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This is certainly fine : no wonder that Lear says after it, “O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heavens," feeling its effects by anticipation : but fine as is this burst of rage and indignation at the first blow aimed at his hopes and expectations, it is nothing near so fine as what follows from his double disappointment, and his lingering efforts to see which of them be shall lean upon for support and find comfort in, when both of his daughters turn against his age and weakness. It is with some difficulty that Lear gets to speak with his daughter Regan, and her husband, at Gloster's castle. In concert with Gonerill, they have left their own home on purpose to avoid him. His apprehensions are first alarmed by this circumstance, and when Gloster, whose guests they are, urges the fiery temper of the Duke of Cornwall as an excuse for not importuning him a second time, Lear breaks out,
“ Vengeance! Plague! Death! Confusion ! Fiery? What fiery qualityWhy, Gloster,
P'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife." Afterwards, feeling perhaps not well himself, he is inclined to admit their excuse from illness, but then recollecting that they have set his messenger (Kent) in the stocks, all his suspicions are roused again, and he insists on seeing them. The scene which ensues is of the higher power. If there is anything ir, any author like the yearning of the heart, the throes of tender. ness, the profound expression of all that can be thought and felt in the most heart-rending situations that it exhibits, we are glad of it; but it is in some author that we have not read.
The scene in the storm, where Lear is exposed to all the fury of the elements, though grand and terrible, is not so fine ; but the moralising scenes with mad Tom, Kent, and Gloster, are upon a par with the former. His exclamation in the supposed trial scene of his daughters, " See, the little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark al me;" his issuing his orders, “Let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds about he's heart;" and his reflection when he sees the misery of Ealgar,
Nothing but his unkind daughters could have brought him to this ;" are in a style of pathos, where the extremes resources of tho imagination are called in to lay open the deepest movements of the heart, which was peculiar to Shakspeare. In the same style and spirit is his interrupting the Fool, who asks, “ whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman,” by answer. ing “A king, a king!"
The indirect part that Gloster takes in these scenes, where his generosity leads him to relieve Lear and resent the cruelty of his daughters, at the very time that he is himself instigated to seek the life of his son, and suffering under the sting of his supposed ingratitude, is a striking accompaniment to the situation of Lear. Indeed, the manner in which the threads of the story are woven together is almost as wonderful in the way of art as the carrying on the tide of passion, still varying and unimpaired, is on the score of nature. Among the remarkable instances of this kind are Edgar's meeting with his old blind father; the deception he practises upon him when he pretends to lead him to the top of Dover-cliff_"Come on, sir, here's the place," to prevent his ending his life and miseries together; his encounter with the perfidious Steward, whom he kills, and his finding the letter from Gonerill to his brother upon him, which leads to the final catastrophe, and brings the wheel of Justice “full circle home" to the guilty parties. The bustle and rapid succession of events in the last scenes is surprising. But the meeting between Lear and Cordelia is by far the most affecting part of them. It has all th
the wildness of poetry, and all the heartfelt truth of nature. The previous account of her reception of the news of his unkind treatment, her involuntary reproaches to her sisters, “Shame, ladies, shame,” Lear's backwardness to see his daughter, the picture of the desolate state to which he is reduced, “ Alack, 'tis he; why he was met even now, as mad as the vex'd sea, singing aloud," only prepare the way and heighten our expectation of what follows, and assuredly this expectation is not disappointed when, through the tender care of Cordelia, he revives and recollects her. I toj
* CORDELIA. How does my royal lord? How fares your majesty!
LEAR. You do me wrong, to take me out of the grave:
they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that rich sea, his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on ; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see nothing but corporal infirmities and weakness, the impotence of rage ; while we read it, we see not Lear, but we are Lear;-we are in his mind, we are sustained by a grandeur, which baffles the malice of daughters and storms; in the aberrations of his reason, we discover a mighty irregular power of reasoning, immethodised from the ordinary purposes of life, but exerting its powers, as the wind blows where it listetb, at will on the corruptions and abuses of mankind. What have looks or tones to do with that sublime identification of his age with that of the heavens themselves, when in his reproaches to them for conniving at the injustice of his children, he reminds them that "they themselves are old !" What gesture shall we appropriate to this! What has the voice or the eye to do with such things? But the play is beyond all art, as the tamperings with it show : it is too hard and stony: it must have love-scenes, and a happy ending. It is not enough that Cordelia is a daughter, she must shine as a lover too. Tate has put his book in the nostrils of this Leviathan, for Garrick and his followers, the showmen of the scene, to draw it about more easily. A happy ending as if the living martyrdom that Lear had gone through,—the flaying of his feelings alive, did not make a fair dismissal from the stage of life the only decorous thing for him. If he is to live and be happy after, if he could sustain this world's burden after, why all this pudder and preparationwhy torment us with all this unnecessary sympathy! As if the childish pleasure of getting his gilt robes and sceptre again could tempt him to act over again his misused station, -as if as his years and with his experience, anything was left but to die."
Four things have struck us in reading LEAR: 1. That poetry is an interesting study, for this reason, thas
See an article, called Theatralia, in the second volume of the Reflectere by Charles Lamb.
it relates to whatever is most interesting in human life. Whoever therefore has a contempt for poetry, has a contempt for himself and humanity.
2. That the language of poetry is superior to the language of painting; because the strongest of our recollections relate to feelings, not to faces.
3. That the greatest strength of genius is shown in describing the strongest passions: for the power of the imagination, in works of invention, must be in proportion to the force of the natural impressions, which are the subject of them.
4. That the circumstance which balances the pleasure against the pain in tragedy, is, that in proportion to the greatness of the evil, is our sense and desire of the opposite good excited ; and that our sympathy with actual suffering is lost in the strong impulse given to our natural affections, and carried away with the swelling tide of passion, that gushes from and relieves the heart and to
RICHARD II. is a play little known compared with Richard III., which last is a play that every unfledged candidate for theatrical fame chooses to strut and fret his hour upon the stage in ; yet we confess that we prefer the nature and feeling of the one to the noise and bustle of the other; at least, as we are so often forced to see it acted. In RICKARD II., the weakness of the king leaves us leisure to take a greater interest in the misfor. tunes of the man. After the first act, in which the arbitrariness of his behavior only proves his want of resolution, we see him staggering under the unlooked for blows of fortune, bewailing his loss of kingly power, not preventing it, sinking under the aspiring genius of Bolingbroke, his authority trampled on, his hopes failing him, and his pride crushed and broken down under insults and injuries, which his own misconduct has provoked, but which he has not courage or manliness to resent. The change of tone and behavior in the two competitors for the throne, according to their change of fortune, from the capricious sentence of banishment passed by Richard upon Bolingbroke, the suppliant offers and modest pretensions of the latter on his return, to the high and haughty tone with which he accepts Richard's resignation of the crown after the loss of all his power, the use which he makes of the deposed king to grace his triumphal pro. gress through the streets of London, and the final intimation of his wish for his death, which immediately finds a servile execu. tioner, is marked throughout with complete effect, and without the slightest appearance of effort. The steps by which Bolingbroke mounts the throne, are those by which Richard sinks into the grave. We feel neither respect nor love for the deposed