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according to the condition or character of him who feels them. Men of feeble constitutions, and without power over the fortunes of other men, under such malign in. fluences, become fretful, invidious, and misanthropical. Persons of former structure, and unfortunately possessed of power, under such direction, become inhuman. Herod was a man of feeling. Witness his conduct to Mariamne. At one time elegant, courteous, and full of tenderness; his fondness was as unbounded, as the virtues and graces of Mariamne were unrivalled. At other times, offended because her expressions of mutual affection were not as excessive as the extravagance of his own emotions, he became suspicious without causc. Thus affectionate, fond, suspicious, resentful, and powerful, in the phrenzy of irregular feeling, he put to death his beloved Mariamne.
Lear, in the representation of Shakespeare, possessing great sensibility, and full of affection, seeks a kind of enjoyment suited to his temper. Ascribing the same sensibility and affection to his daughters, for they must have it, no doubt, by hereditary right, he forms a pleasing dream of reposing his old age under the wings of their kindly protection. He is disappointed ; he feels extreme pain and resentment; he vents his resentment; but he has no power. Will he then become morose and retired ? His habits and temper will not give him leave. Impetuous, and accustomed to authority, consequently of an unyielding nature, he would wreak his wrath, if he were able, in deeds of excessive violence. He, would do, he knows not what. He who could pronounce such imprecations against Goneril, as, notwithstanding her guilt, appear shocking and horrid, would, in the moment of his resentment, have put her to death. If, without any ground of offence, he could abandon Cordelia, and cast off his favourite child, what would he not have done to the unnatural and pitiless Regan?
Here, then, we have a curious spectacle: a man accustomed to bear rule, suffering sore disappointment, and grievous wrongs; high minded, impetuous, susceptible of extreme resentment, and incapable of yielding to splenetic silence, or malignant retirement. What change can befall his spirit? For his condition is so altered, that his spirit also must suffer change. What! but to have his understanding torn up by the hurricane of passion, to scorn consolation, to lose his reason! Shakespeare could not avoid making Lear distracted. Other poets exhibit madness, because they chuse it, or for the sake of variety, or to deepen the distress; but Shakespeare has exhibited the madness of Lear, as the natural effect of such suffering on such a character. It was an event in the progress of Lear's mind, driven by such feelings, desires, and passions, as the poet ascribes to him, as could not be avoided. No circumstance in Lear's madness is more affecting than his dreadful anticipation and awful consciousness of its approach.
You think I'll weep;
V. Lear, thus extravagant, inconsistent, inconstant, capricious, variable, irresolute, and impetuously vindictive, is almost an object of disapprobation. But our poet, with his usual skill, blends the disagreeable qualities with such circumstances as correct this effect, and form one delightful assemblage. Lear, in his good intentions, was without deceit; his violence is not the effect of
premeditated malignity; his weaknesses are not crimes, but often the effects of misruled affections. This is not all: he is an old man; an old king; an aged father; and the instruments of his suffering are undutiful children. He is justly entitled to our compassion; and the incidents last mentioned, though they imply no merit, yet procure some respect. Add to all this, that he becomes more and more interesting towards the close of the drama; not merely because he is more and more unhappy, but because he becomes really more deserving of our esteem. His misfortunes correct his misconduct; they rouse reflection, and lead him to that reformation which we approve. We see the commencement of this reformation, after he has been dismissed by Goneril, and meets with symptoms of disaffection in Regan. He who abandoned Cordelia with impetuous outrage, and banished Kent' for offering an apology in her behalf; seeing his servant grossly maltreated, and his own arrival unwelcomed, has already sustained some chastisement: he does not express that ungoverned violence which his preceding conduct might lead us to expect. He restrains his emotion in its first ebullition, and reasons concerning the probable causes of what seemed so inauspicious.
Lear. The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear
father Would with his daughter speak, commands her service: Are they inform’d of this ?–My breath and blood :Fiery-the fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that No-but not yet—may be he is not wellInfirmity doth still neglect all office, Whereto our health is bound: we're not ourselves When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind To suffer with the body—I'll forbear; And am fallen 'out with my more heady will, To take the indispos'd and sickly fit, For the sound man.
As his misfortunes increase, we find him still more inclined to reflect on his situation. He does not, indeed, express blame of him