Abbildungen der Seite

Man's life is cheap as beast's: thou art a lady ;
If only to go warın were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st;
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. -But, for true need
You heavens, give me that patience which I need!
You see me here, you gods; a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both !
If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely ; touch me with noble anger !
0, let no woinan's weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man's cheeks !No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall -1 will do such things
What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be
The terrours of the earth. You think, I'll weep:
No, I'll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or e'er l'll weep :-

-0, fool, I shall go mad !
[Exeunt Lear, Gloster, Kent, and Fool.

If there is any thing in any author like this yearning of the heart, these throes of tenderness, this profound expression of all that can be thought and felt in the most heart-rending situations, we are glad of it; but it is in some author that we have not read.

The scene in the storm, where he is exposed to all the fury of the elements, though grand and terrible, is not so fine, but the moralizing scenes with Mad Tom, Kent, and Gloster, are upon a par with the former. His exclamation in the supposed trial-scene of his daughters, “See the little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me;" his issuing his orders, “ Let them ana- . tomize Regan, see what breeds about her heart," and his reflection when he sees the misery of Edgar,


Nothing but his unkind daughters could have brought him to this,” are in a style of pathos, where the extremest resources of the imagination are call. ed in to lay open the deepest movements of the heart, which was peculiar to Shakspeare. In the same style and spirit is bis interrupting the Fool, who asks, " whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman," by answering " A king, a king !"

The indirect part that Gloster takes in these scenes, where his generosity leads him to relieve Lear and resent the cruelty of his daughters, at the very time that he is bimself iostigated to seek the life of his son, and suffering under the sting of his supposed ingratitude, is a striking accompaniment to the situation of Lear. Indeed, the manner in which the threads of the story are woven together is almost as wonderful in the way of art, as the carrying on the tide of passion, still varying and unimpaired, is on the score of nature. Among the remarkable instances of this kind, are Edgar's meeting with his old blind father; the deception he practises upon him when he pretends to lead him to the top of Dover-cliff—" Come on, sir, here's the place,” to prevent his ending his life and miseries together; his encounter with the perfidious Steward, whom he kills, and his finding the letter from Gonerill to his brother upon him, which leads to the final catastropbe, and brings the wheel of Justice “full circle home” to the guilty parties. The bustle and rapid succession of events in the last scenes is surprising. But the meeting between Lear and Cordelia is by far the most affecting part of them. It has all the wildness of poetry, and all the heartfelt truth of na

ture. The previous account of her reception of the news of his unkind treatment, her involuntary reproaches to her sisters, “ Shame, ladies, shame,” Lear's backwardness to see his daughter, the picture of the desolate state to which he is reduced, “ Alack, 'tis he; why he was met even now, as mad as the vex'd sea, singing aloud,” only prepare the way for and heighten our expectation of what follows, and assuredly this expectation is not disappointed, when, through the tender care of Cordelia he revives and recollects her.

Cordelia. How does my royal lord? How fares your ma

Lear. You do me wrong, to take me out o' the grave:
Thou art a soul in bliss ; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.

Cordelia. Sir, do you know me ?
Lear. You are a spirit I know : when did you die ?
Cordelia. Still, still, far wide !
Physician. He's scarce awake; let him alone awhile.
Lear. Where have I been? Where am 1?--Fair day.

I am mightily abus'd.— I should even die with pity,
To see another thus.-I know not what to say.--
I will not swear these are my hands :- let's see;
I feel this pin prick. 'Would I were assur'd
Of my condition.

Cordelia. 0, look upon me, sir,
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me :-
No, sir, you must not kneel.

Lear. Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourgcore and upward ;
Not an hour more, nor less : and, to deal plainly,
I fear, I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks, I shou'd kyow you, and know this inan;
Yet I am doubtful : for I am mainly ignorant

What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remeinbers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night: do not laugh at ine ;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

Cordelia. And so I am, I am !"

Almost equal to this in awful beauty is their consolation of each other, when, after the triumph of their enemies, they are led to prison.

" Cordelia. We are not the first,
Who, with best meaning, have incurr'd the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, an I cast down!
Myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown.-
Shall we not see these daughters, and these sisters ?

Lear. No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison :
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterfies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too-
Who loses, and who wins ; who's in, who's out ;-
And take upon us the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies : and we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

Edmund. Take them away.

Lear. Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense.”

The concluding events are sad, paipfully sad; but their pathos is extreme. The oppression of the feelings is relieved by the very interest we take in the misfortunes of others, and by the reflections to which they give birth. Cordelia is banged in prison by the orders of the bastard Edmund, which are

known too late to be countermanded, and Lear dies broken-hearted, lamenting over her.

Lear. And my poor fool is hanged ! No, no, no life :
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.".

He dies, and indeed we feel the truth of what Kent says on the occasion

“ Vex not his ghost: 0, let him pass! he hates him,
That would upon the rack of this rough world
Stretch him out lopger."

Yet a happy ending has been contrived for this play, which is approved of by Dr. Johnson and copdemned by Schlegel. A better authority than either on any subject in which poetry and feeling are concerned, has given it in favour of Shakspeare, in some remarks on the acting of Lear, with which we shall conclude this account.

“ The LEAR of Shakspeare cannot be acted. The contemptible machinery with which they mimick the storm which he goes out in, is not more inadequate to represent the horrours of the real elements, than any actor can be to represent Lear. The greatness of Lear is not in corporal dimension, but in intellectual; the explosions of his passions are terrible as a volcano : they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that rich sea, his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see no

« ZurückWeiter »