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condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness, that infirm and cholerick years bring with them.
Reg. Such unconftant ftarts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.
Gon. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together. If our father carry authority with fuch difpofition as he bears, this laft furrender of his will but offend us.
Reg. We fhall further think of it.
Gon. We must do fomething, and i' th' heat.
Changes to a Caftle belonging to the Earl of Glo'fter.
Enter Edmund, with a Letter.
Edm. HOU, Nature, art my Goddess thy law
My fervices are bound; wherefore fhould I
6 Stand in the PLAGUE of cufton,] To fland in the plague of cufton, is an abfurd expreffion. We should read,
Stand in the PLAGE of cuftom. i. e. the place, the country, the boundary of cuftom. Why should I,
when I profefs to follow the freedom of nature, be confined within the narrow limits of cuftom? Plage, is a word in common ufe amongst the old English writers. So Chaucer,
The PLAGIS of the North by land and fea. From pla a.
7 The courtesy of nations to deprive me,
For that I am fome twelve or fourteen moon-fhines
The word plague is in all the old copies: I can fcarcely think it right, nor can I yet reconcile myfelf to the emendation propofed, though I have nothing
better to offer.
7 The courtesy of Nations] Mr. Pop: reads Nicety. The Copies, give, the Curiofity of Nations; but our Author's Word was, Curtely. In our Laws, fome Lands are held by the Curtesy of En land. THEOBALD.
Edmund inveighs against the tyranny of custom, in two infiances, with refpect to younger brothers, and to baftards. In the former he must not be understood to mean himself, but the argument becomes general by implying more than is faid, Wherefore fbouli I or any man. HANMER. 8 Who, in the lufty fealth of nature, &c.] Thefe fine lines are an inftance of our author's admirable art in giving proper fentiments to his characters. The Baftard's is that of a confirmed Atheit; and his being made to ridicule judicial aftrology was defigned as one mark of fuch a character. For this impious jug
gle had a religious reverence paid to it at that time. And therefore the best characters in this play acknowledge the force of the itars' influence. But how much the lines following this, are in character, may be feen by that monftrous wifh of Vanini, the Italian Atheist, in his trac De admirandis naturæ, &c. printed at Paris, 1616, the very year our poet died. O utinam extra legitimum & connubialem thorum effem procreatus! Ita enim progenitores mei in Venerem incaluiffent ardentiùs, ac cumulatim affatimque generofa femina contuliffent, è quibus ego forme blanditiam et elegantiam, robuflas corporis vires, mentemque innubilam confequutus fuiffem. At quia conjugatorum fum foboles, his orbatus fum bonis. Had the book been published but ten or twenty years fooner, who would not have believed that Shakespear alluded to this paffage? But the divinity of his genius foretold, as it were, what fuch an Atheist, as Vanini, would fay, when he wrote upon fuch a fubject.
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land;
Glo. Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted! And the King gone to-night! fubfcrib'd his pow'r! Confin'd to exhibition! 3 all this done
Upon the gad!-Edmund, how now? what news?
8 Shall be th' legitimate.Here the Oxford Editor would fhow us that he is as good at coining phrafes as his Author, and fo alters the text thus,
Shall toe th' legitimate. i. e. fays he, fand on even ground with him, as he would do with his author. WARBURTON. Hanmer's emendation will appear very plaufible to him that fhall confult the original reading. Butler's quarto reads,
Edmund the bafe Shall tooth' legitimate. The folio,-Edmund the bafe Shall to th' legitimate. Hanmer, therefore, could hardly be charged with coining a word, though his explanation may be doubted. To toe him, is perhaps, to kick him out, a phrase yet in vulgar ufe; or, to toe, may be literally to fupplant. The word be has no authority.
9 Now, Gods, ftana up for baftards!] For what rea
Edm. So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter.
Glo. Why fo earnestly feek you to put up that letter?
Glo. What paper were you reading?
Edm. Nothing, my Lord.
Glo. No! what needed then that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not fuch need to hide itfeif. Let's fee; come. If it be nothing, I fhall not need fpectacles.
Edm. I beseech you, Sir, pardon me, it is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o'er read; and for fo much as I have perus'd, I find it not fit for your over-looking.
Glo. Give me the letter, Sir.
Edm. I fhall offend, either to detain, or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.
Glo. Let's fee, let's fee.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's juftification, he wrote this but as an effay, or tafle of my virtue.
Glo. reads.] This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppreffion of eged tyranny; which fways, not as it hath power, but
tafle of my virtue. Though tafte may stand in this place, yet I believe we should read, affay or teft of my virtue: they are both metallurgical terms, and properly joined. So in Hamlet,
Bring me to the test.
5 This policy and reverence of ages] Ages fignifies former times. So the fenfe of the words is this, what between the policy of fome, and the fuperftitious reverence of
others to old cuftoms, it is now
All this may be spared. Age,
6 idle and fond] Weak and foolish.
as it is fuffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would fleep, till I wak'd him, you fhould enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother Edgar.-Hum-Confpiracy!fleep, till I wake him-you fhould enjoy half his revenue-My fon Edgar! had he a hand to write this! a heart and brain to breed it in !-When came this to you? who brought it?
Edm. It was not brought me, my Lord; there's the cunning of it. I found it thrown in at the cafement of my closet.
Glo You know the character to be your brother's? Edm If the matter were good, my Lord, I durft fwear, it were his; but in refpect of that, I would fain think, it were not.
Glo. It is his.
Fdm. It is his hand, my Lord; I hope, his heart is not in the contents.
Glo. Has he never before founded you in this bufinefs?
Edm. Never, my Lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit, that fons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father fhould be as a ward to the fon, and the fon manage his revenue.
Glo. O villain, villain! his very opinion in the letter. Abhorred villain! unnatural, detefted, brutish villain! worfe than brutifh! Go, firrah, feek him; I'll apprehend him. Abominable villain! where is he?
Edm. I do not well know, my Lord. If it fhall please you to fufpend your indignation againft my brother, 'till you can derive from him better teftimony of his intent, you should run a certain courfe; where, if you violently proceed against him, miftaking his purpofe, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to