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And pray, and fing, and tell old tales, and laugh
Edm. Take them away.
Lear. Upon fuch facrifices, my Cordelia, The gods themselves throw incenfe.
SCENE VIII. The Justice of the Gods.
(26) The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices Makes inftruments to fcourge us.
(25) And, &c.]
'Tis a catalogue
Of all the gamefters of the court and city:
The Falfe One, Act 1. Sc. I.
The word fpies in the text, is taken in the fenfe of spies upon any onc, to infpect their conduct, not spies employed by a perfon.
(26) The, &c.] This retorting of punishments, and making the means by which we offended the fcourge of our offence, is very common amongst the ancients, and perhaps had its rife from the Jewish people. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, &c. Callimachus, in his hymn to Pallas, tells us, that goddess depriv'd the young hunter of his eyes, because they had offended, having feen her in the bath. See the Hymn, p. 75. And in Sophocles, at the end of Electra, Orefies cries out to Egiftus ;
Peace, and attend me to that place where thou
Edgar's Account of his discovering himself to his
Lift a brief tale,
And when 'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
Baft. This fpeech of yours hath mov'd me,
Alb. If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
Edg(27) This would have feem'd a period
(27) This, &c.] The baftard, whofe favage nature is well difplayed by it, defires to hear more: the gentle Albany, touch'd at the fad tale, begs him no more to melt his heart: upon which, Edgar obferves, fenfibly affected by Edmund's inhumanity, "One fhould have imagined, this would have feem'd a
To amplify too much, would make much more,
Whilft I was big in clamour, there came a man,
SCENE XII. Lear on the Death of Cordelia.
Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O you are men of ftone; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd ufe them fo That Heav'ns vault fhou'd crack; fhe's gone for ever! I know when one's dead and when one lives; She's dead as earth! lend me a looking glafs, If that her breath will mist or ftain the ftone, Why then the lives.
period, a fufficient end of woe, to fuch as love not forrow, who are not pleased to hear of the diftreffes of others: but another (a perfon of another and more cruel temper) to amplify too much, (to augment and aggravate that which is already too great) would still make much more (would still increase it) and top extremity itself; that is, even go beyond that which is already at the utmost limit." Nothing can be plainer than this, which Mr. Warburton condemning as miferable nonfenfe, reads thus, and admits into his text !
This wou'd have feem'd a period; but fuch
As love to amplify anothers forrow,
Too much, wou'd make much more and top extremity! 'Tis remarkable, this fine fpeech, (and indeed many others) are omitted in the Oxford edition.
This feather ftirs, the lives: if it be fo
It is a chance which does redeem all forrows,
Kent. O my good master.
Lear. Pr'ythee away
A plague upon your murth'rous traitors all!
And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life.
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more.
THE tragedy of Lear (fays Johnson) is defervedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakespear. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention fo ftrongly fixed; which fo much agitates our paffions, and interefts our curiofity. The artful involutions of diftinct interefts, the ftriking oppofition of contrary characters, the fudden changes of fortune, and the quick fucceffion of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no fcene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not condúce to the progrefs of the fcene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
HAT are thefe,
So wither'd and fo wild in their
attire, That look not like th' inhabitants o' th' earth, And yet are on't? Live you, or are you aught That man may question? You feem to understand me, By each at once her choppy finger laying Upon her fkinny lips; You fhould be women: And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are fo.
(1) What, &c.] Shakespear's excellence in thefe fictitious characters hath been before obferved: In fuch circles, indeed, none could move like him; ghofts, witches, and fairies feem to acknowledge him their fovereign. We must observe, that the reality of witches was firmly believed in our author's time, not only established by law, but by fashion also, and that