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aggravates the sense of sympathy in the reader, and of uncontroulable anguish in the swoln heart of Lear, is the petrifying indifference, the cold, calculating, obdurate selfishness of his daughters. His keen passions seem whetted on, their stony hearts. The contrast would be too painful, the shock too great, but for the intervention of the Fool, whose welltimed levity comes in to break the continuity of feeling, when it can no longer be borne, and to bring into play again the fibres of the heart just as they are growing rigid from over-strained excitement. The imagination is glad to. take refuge in the half-comic, half-serious comments of the Fool, just as the mind under the extreme anguish of a surgical operation vents itself in sallies of wit. The character was also a grotesque ornament of the barbarous times, in which alone the tragic ground-work of the story could be laid. In another point of view it is indispensable, inasmuch as while it is a diversion to the too great intensity of our disgust, it carries the pathos to the highest pitch of which it is capable, by shewing the pitiable weakness of the old king's conduct and its irretrievable consequences in the most familiar point of view. Lear may well " beat at the gate which let his folly in," after, as the Fool says, " he has made his daughters his mother's." The character is
dropped in the third act to make room for the entrance of Edgar as Mad Tom, which well accords with the increasing bustle and wildness of the incidents; and nothing can be more complete than the distinction between Lear's real and Edgar's assumed madness, while the resemblance in the cause of their distresses, from the severing of the nearest ties of natural affection, keeps up a unity of interest. Shakespear's mastery over his subject, if it was not art, was owing to a knowledge of the connecting links of the passions, and their effect upon the mind, still more wonderful than any systematic adherence to rules, and that anticipated and outdid all the efforts of the most refined art, not inspired and rendered instinctive by genius.
One of the most perfect displays of dramatic power is the first interview between Lear and his daughter, after the designed affronts upon him, which till one of his knights reminds him of them, his sanguine temperament had led him to overlook. He returns with his train from hunting, and his usual impatience breaks out in his first words, "Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go, get it ready." He then encounters the faithful Kent in disguise, and retains him in his service; and the first trial of his honest duty is to trip up the heels of the officious Steward who makes so prominent and despicable a figure through the piece. On the entrance of Gonerill the following dialogue takes place:—*
"Lear. How now, daughter? what makes that frontlet on?
Methinks, you are too much of late i' the frown.
Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow, when thou had'st no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou
art nothing. Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; [To
Gonerill.•] so your face bids me, though you say nothing.
He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
That's a sheal'd peascod! [Pointing to Lear.
Gonerill. Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd fool,
The hedge sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Lear. Are you our daughter?
Gonerill. Come, sir, / I would, you would make use of that good wisdom Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away These dispositions, which of late transform you From what you rightly are.
Fool. May not an ass know when the cart draws the
horse? Whoop, Jug, I love thee.
Lear. Does any here know me? Why, this is not
Does Lear walk thus? speak thus ?—Where are his eyes?
Are lethargy'd Ha! waking ?—'Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am'—Lear's shadow?
I should be false persuaded I had daughters-
Your name, fair gentlewoman?
Gonerill. Come, sir:
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
And the remainder, that shall still depend, , , • •
Lear. Darkness and devils l..- —
Saddle my horses; call my train together. 1
Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee;
Gonerill. You strike my people; and your disorder'd rabble
Make servants of their betters.
Lear. Woe, that too late repents—O, sir, are you come?
Is it your will? speak, sir.—Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou shew'st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster!
Albany. Pray, sir, be patient.
Lear. Detested kite! thou hest. [lb Gonerill.
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia shew!
Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
From the fixt place; drew from my heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at the gate, that let thy folly in, [Striking his head.
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people!
Albany. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant Of what hath mov'd you.
Lear. It may be so, my lord
Hear, nature, hear! dear goddess, hear!