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EDM. In wisdom, I should ask thy name;' But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, And that thy tongue some 'say of breeding breathes,' What safe and nicely I might well delay2 By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn: Back do I toss these treasons to thy head; With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart; Which, (for they yet glance by, and scarcely bruise,) This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
9 In wisdom, I should ask thy name;] Because, if his adversary was not of equal rank, Edmund might have declined the combat. Hence the herald proclaimed-" If any man of quality, or degree," &c. So Goneril afterwards says
"By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer "An unknown opposite." MALONE.
And that thy tongue some 'say of breeding breathes,] 'Say, for essay, some show or probability.
Say is sample, a taste. So, in Sidney: invites the eye
"So good a say
"A little downward to espy
Again, in the Preface to Maurice Kyffin's translation of the Andria of Terence, 1588: "Some other like places I could recite, but these shall suffice for a say."
Again, in Revenge for Honour, by Chapman :
"Take the first say of her yourselves—.” Again, in The Unnatural Combat, by Massinger:
or to take
"A say of venison, or stale fowl.”—
Again, in Holinshed, p. 847: " He (C. Wolsey) made dukes and erles to serve him of wine, with a say taken," &c. To take the assaie was the technical term. STEEVENS.
What safe and nicely &c.] The phraseology is here very licentious. I suppose the meaning is, That delay which by the law of knighthood I might make, I scorn to make. Nicely is, punctiliously; if I stood on minute forms. This line is not in the quartos; and furnishes one more proof of what readers are so slow to admit, that a whole line is sometimes omitted at the press. The subsequent line without this is nonsense. See Vol. XIV. p. 351, n. 8; and Vol. VI. p. 188, n. 3. MALONE.
Where they shall rest for ever.3-Trumpets, speak. [Alarums. They fight. EDMUND falls.
ALB. O save him, save him!
This is mere practice, Gloster:* By the law of arms,5 thou wast not bound to answer 6
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish'd, But cozen'd and beguil'd.
ALB. Shut your mouth, dame, Or with this paper shall I stop it:-Hold, sir:Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil :No tearing, lady; I perceive, you know it.
[Gives the Letter to EDMUND.
GON. Say, if I do; the laws are mine, not thine: Who shall arraign me for't?
Where they shall rest for ever.] To that place, where they shall rest for ever; i. e. thy heart. MALONE.
4 Alb. O save him, save him!
Gon. This is mere practice, Gloster:] Thus all the copies; but I have ventured to place the two hemistichs to Goneril. "Tis absurd that Albany, who knew Edmund's treasons, and his own wife's passion for him, should be solicitous to have his life saved. THEOBALD.
Albany desires that Edmund's life might be spared at present, only to obtain his confession, and to convict him openly by his own letter. JOHNSON.
The words-Hold, sir, in Albany's next speech, show that the old copies are right. MALone.
By the law of arms,] So the quartos.
6 thou wast not bound to answer-] reads
One of the quartos
hou art not bound to offer &c. STEEVENS.
7 Most monstrous!] So the quarto of which the first signature is B, and the folio. The other quarto reads-Monster, know'st thou this paper? The folio-Most monstrous, O know'st, &c. MALONE.
Know'st thou this
Ask me not what I know.
[Exit GONERIL. ALB. Go after her: she's desperate; govern her. [To an Officer, who goes out. EDM. What you have charg'd me with, that have I done;
And more, much more: the time will bring it out;
Let's exchange charity."
EDM. Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true; The wheel is come full circle;' I am here. ALB. Methought, thy very gait did prophecy
"Knowest thou these letters?" says Leir to Ragan, in the old anonymous play, when he shows her both her own and her sister's letters, which were written to procure his death. Upon which she snatches the letters and tears them. STEEvens.
"Let's exchange charity.] Our author, by negligence, gives his Heathens the sentiments and practices of Christianity. In Hamlet there is the same solemn act of final reconciliation, but with exact propriety, for the personages are Christians: "Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet," &c.
to scourge us:] Thus the quartos. The folio reads: to plague us. STEEVENS.
-full circle;] Quarto, full circled. JOHNSON.
A royal nobleness :-I must embrace thee;
Where have you hid yourself? How have you known the miseries of your father? EDG. By nursing them, my lord.-List a brief tale;
I know it well.2
And, when'tis told, O, that my heart would burst!—
I know it well.] The adverb-well, was supplied by Sir Thomas Hanmer for the sake of metre. STEEVENS.
That with the pain of death &c.] Thus both the quartos. The folio reads unintelligibly, That we the pain, &c. The original copies have would; but this was, I apprehend, a misprint in those copies for would, i. e. we would or, as we should now write it, we'd. In The Tempest we have sh'ould for she would. See Vol. IV. p. 63, n. 7. MALONE.
The bloody proclamation to escape,
-taught me to shift-] A wish to escape the bloody proclamation, taught me, &c. MALONE.
$ his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost;] So, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609:
"Her eye-lids, cases to those heavenly jewels
Until some half hour past, when I was arm'd,
This speech of yours hath mov'd me, And shall, perchance, do good: but speak you on; You look as you had something more to say.
ALB. If there be more, more woful, hold it in; For I am almost ready to dissolve, Hearing of this.
This would have seem'd a period To such as love not sorrow; but another, To amplify too-much, would make much more, And top extremity.7
[Edg.] The lines between crotchets are not in the folio.
To amplify too-much, would make much more,
And top extremity.] The reader easily sees that this reflection refers to the Bastard's desiring to hear more; and to Albany's thinking he had said enough. But it is corrupted into miserable nonsense. We should read it thus:
This would have seem'd a period. But such
To much, would make much more, and top extremity. i. e. This to a common humanity would have been thought the utmost of my sufferings; but such as love cruelty are always for adding more to much, till they reach the extremity of misery.
The sense may probably be this: This would have seemed a period to such as love not sorrow; but another, i. e. but I must add another, i. e. another period, another kind of conclusion to my story, such as will increase the horrors of what has been already told. So, in King Richard II: