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and they prostrate themselves before the energy of his “gain'd knowledge.” They feel that in their own original powers of judgment they have no support against the dogmatism, and it may be the ridicule, of experience. This is the course with the young when they fall into the power of the tempter. But was not Othello in all essentials young & Was he not of an enthusiastic temperament, confiding, loving, most sensitive to opinion,-jealous of his honour, truly wise, had he trusted to his own pure impulses 1–But he was most weak, in adopting an evil opinion against his own faith, and conviction, and proof, in his reliance upon the honesty and judgment of a man whom he really doubted and had never proved. Yet this is the course by which the highest and noblest intellects are too often subjected to the dominion of the subtle understanding and the unbridled will. It is an unequal contest between the principles that are struggling for mastery in the individual man, when the attributes of the serpent and the dove are separated, and become conflicting. The wisdom which belonged to Othello's enthusiastic temperament

was his confidence in the truth and purity of the being with whom his life was bound up, and his general reliance upon the better part of human nature, in his judgment of his friend. When the confidence was destroyed by the craft of his deadly enemy, his sustaining power was also destroyed;—the balance of his sensitive temperament was lost;-his enthusiasm became wild passion;–his new belief in the dominion of grossness over the apparently pure and good shaped itself into outrage; his honour lent itself to schemes of cruelty and revenge. But, even amidst the whirlwind of this passion, we every now and then hear something which sounds as the softest echo of love and gentleness. Perhaps in the whole compass of the Shaksperean pathos there is nothing deeper than “But yet the pity of it, Iago! Oh, Iago, the pity of it, Iago!” It is the contemplated murder of Desdemona which thus tears his heart. But his “disordered power, engendered within itself to its own destruction,” hurries on the catastrophe. We would ask, with Coleridge, “As the curtain drops, which do we pity the most?”



THE first edition of “ King Lear” was published in 1608; its title was as follows:— ‘Mr.William Shake-speare his True Chronicle History of the Life and Death of King Lear, and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate Life of Edgar, Sonne and Heire to the Earle of Glocester, and his sullen and assumed Humour of Tom of Bedlam. As it was plaid before the King's Majesty at White-Hall, uppon S. Stephens Night; in Christmas Hollidaies. By his Majesties Servants playing usually at the Globe on the Banck-side. Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his Shop in Paul's Church-yard at the Signe of the Pied Bull

neere St. Austins Gate, 1608.” Two other editions were published by Butter in the same year. It is remarkable that a play of which three editions were demanded in one year should not have been reprinted till it was collected in the folio of 1623. Other of the plays, which were originally published in a separate form during the poet's life-time, were frequently reprinted before the folio collection. Whether ‘Lear” was piratical, or whether a limited publication was allowed, it is clear, we think, that by some interference the continued publication was stopped. In the folio text of ‘Lear,’ as compared with the text of the quarto, there are verbal


corrections, and additions and omissions; but in the quarto text of that play the metrical arrangement is one mass of confusion. This circumstance appears to us conclusive that these quarto copies could not have been printed from the author's manuscript; and yet they might have been printed from a genuine playhouse copy. The text of the folio, in one material respect, differs considerably from that of the quartos. Large passages which are found in the quartos are omitted in the folio: there are, indeed, some lines found in the folio which are not in the quartos, amounting to about fifty. These are scattered passages, not very remarkable when detached, but for the most part essential to the progress of the action or to the development of character. On the other hand, the lines found in the quartos which are not in the folio amount to as many as two hundred and twenty-five; and they comprise one entire scene, and one or two of the most striking connected passages in the drama. It would be easy to account for these omissions by the assumption that in the folio edition the original play was cut down by the editors; for ‘Lear,’ without the omissions, is one amongst the longest of Shakspere's plays. But this theory would require us to assume, also, that the additions to the folio were made by the editors. These comprise several such minute touches as none but the hand of the master could have superadded. The period of the first production of ‘Lear’ may be fixed with tolerable certainty. We collect, from the registers of the Stationers’ Company, that ‘Lear” was played before King James, at Whitehall, upon St.Stephen's night, in the year 1606—that is, on the 26th of December. Here is the limit in one direction. In the other direction we have the publication, in 1603, of Harsnet's ‘Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures,’ from which book Shakspere undoubtedly derived some materials which he employed in the assumed madness of Edgar. It is pretty clear, also, from two passages in the text of the quarto editions, that the author or the actors of the tragedy, “as it was played before the king's majesty,” were careful to make two minute changes which would be agreeable to James.

After the accession of James, when he was proclaimed King of Great Britain, it was usual to merge the name of England in that of Britain. Bacon thus explains the completion of the old prophecy, “When hempe is sponne, England's donne.” The ancient metrical saying, “Fy, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an English man,” becomes in ‘Lear,' “I smell the blood of a British man;” and in the quarto editions (Act IV., Scene 6) we have—

“And give the letters, which thou find'st about
To Edmund, earl of Gloster; seek him out
Upon the British party.”

The allusions derived from Harsmet's book fix the date of the tragedy as near as we can desire it to be fixed. All that we can hope for in these matters is an approximation to a date. It is sufficient for us to be confirmed, through such a fact, in the belief, derived from internal evidence, that ‘Lear” was produced at that period when the genius of Shakspere was “at its very point of culmination.”

The story of ‘Lear” belongs to the popular literature of Europe. It is a pretty episode in the fabulous chronicles of Britain; and, whether invented by the monkish historians, or transplanted into our annals from some foreign source, is not very material. In the ‘Gesta Romanorum,” the same story is told of Theodosius, “a wise emperor in the city of Rome.” Douce has published this story from the manuscript in the Harleian Collection. It may be sufficient to give the beginning of this curious narrative, to show how clearly all the histories have been derived from a COmnlon SOutCe :

“Theodosius regned, a wys emperour in the cite of Rome, and myghti he was of power; the whiche emperour had thre doughters. So hit liked to this emperour to knowe which of his doughters lovid him best. And tho he seid to the eldest doughter, how moche lovist thou me! fforsoth, quod she, more than I do myself, therefore, quod he, thou shalt be hily avaunsed, and maried her to a riche and myghti kyng. Tho he cam to the secund, and seid to her, doughter, how moche lovist thou me! As moche forsoth, she seid, as I do myself. So the emperour maried her to a duc. And tho he seid to the third doughter, how moche lovist thou me ! fforsoth, quod she, as moche as ye beth worthi, and no more. Thoseid the emperour, doughter, sith thou lovist me no more, thou shalt not be maried so richely as thi susters beth. And tho he maried her to an erle.”

The French have a famous romance entitled ‘La tres elegante delicieuse melliflue et tres plaisante hystoire du tres victorieux & excellentissime Roy Perceforest Roy de la grant Bretaigne,’ of the veritable contents of which an account will be found in the “Censura Literaria,’ vol. viii. These chronicles, according to Sir Egerton Brydges, “begin with the foundation of Troy, which they affirm to have been in the third age of the world, and that it was taken while Abdon was judge over Israel. The travels of Brutus, and his wars in Great Britain and Aquitaine, follow, which took place while Saul reigned in Judea, and Aristeus in Lacedemon. His grandson, Rududribas, father of the celebrated Bladud, founded the ancient city of Canterbury, which occurred during the time in which Haggai, Amos, and Joel prophesied. These curious circumstances are succeeded by the story of Lear (son to Bladud) and his three daughters, which was in the time of Isaiah and Hosea, at which period also the city of Rome was founded.” The exact chronology of the romancers and chroniclers is well worthy attention. Geoffrey of Monmouth is quite as precise as Pierceforest: “At this time flourished the prophets Isaiah and Hosea, and Rome was built upon the eleventh of the Calends of May, by the two brothers Romulus and Remus.” With such unquestionable authority for the date of the story of Lear, well may Malone have been shocked when Edgar says, “Nero was an angler in the lake of darkness;” and we ought to be grave when we are also informed, with the most perfect gravity, “Nero is introduced in the present play above eight hundred years before he was born.” Shakspere found the story in his favourite Holinshed; and he probably did not trouble himself to refer to Geoffrey of Monmouth, from whom Holinshed abridged it. We subjoin the legend as told by


“Leir, the son of Baldud, was admitted ruler over the Britains in the year of the world 3105. At what time Joas reigned as yet in Juda. This Leir was a prince of noble demeanour, governing his land and subjects in great wealth. He made the town of Cairleir, now called Leicester, which standeth upon the river of Dore. It is writ that he had by his wife three daughters, without other issue, whose names were Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordilla, which daughters he greatly loved, but especially the youngest, Cordilla, far above the two elder. “When this Leir was come to great years, and began to wear unwieldy through age, he thought to understand the affections of his daughters towards him, and prefer her whom he best loved to the succession of the kingdom; therefore, he first asked Gonorilla, the eldest, how well she loved him: the which, calling her gods to record, protested that she loved him more than her own life, which by right and reason should be most dear unto her; with which answer the father, being well pleased, , turned to the second, and demanded of her how well she loved him? which answered (confirming her sayings with great oaths) that she loved him more than tongue can express, and far above all other creatures in the world. “Then called he his youngest daughter, Cordilla, before him, and asked of her what account she made of him : unto whom she made this answer as followeth:-Knowing the great love and fatherly zeal you have always borne towards me (for the which, that I may not answer you otherwise than I think, and as my conscience leadeth me), I protest to you that I have always loved you, and shall continually while I live love you, as my natural father; and if you would more understand of the love that I bear you, ascertain yourself, that so much as you have, so much you are worth, and so much I love you, and no more. “The father, being nothing content with this answer, married the two eldest daughters, the one unto the duke of Cornwall, named Henninus, and the other unto the duke of Albania, called Maglanus; and betwixt them, after his death, he willed and ordained his land should be divided, and the one-half thereof should be immediately assigned unto them in hand; but for the third daughter, Cordilla, he reserved nothing. “Yet it fortuned that one of the princes of Gallia (which now is called France), whose name was Aganippus, hearing of the beauty, woman

hood, and good conditions of the said Cordilla, desired to have her in marriage, and sent over to her father, requiring that he might have her to wife; to whom answer was made, that he might have his daughter, but for any dowry he could have none, for all was promised and assured to her other sisters already. “Aganippus, notwithstanding this answer of denial to receive anything by way of dower with Cordilla, took her to wife, only moved thereto (I say) for respect of her person and amiable virtues. This Aganippus was one of the twelve kings that ruled Gallia in those days, as in the British history it is recorded. But to proceed: after that Leir was fallen into age, the two dukes that had married his two eldest daughters, thinking it long ere the government of the land did come to their hands, arose against him in armour, and reft from him the governance of the land, upon conditions to be continued for term of life: by the which he was put to his portion; that is, to live after a rate assigned to him for the maintenance of his estate, which in process of time was diminished, as well by Maglanus as by Henninus. “But the greatest grief that Leir took was to see the unkindness of his daughters, who seemed to think that all was too much which their father had, the same being never so little, in so much that, going from the one to the other, he was brought to that misery that they would allow him only one servant to wait upon him. In the end, such was the unkindness, or, as I may say, the unnaturalness, which he found in his two daughters, notwithstanding their fair and pleasant words uttered in time past, that, being constrained of necessity, he fled the land, and sailed into Gallia, there to seek some comfort of his youngest daughter, Cordilla, whom before he hated. “The lady Cordilla, hearing he was arrived in poor estate, she first sent to him privately a sum of money to apparel himself withall, and to retain a certain number of servants, that might attend upon him in honourable wise, as appertained to the estate which he had borne. And then, so accompanied, she appointed him to come to the court, which he did, and was so joyfully, honourably, and lovingly received, both by his son-in-law Aganippus, and also by his daughter Cordilla, that his heart was greatly comforted: for he was no less honoured than if he had been king of the whole country himself. Also, after that he had informed his

son-in-law and his daughter in what sort he had been used by his other daughters, Aganippus caused a mighty army to be put in readiness, and likewise a great navy of ships to be rigged to pass over into Britain, with Leir his father-inlaw, to see him again restored to his kingdom.

“It was accorded that Cordilla should also go with him to take possession of the land, the which he promised to leave unto her, as his rightful inheritor after his decease, notwithstanding any former grants made unto her sisters, or unto their husbands, in any manner or wise; hereupon, when this army and navy of ships were ready, Leir and his daughter Cordilla, with her husband, took the sea, and, arriving in Britain, fought with their enemies, and discomfirted them in battle, in the which Maglanus and Henninus were slain, and then was Leir restored to his kingdom, which he ruled after this by the space of two years, and then died, forty years after he first began to reign. His body was buried at Leicester, in a vault under the channel of the river Dore, beneath the town.”

The subsequent fate of Cordelia is also narrated by Holinshed. She became Queen after her father's death; but her nephews “levied war against her, and destroyed a great part of the land, and finally took her prisoner, and laid her fast in ward, wherewith she took such grief, being a woman of a manly courage; and, despairing to recover liberty, there she slew herself.” Spenser, in the second book of ‘The Fairy Queen,” canto 10, has told the story of Lear and his daughters, in six stanzas, in which he has been content to put in verse, with very slight change or embellishment, the narrative of the chroniclers. The concluding stanza will be a sufficient specimen:

“So to his crown she him restor'd again,
In which he dy'd, made ripe for death by eld,
And after will'd it should to her remain;
Who peaceably the same long time did weld,
And all men's hearts in due obedience held;
Till that her sisters' children, woxen strong,
Through proud ambition against her rebell'd,
And overcomen, kept in prison long,
Till, weary of that wretched life, herself she


The story of Lear had unquestionably been

dramatised before Shakspere produced his tragedy. “The true Chronicle History of King Leir and his three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella, as it hath been divers and sundry times lately acted, was printed, probably for the first time, in 1605; but there can be no doubt that it belongs to a period some ten, fifteen, or perhaps twenty years earlier. In 1594 an entry was made at Stationers' Hall, of ‘The moste famous Chronicle Hystorie of Leire King of England, and his Three Daughters.’ Theobald calls this old play “an execrable performance;” Percy, “a very poor and dull performance;” and Capell, “a silly old play.” It is certainly all these, when compared with the wonderful production of Shakspere; but we are by no means certain that it is not as good as half the pieces which occupied the stage, and not unsuccessfully, at the very time that Shakspere had produced some of his most glorious works. We subjoin a scene which will enable our readers to compare it with the first scene of Shakspere's ‘Lear.’ “Lear. Dear Gonoril, kind Regan, sweet Cordelia,

Ye flourishing branches of a kingly stock, Sprung from a tree that once did flourish

green, Whose blossoms now are nipt with winter'sfrost, And pale grim death doth wait upon my steps, And summons me unto his next assizes. Therefore, dear daughters, as ye tender the safety Of him that was the cause of your first being, Resolve a doubt which much molests my mind, Which of you three to me would prove most kind; Which loves me most, and which at my request Will soonest yield unto their father's hest. “Gonoril. I hope, my gracious father makes no doubt Of any of his daughters' love to him: Yet, for my part, to show my zeal to you, Which cannot be in windy words rehears'd, , I prize my love to you at such a rate, I think my life inferior to my love. Should you enjoin me for to tie a millstone About my neck, and leap into the sea, At your command I willingly would do it: Yea, for to do you good, I would ascend The highest turret in all Brittany, And from the top leap headlong to the ground:

Nay, more, should you appoint me for to marry
The meanest vassal in the spacious world,
Without reply I would accomplish it:
In brief, command whatever you desire,
And, if I fail, no favour I require.
“Lear. Oh, how thy words revive my dying
soul! -
“Cordelia. Oh, how I do abhor this flattery :
“Lear. But what saith Regan to her
father's will 2
“Regan. Oh, that my simple utterance could
To tell the true intention of my heart,
Which burns in zeal of duty to your grace,
And never can be quench'd, but by desire
To show the same in outward forwardness.
Oh, that there were some other maid that
But make a challenge of her love with me;
I'd make her soon confess she never loved
Her father half so well as I do you.
I then my deeds should prove in plainer case,
How much my zeal aboundeth to your grace:
But for them all, let this one mean suffice
To ratify my love before your eyes:
I have right noble suitors to my love,
No worse than kings, and haply I love one:
Yet, would you have me make my choice anew,
I'd bridle fancy, and be ruled by you.
“Lear. Did never Philomel sing so sweet
a note.
“Cordelia. Did never flatterer tell so false
a tale.
“Lear. Speak now, Cordelia, make my joys
at full,
And drop down nectar from thy honey lips.
“Cordelia. I cannot paint my duty forth in
I hope my deeds shall make report for me:
But look what love the child doth owe the
The same to you I bear, my gracious lord.
“Gomoril. Here is an answer answerless
Were you my daughter, I should scarcely
brook it.
“Regan. Dost thou not blush, proud pea-
cock as thou art,
To make our father such a slight reply?
“Lear. Why how now, minion, are you
grown so proud?
Doth our dear love make you thus peremptory?
What, is your love become so small to us,
As that you scorn to tell us what it is?

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