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REG. Wherefore to Dover?
GLO. Because I would not see thy cruel nails Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.+
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
If wolves had at thy gate howl'd that stern time,"
Again, B. V. c. iii:
stick boarish fangs.] The quartos read-rash boarish fangs. This verb occurs in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. IV. c. ii: "And shields did share, and mailes did rash, and helmes did hew."
"They have chain'd me to a stake; I cannot fly,
Rashing off helmes, and ryving plates asunder."
To rash is the old hunting term for the stroke made by a wild boar with his fangs.
So, in Chapman's version of the eleventh Iliad:
"Turn head gainst kennels of bold hounds, and race way through their gores." STEEVENS.
to rain.] Thus the folio. The quartos read-to rage. STEEVENS.
that stern time,] Thus the folio. Both the quartos read-that dearn time. Dearn is a north-country word, signifying lonely, solitary, secret, obscure, melancholy, uncomfortable, far from neighbours. So, in The Valiant Scot:
"Of all thy joys the dearne and dismal end." Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. II. c. i:
They heard a rueful voice that dearnly cride." Again, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609:
By many a dearne and painful pearch."
The reading in the text, however, is countenanced by the following passage in Chapman's version of the 24th Iliad:
in this so sterne a time
"Of night and danger,-." STEEVENS.
Thou should'st have said, Good porter, turn the key;
Upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot. [GLOSTER is held down in his Chair, while CORNWALL plucks out one of his Eyes, and sets his Foot on it.
GLO. He, that will think to live till he be old, Give me some help :-O cruel! O ye gods! REG. One side will mock another; the other too. CORN. If you see vengeance,— Hold your hand, my lord: I have serv'd you ever since I was a child; But better service have I never done you, Than now to bid you hold.
How now, you dog?
REG. SERV. If you did wear a beard upon your chin, I'd shake it on this quarrel: What do
CORN. My villain!?
you mean? [Draws, and runs at him.
7-subscrib'd:] Yielded, submitted to the necessity of the occasion. JOHNSON.
Upon these eyes &c.] In Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, one of the sons of Bajazet pulls out the eyes of an Aga on the stage, and says
"Yes, thou shalt live, but never see that day, "Wanting the tapers that should give thee light. ["Pulls out his eyes." Immediately after, his hands are cut off. I have introduced this passage to show that Shakspeare's drama was not more sanguinary than that of his contemporaries. STEEVENS.
In Marston's Antonio's Revenge, 1602, Piero's tongue is torn out on the stage. MALONE.
9 My villain!] Villain is here perhaps used in its original sense of one in servitude. STEEVENS.
SERV. Nay, then come on, and take the chance of anger.
[Draws. They fight. CORNWALL is wounded. REG. Give me thy sword.-[To another Serv.] A peasant stand up thus!
[Snatches a Sword, comes behind, and stabs him. SERV. O, I am slain !-My lord, you have one eye left [Dies.
To see some mischief on him :-O !
CORN. Lest it see more, prevent it:—Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?
[Tears out GLOSTER'S other Eye, and throws it on the Ground.
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature,
GLO. All dark and comfortless.-Where's my son Edmund ?
Out, treacherous villain! Thou call'st on him that hates thee: it was he That made the overture of thy treasons' to us; Who is too good to pity thee.
O my follies!
Then Edgar was abus'd.—
His way to Dover.-How is't, my lord? How look you?
the overture of thy treasons-] Overture is here used for an opening or discovery. It was he who first laid thy treasons open to us. Coles in his Dict. 1679, renders Overture, by apertior apertura. An overt act of treason, is the technical phrase. MALONE.
CORN. I have receiv'd a hurt:-Follow me, lady.
Turn out that eyeless villain;-throw this slave Upon the dunghill.-Regan, I bleed apace : Untimely comes this hurt: Give me your arm. [Exit CORNWALL, led by REGAN ;-Servants unbind GLOSTER, and lead him out.
1 SERV. I'll never care what wickedness I do," If this man comes to good.
2 SERV. If she live long, And, in the end, meet the old course of death,3 Women will all turn monsters.
1 SERV. Let's follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would; his roguish madness Allows itself to any thing.
2 SERV. Go thou; I'll fetch some flax,* and whites of eggs,
To apply to his bleeding face. him!
Now, heaven help [Exeunt severally.
I'll never care what wickedness I do,] This short dialogue I have inserted from the old quarto, because I think it full of nature. Servants could hardly see such a barbarity committed on their master, without pity; and the vengeance that they presume must overtake the actors of it, is a sentiment and doctrine well worthy of the stage. THEOBALD.
It is not necessary to suppose them the servants of Gloster; for Cornwall was opposed to extremity by his own servant.
JOHNSON. meet the old course of death,] That is, die a natural death. MALONE.
some flax, &c.] This passage is ridiculed by Ben Jonson, in The Case is alter'd, 1609: " go, get a white of an egg, and a little flax, and close the breaches of the head, it is the most conducible thing that can be."
ACT IV. SCENE I.
EDG. Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd,5
The Case is alter'd was written before the end of the year 1599; but Ben Jonson might have inserted this sneer at our author, between the time of King Lear's appearance, and the publication of his own play in 1609. MALONE.
5 Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd,] The meaning is, 'Tis better to be thus contemned, and known to yourself to be contemned. Or perhaps there is an error, which may be rectified thus:
Yet better thus unknown to be contemn'd.
When a man divests himself of his real character he feels no pain from contempt, because he supposes it incurred only by a voluntary disguise which he can throw off at pleasure. I do not think any correction necessary. JOHNSON.
The sentiment is this :-It is better to be thus contemn'd and know it, than to be flattered by those who secretly contemn us. HENLEY.
I cannot help thinking that this passage should be written thus: Yet better thus unknown to be contemn'd,
Than still contemn'd and flatter'd to be worse.
The lowest, &c.
The quarto edition has no stop after flatter'd. The first folio, which has a comma there, has a colon at the end of the line.
The expression in this speech-owes nothing to thy blasts(in a more learned writer) might seem to be copied from Virgil, En. xi. 51:
"Nos juvenem exanimum, et nil jam cœlestibus ullis
I think with Mr. Tyrwhitt that Dr. Johnson's conjecture is well founded, and that the poet wrote-unknown. MALONE.