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Nor is it foreign to remark, that as in the intimacy of Rosalind and Celia, Shakespeare has represented female friendship as no visionary attainment; so he has, by the mouth of Portia, expressed some striking particulars in the nature of that amiable connection.
5. Our poet, in his Cordelia, has given us a fine example of exquisite sensibility, governed by reason, and guided by a sense of propriety. This amiable character, indeed, is conceived and executed with no less skill and invention than that of her father. Treated with rigour and injustice by Lear, she utters no violent resentment; but ex: presses becoming anxiety for reputation.
I yet beseech your majesty, That yoa
make known It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness, No unchaste action or dishonor'd step, That hath depriv'd me of your grace and favor.
She displays the same gentleness, accompanied with much delicacy of reproof, in her reply to a mercenary lover.
Peace be with Burgundy!
Even to her sisters, though she has perfect discernment of their characters, and though her misfortune was owing to their dissimulation, she shows nothing virulent nor unbecoming. She expresses, however, in a suitable manner, and with no improper irony, a sense of their deceit, and apprehensions of their disaffection to Lear.
Ye jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes
Towards the close of the tragedy, when she receives complete information concerning the violent outrages committed against her father, the sufferings he has undergone, the ruin of his understanding, and has the fullest evidence of the guilt and atrocity of her sisters, she preserves the same consistency of character: potwithstanding her wrongs, she feels and is affected with the deepest sorrow for the misfortunes of Lear: she has the most entire abhorrence of the temper displayed by Goneril and Regan: yet her sorrows, her resentment, and indignation are guided by that sense of propriety, which does not in the smallest degree impair her tenderness and sensibility; but directs them to that conduct and demeanour, which are suitable, amiable, and interesting. Tenderness, affection, and sensibility, melting into grief, and mingled with sentiments of reluctant disapprobation, were never delineated with more delicacy than in the description of Cordelia, when she receives intelligence of her father's misfortunes.
Kent. Did your letters pierce the queen to any demonstration of grief? Gent. Ay, Sir ; she took them, read them in my
Kent. O, then it moved her.
Gent. Not to a rage, Patience and sorrow strove Which should express her goodliest : you have seen Sun-shine and rain at once. Those happy smiles That played on her ripe lip secm'd not to know What guests were in her eyes, which parted thence, As pearls from diamonds dropt.-In brief, Sorrow would be a rarity most beloy’d, If all could so become it.
Kent. Made she no verbal question ?
Gent. Once or twice She heay'd the name of father Pantingly forth, as if it prest her heart, Cry'd, Sisters ! Sisters! What? i'the storm ? i'the night? Let pity ne'er believe it! there she shook The holy water from her heav’nly eyesThen away she started to deal with grief alone.
Minds highly enlightened, contemplating the same object, both reason, and are affected in a similar manner. The tone of thought in the following passage, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, accords perfectly with Shakespeare's account of Cordelia “ What noble propriety and grace do we feel in the conduct of those who, in their own case, exert that recollection and self-command which constitute the dignity of every passion, and which bring it down to what others can enter into? We are dis
gusted with that clamorous grief, which, without any delicacy, calls upon our compassion with sighs and importunate lamentations. But we reverence that reserved, that silent and majestic sorrow, which discovers itself only in the swelling of the eyes, in the quivering of the lips and cheeks, and in the distant but affecting coldness of the whole behaviour. It imposes the like silence upon us.
We regard it with respectful attention, and watch with anxious concern over our whole behaviour, lest by any impropriety we should disturb that concerted tranquillity, which it requires so great an effort to support.”—Cordelia, full of affection, is grieved for the distress of her father: her sense of propriety imposes restraint on her expressions of sorrow: the conflict is painful: full of sensibility, and of a delicate structure, the conflict is more than she can endure; she must indulge her emotions: her sense of propriety again interposes; she must vent them in secret, and not with loud lamentation : she shakes “ The holy “ water from her heavenly eyes," and then retires " to deal with grief alone.”