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Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send, -
Run, run, 0, run —
send Thy token of reprieve.
Edm. Well thought on; take my sword, Give it the captain.
Alb. Haste thee, for thy life. (Exit Edgar.
Edm. He hath commission from thy wife and me To hang Cordelia in the prison, and To lay the blame upon her own despair, That she fordid 7 herself. Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
[Edmund is borne off. Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms ;
EDGAR, Officer, and Others. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl! -0, you are
men of stones :
-0, she is gone for ever
! I know when one is dead, and when one lives; She's dead as earth : — Lend me a looking glass; If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, Why, then she lives. Kent.
Is this the promis'd end ? s Edg. Or image of that horror ?
7 Destroyed herself. 8 The end of the world, or the horrible circumstances
Fall, and cease! 9 Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so, It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows That ever I have felt. Kent.
O my good master! [Kneeling. Lear. Prythee, away. Edg.
'T'is noble Kent, your friend.
Off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.
Did I not, fellow?
straight. Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated, One of them we behold.
Lear. This is a dull sight: Are you not Kent? Kent.
The same; Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius ?
Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that ; He'll strike, and quickly too : - He's dead and
rotten. Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man;Lear. I'll see that straight. Kent. That from your first of difference and
I'll tell you
decay, Have follow'd
9 j. €. Die; Albany speaks to Lear.
You are welcome hither. Kent. Nor no man else; all's cheerless, dark,
and deadly. Your eldest daughters have fore-doom’d themselves, And desperately are dead. Lear.
Ay, so I think. Alb. He knows not what he says; and vain it is That we present us to him. Edg.
Very bootless. 1
Enter an Officer. Off. Edmund is dead, my lord. Alb.
That's but a trifle here. You lords, and noble friends, know our intent. What comfort to this great decay ? may come, Shall be applied : for us, we will resign, During the life of this old majesty, To him our absolute power:
You, to your rights;
[T. EDGAR and Kent. With boot 3, and such addition 4 as your Have more than merited: All friends shall taste The
wages of their virtue, and all foes The cup of their deservings. - O, see, see!
Lear. And my poor fool 5 is hang'd! No, no, no Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no
more, Never, never, never, never, never ! Pray you, undo this button : Thank you, sir.
2 i. e. Lear. 3 Benefit.
4 Titles. 5 Poor fool, in the time of Shakspeare was an expression
Do you see this ? — Look on her, - look, - her
lips, Look there, look there ! .
(He dies. Edg. He faints ! – My lord, my lord, Kent. Break, heart; I priythee, break! Edg.
Look up, my lord. Kent. Vex not his ghost: 0, let him pass ! 6 he
0, he is
indeed. Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long : He but usurp'd his life. Alb. Bear them from hence. -Our present bu
siness Is general woe. Friends of my soul, you twain.
[To KENT and EDGAR. Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls, and I must not say, no.
Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we, that are young, Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
[Exeunt, with a dead March.
The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the
mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.
My learned friend Mr. Warton *, who has in The ADVENTURER very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series of dialogue and action. But I am not able to apologize with equal plausibility for the extrusion of Gloster's eyes, which seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatick exhibition, and such as must always compel the mind to
* Dr. Joseph Warton.