Dover?
Edg. Both stile and gate, horse-way, and foot-path. Poor Tom hath been scared out of his good wits : Bless the good man from the foul fiend !1 [Five fiends have been in poor Tom at once; of lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididance, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of stealing; Modo, of murder; and Flibbertigibbet, of mopping and mowing;3 who since possesses chamber-maids and waitingwomen.4 So, bless thee, master!]
I cannot daub it -] i.e. Disguise. Warburton. So, in King Richard III:
" So smooth he daub'd his vice with show of virtue." Again, in one of the Paston Letters, Vol. III, p. 173: “- and saith to her, there is good craft in dawbing."
The quartos read, I cannot dance it further. Steevens. 1 Bless the good man from the foul fiend ! ] Thus the quartos. The folio reads:
Bless thee, good man's son, from the foul fiend! Malone. Bless the good man from the foul fiend!] This is sense, but I think we should read-bless thee, good man &c. M. Mason.
2 Five fiends &c.] The rest of this speech is omitted in the folio. In Harseret's Book, already quoted, p. 278, we have an extract from the account published by the exorcists themselves, viz. “ By commaundement of the exorcist ... the devil in Ma. Mainy confessed his name to be Modu, and that he had besides himself seaven other spirits, and all of them captains, and of great fame." “ Then Ed. mundes (the exorcist) began againe with great earnestness, and all the company cried out, &c. ... so as both that wicked prince Modu and his company, might be cast out.” This passage will account for five fiends having been in poor Tom at once. Percy.
3 Flibbertigibbet, of mopping and mowing ;] “If she have a little helpe of the mother, epilepsie, or cramp, to teach her role her eyes, wrie her mouth, gnash her teeth, starte with her body, hold her armes and handes stiffe, make antike faces, grinne, mow and mop like an ape,-then no doubt-the young girle is owle-blasted and possessed.” Harsenet's Declaration, p. 136. Malone.
possesses chamber-maids and waiting-women. ] Shakspeare has made Edgar, in his feigned distraction, frequently allude to a vile imposture of some English Jesuits, at that time much the subject of