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So speedily can venge!-But, O poor Gloster! Lost he his other eye?
Both, both, my lord.This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer; 'Tis from your sister.
GON. [Aside.] One way I like this well;8 But being widow, and my Gloster with her, May all the building in my fancy' pluck Upon my hateful life: Another way,
The news is not so tart.-I'll read, and answer.
[Exit. ALB. Where was his son, when they did take his eyes?
MESS. Come with my lady hither.
He is not here.
MESS. No, my good lord; I met him back again. ALB. Knows he the wickedness?
MESS. Ay, my good lord; 'twas he inform'd against him;
And quit the house on purpose, that their punish
Might have the freer course.
other places in this play; and though printed rightly in the folio, is corrupted in the quarto in the same manner as here. Some copies of quarto B read, rightly-justicers, in the line before us. MALONE.
One way I like this well;] Goneril's plan was to poison her sister-to marry Edmund-to murder Albany-and to get possession of the whole kingdom. As the death of Cornwall facilitated the last part of her scheme, she was pleased at it; but disliked it, as it put it in the power of her sister to marry Edmund. M. MASON.
-all the building in my fancy-] So, in Coriolanus, Act II. se. i: "the buildings in my fancy." STeevens.
Gloster, I live
To thank thee for the love thou show'dst the king, And to revenge thine eyes.-Come hither, friend; Tell me what more thou knowest. [Exeunt.
The French Camp, near Dover.
Enter KENT, and a Gentleman.2
KENT. Why the king of France is so suddenly gone back know you the reason?
[Scene III.] This scene, left out in all the common books, is restored from the old edition; it being manifestly of Shakspeare's writing, and necessary to continue the story of Cordelia, whose behaviour is here most beautifully painted. POPE.
The scene seems to have been left out only to shorten the play, and is necessary to continue the action. It is extant only in the quarto, being omitted in the first folio. I have therefore put it between crotchets. JOHNSON.
a Gentleman.] The gentleman whom he sent in the foregoing act with letters to Cordelia. JOHNSON.
Why the king of France is so suddenly gone back &c.] The king of France being no longer a necessary personage, it was fit that some pretext for getting rid of him should be formed before the play was too near advanced towards a conclusion. Decency required that a Monarch should not be silently shuffled into the pack of insignificant characters; and therefore his dismission (which could be effected only by a sudden recall to his own dominions) was to be accounted for before the audience. For this purpose, among others, the present scene was introduced. It is difficult indeed to say what use could have been made of the King, had he appeared at the head of his own armament, and survived the murder of his queen. His conjugal concern on the occasion, might have weakened the effect of Lear's parental sorrow; and, being an object of respect as well as pity, he would naturally have divided the spectator's attention, and thereby diminished
GENT. Something he left imperfect in the state, Which since his coming forth is thought of; which Imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger, That his personal return was most requir'd,
KENT. Who hath he left behind him general? GENT. The Mareschal of France, Monsieur le Fer.
KENT. Did your letters pierce the demonstration of grief?
queen to any
GENT. Ay, sir;5 she took them, read them in my presence;
And now and then an ample tear trill'd down
O, then it mov'd her.
GENT. Not to a rage: patience and sorrow 6 strove
Who should express her goodliest. You have seen Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears
the consequence of Albany, Edgar, and Kent, whose exemplary virtues deserved to be ultimately placed in the most conspicuous point of view. STEEVENS.
The Mareschal of France, Monsieur le Fer.] Shakspeare seems to have been poor in the names of Frenchmen, or he would scarce have given us here a Monsieur le Fer as Mareschal of France, after he had appropriated the same appellation to a common soldier, who was fer'd, ferreted, and ferk'd, by Pistol in King Henry V. STEEVENS.
Ay, sir;] The quartos read-I say. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. MALone.
•patience and sorrow strove-] The quartos for strove have streme. Mr. Pope made the correction. MALONE.
Were like a better day:7 Those happy smiles,
Were like a better day:] It is plain, we should read-a wetter May, i. e. A spring season wetter than ordinary.
The thought is taken from Sidney's Arcadia, p. 244. tears came dropping down like rain in sunshine." Cordelia's behaviour on this occasion is apparently copied from Philoclea's. The same book, in another place, says,- "that her tears followed one another like a precious rope of pearl." The same comparison also occurs in a very scarce book, entitled A courtlie Controversie of Cupid's Cautels: &c. Translated from the French, &c. by H. W. [Henry Wotton] 4°. 1578. p. 289. "Who hath viewed in the spring time, raine and sunne-shine in one moment, might beholde the troubled countenance of the gentlewoman, after she had read and over-read the letters of her Floradin with an eye now smilyng, then bathed in teares." The quartos read—a better way, which may be an accidental
inversion of the M.
A better day, however, is the best day, and the best day is a day most favourable to the productions of the earth. Such are the days in which there is a due mixture of rain and sunshine.
It must be observed that the comparative is used by Milton and others, instead of the positive and superlative, as well as by Shakspeare himself, in the play before us:
"The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
Again, in Macbeth:
it hath cow'd my better part of man."
Go not my horse the better."
Mr. Pope makes no scruple to say of Achilles, that-
i. e. his best hand, his right. STEEVENS.
Doth not Dr. Warburton's alteration infer that Cordelia's sorrow was superior to her patience? But it seem'd that she was a queen over her passion; and the smiles on her lip appeared not to know that tears were in her eyes. "Her smiles and tears were like a better day," or "like a better May," may signify that they were like such a season where sunshine prevailed over rain. So, in All's well that ends well, Act V. sc. iii. we see in the king "sunshine and hail at once, but to the brightest beams distracted clouds give way: the time is fair again, and he is like a day of season," i. e. a better day. TOLLET.
That play'd on her ripe lip, seem'd not to know What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence,
Both the quartos read-a better way; which being perfectly unintelligible, I have adopted part of the emendation introduced by Dr. Warburton. The late editions have given-a better day, a reading which first appeared in a note of Mr. Theobald's. A better day, however it be understood, is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the context. If a better day means either a good day, or the best day, it cannot represent Cordelia's smiles and tears; for neither the one or the other necessarily implies rain, without which, there is nothing to correspond with her tears; nor can a rainy day, occasionally brightened by sunshine, with any propriety be called a good or the best day. We are compelled therefore to make some other change.
A better May, on the other hand, whether we understand by it, a good May, or a May better than ordinary, corresponds exactly with the preceding image; for in every May rain may be expected, and in a good, or a better May than ordinary, the sunshine, like Cordelia's smiles, will predominate. With respect to the corrupt reading, I have no great faith in the inversion of the w at the press, and rather think the error arose in some other way.
Mr. Steevens has quoted a passage from Sidney's Arcadia, which Shakspeare may have had in view. Perhaps the following passage, in the same book, p. 163, edit. 1593, bears a still nearer resemblance to that before us: "And with that she prettily smiled, which mingled with her tears, one could not tell whether it were a mourning pleasure, or a delightful sorrow; but like when a few April drops are scattered by a gentle zephyrus among fine-coloured flowers." MALONE.
Mr. Malone reads-a better May. As objections may be started against either reading, I declare my inability to decide between them. I have therefore left that word in the text which I found in possession of it.
We might read
Were like an April day:
So, in Troilus and Cressida: "—he will weep you, an 'twere a man born in April."
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra:
"The April's in her eyes: it is love's spring,
"And these the showers to bring it on." STEEvens.
smiles,] The quartos read-smilets. This may be a
diminutive of Shakspeare's coinage. STEEVENS.