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Kent. Alack, why thus ?
Yet Edmund was belov'd:
Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces. Edm. I pant for life:-Some good I mean to do, Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send, Be brief in it,—to the castle ; for my writ Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia :Nay, send in time.
Run, run, 0, runEdg. To who, my lord ?-Who has the office? send Thy token of reprieve.
Edm. Well thought on; take my sword, Give it the captain.
Alb. Haste thee, for thy life. [Exit EDGAR.
Edm. He hath commission from thy wife and me To hang Cordelia in the prison, and To lay the blame upon
her own despair, That she fordid? herself. Alb. The gods defend her ! Bear him hence awhile.
[EDMUND is borne off.
Enter Lear, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms ;
· EDGAR, Officer, and Others. Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!0, you are men
of stones; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack:-1, she is gone for
ever ! I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
7 Destroyed herself.
She's dead as earth :-Lend me a looking glass;
Is this the promis'd end ?8
Fall, and cease! 9
O my good master! [Kneeling. Lear. Pr'ythee, away. Edg.
'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
Oif. "Tis true, my lords, he did.
Did I not, fellow!
Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated, One of them we behold.
Lear. This is a dull sight: Are you not Kent ?
The same; Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius?
8 The end of the world, or the horrible circumstances pre
ceding it ?
Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that ; He'll strike, and quickly too :-He's dead and rotten.
Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man; Lear. I'll see that straight.
Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay, Have follow'd your sad steps. Lear.
You are welcome hither. Kent. Nor no man else ; all's cheerless, dark, and
deadly.-Your eldest daughters have fore-doom'd themselves, And desperately are dead. Lear.
Ay, so I think. Alb. He knows not what he says; and vain it is That we present us to him. Edg.
Enter an Officer.
Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.
That's but a trifle here.---
[To EDGAR and Kent. With boot, and such addition 4 as your honours Have more than merited.-All friends shall taste The
wages of their virtue, and all foes The cup of their deservings.-0, see, see!
Lear. And my poor fools is hang'd! No, no, no
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
[He dies. Edg.
He faints !-My lord, my lord, Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break! Edg.
Look up, my lord. Kent. Vex not his ghost: 0, let him pass !6 he
O, he is gone, indeed.
Alb. Bear them from hence. Our present business Is general woe. Friends of my soul, you twain
[To Kent and EDGAR. Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go ; My master calls, and I must not say, no.
Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey ; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most : we, that are young, Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
[Exeunt, with a dead March. The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dra. mas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene, So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.
5 Poor fuol, in the time of Shakspeare was an expression of
On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civi. lized, and of life regulated by softer manners ; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely de. scribes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.
My learned friend Mr. Warton, * who has in The AdvenTURER very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered by repeating, that the cruelty of the daughters is an historical fact, to which the poet has added little, having only drawn it into a series of dia. logue and action. But I am not able to apologize with equal
* Dr. Joseph Warton,