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You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
proach to Albany for having neglected her; though you disregard me thus, I have been worth the whistle, I have found one that thinks me worth calling. JOHNSON.
This expression is a proverbial one. Heywood in one of his dialogues, consisting entirely of proverbs, says:
"It is a poor dog that is not worth the whistling."
Goneril's meaning seems to be--There was a time when you would have thought me worth the calling to you; reproaching him for not having summoned her to consult with on the present critical occasion. STEEVENS.
I think Mr. Steevens's interpretation the true one. Malone. --I fear your disposition:] These words, and the lines. that follow to monsters of the deep, are found in the quartos, but are improperly omitted in the folio. They are necessary, as Mr. Pope has observed, " to explain the reasons of the detestation which Albany here expresses to his wife." MALONE.
2 That nature, which contemns its origin,
Cannot be border'd certain in itself;] The sense is, That nature which is arrived to such a pitch of unnatural degeneracy, as to contemn its origin, cannot from thenceforth be restrained within any certain bounds, but is prepared to break out into the most monstrous excesses every way, as occasion or temptation may offer. Heath.
3 She that herself will sliver and disbranch-] To sliver signifies to tear off or disbranch. So, in Macbeth:
66 slips of yew
"Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse." WARBURTON.
She that herself will sliver and disbranch
From her material sap,] She who breaks the bonds of filial duty, and becomes wholly alienated from her father, must wither and perish, like a branch separated from that sap which supplies it with nourishment, and gives life to the matter of which it is composed. So, in A Brief Chronycle concernynge
And come to deadly use.5
GON. No more; the text is foolish.
ALB. Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile:
Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?
the Examinacyon and Death of Syr Johan Oldcastle, 1544: "Then sayd the lorde Cobham, and spredde his armes abrode: This is a very crosse, yea and so moche better than your crosse of wode, in that yt was created as God: yet will I not seeke to have yt worshipped. Than sayd the byshop of London, Syr, ye wote wele that he dyed on a materyall crosse.'
Mr. Theobald reads maternal, and Dr. Johnson thinks that the true reading. Syr John Froissart's Chronicle (as Dr. Warburton has observed) in the title-page of the English translation printed in 1525, is said to be translated out of French to our material English Tongue by John Bourchier. And I have found material (from mater) used in some other old books for maternal, but neglected to note the instances. I think, however, that the word is here used in its ordinary sense. Maternal sap (or any synonymous words,) would introduce a mixed and confused metaphor. Material sap is strictly correct. From the word herself to the end, the branch was the figurative object of the poet's thought. MALONE.
Throughout the plays of our author I do not recollect a single instance of the adjective-maternal. STEEVENS.
And come to deadly use.] Alluding to the use that witches and inchanters are said to make of wither'd branches in their charms. A fine insinuation in the speaker, that she was ready for the most unnatural mischief, and a preparative of the poet to her plotting with the bastard against her husband's life.
Dr. Warburton might have supported his interpretation by the passage in Macbeth, quoted in the preceding page, n. 3.
—would lick,] This line, which had been omitted by all my predecessors, I have restored from the quartos. STEEVENS.
Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
GON. Milk-liver'd man! That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs; Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know'st, Fools do those villains pity,' who are punish'd Ere they have done their mischief. Where's thy
France spreads his banners in our noiseless land; With plumed helm thy slayer begins threats;
these vile offences,] In some of the impressions of quarto B, we find-this vile offences; in others, and in quarto A,-the vile. This was certainly a misprint for these.
Like monsters of the deep.] Fishes are the only animals that are known to prey upon their own species. JOHNSON.
that not know'st, &c.] The rest of this speech is omitted in the folio. STEEVENS.
Fools do those villains pity, &c.] She means, that none but fools would pity those villains, who are prevented from executing their malicious designs, and punished for their evil intention. It is not clear whether this fiend means her father, or the King of France. If these words were intended to have a retrospect to Albany's speech, which the word pity might lead us to suppose, Lear must be in her contemplation; if they are considered as connected with what follows-Where's thy drum? &c. the other interpretation must be adopted. The latter appears to me the true one; and perhaps the punctuation of the quarto, in which there is only a comma after the word mischief, ought to have been preferred. Malone.
I do not perceive to what the word-fiend, in the fourth line of the foregoing note, refers. STEEVENS.
Whilst thou, a moral fool, sit'st still, and cry'st, Alack! why does he so?
O vain fool!
ALB. Thou changed and self-cover'd thing,' for shame,
Be-monster not thy feature. Were it my fitness
Proper deformity-] i. e. Diabolick qualities appear not so horrid in the devil, to whom they belong, as in woman, who unnaturally assumes them. WARBURTON.
Thou changed and self-cover'd thing,] Of these lines there is but one copy, and the editors are forced upon conjecture. They have published this line thus:
Thou chang'd, and self-converted thing,
But I cannot but think that by self-cover'd the author meant, thou that hast disguised nature by wickedness; thou that hast hid the woman under the fiend. JOHNSON.
This, and the next speech, are wanting in the folio.
The following words, be-monster not thy nature, seem rather to support the reading of the former editors, which was selfconverted; and a thought somewhat similar occurs in Fletcher's play of The Captain, where the father says to Lelia
Oh, good God,
"To what an impudence, thou wretched woman,
By thou self-cover'd thing, the poet, I think, means, thou who hast put a covering on thyself, which nature did not give thee. The covering which Albany means, is, the semblance and appearance of a fiend. MALONE.
Self-cover'd, perhaps, was said in allusion to the envelope which the maggots of some insects furnish to themselves. Ör the poet might have referred to the operation of the silk-worm, that
·labours till it clouds itself all o'er." STEEVENS.
♦ Be-monster not thy feature.] Feature, in Shakspeare's age, meant the general cast of countenance, and often beauty. Bul
To let these hands obey my blood,5
GON. Marry, your manhood now!
Enter a Messenger.
ALB. What news?
MESS. O, my good lord, the duke of Cornwall's dead;
Slain by his servant, going to put out
MESS. A servant that he bred, thrill'd with remorse,
Oppos'd against the act, bending his sword
ALB. This shows you are above, You justicers," that these our nether crimes
lokar, in his Expositor, 1616, explains it by the words, "handsomeness, comeliness, beautie." MALONE.
To let these hands obey my blood,] As this line wants a foot, perhaps our author wrote
To let these hands of mine obey my blood,-. So, in King John:
This hand of mine
"Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand." STEEVENS, and amongst them fell'd him dead:] i. e. they (Cornwall and his other servants) amongst them fell'd him dead.
You justicers,] Most of the old copies have justices; but it was certainly a misprint. The word justicer is used in two