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BUILDING wisely on legendary tale and simple ballad, -those sure foundations for him who seeks to interest the public heart, the mighty architect has raised, in "LEAR," a structure before whose giant beauties Criticism stands rebuked, in silent and boundless admiration:- as the traveller ascending the Peak of Teneriffe intent to measure its height, suspends his scientific labours in spellbound contemplation of the magnificent scene that on every side lies spread before him.

The story of the aged monarch, self-willed and impetuous, yet still " more sinned against than sinning," is told, with various modifications, by many ancient writers; but the narrative of Holinshed was probably the immediate source of the poet's inspiration. There is, moreover, an older play than Shakspere's on the subject, called "The true Chronicle History of King Leir and his three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella." Of this very inferior, although not merit


less effort, he has undoubtedly availed himself, but not to such extent as to impugn the essential originality of his own great work.

It is remarkable that both Holinshed and the older dramatist have given a prosperous termination to the legend, so far at least as Lear himself is implicated. In so doing, they have doubtless fallen in with the general yearning for poetic justice: but whether it were wise to wish that Shakspere had in this respect adhered to his supposed authorities, may well admit of question. The force and splendour of his execution naturally induce the thought that he has chosen for the best in working out his plot let us, then, be content to inherit the invaluable legacy on such conditions as the donor has imposed, nor seek to tamper with the genuine document. The profane attempts at emendation, by Tate's berouged and smirking muse, are so amusingly vile, that indignation soon relieves itself in laughter. Lear, as a suitable climax to much previous fustian, is made, in the last Act, to call upon the winds to catch certain joyous sounds," and bear them on their rosy wings to heaven." The love passages, too, between the daring laureate's facetiously "wretched Edgar," and no less comical " Cordelia, royal fair," betray a master in the school of unconscious burlesque: they are sacrifices dear to Momus, although Melpomene affects them not.

In Percy's "RELIQUES," there is a reprint of "A lamentable Song of the Death of King Leir and his three Daughters," in which the o'er-afflicted father expires with grief for the loss of Cordelia, who is slain in the battle fought to recover his kingdom. This production was originally published without a date, but is, with great probability, thought to have appeared before the play of Shakspere: and from this popular ballad he may have derived the tragic catastrophe he has deemed it expedient to adopt. The episode of Edmund and Edgar, so skilfully interwoven with the main plot of "LEAR," is founded on the story of the blind King of Paphlagonia, in Sidney's "ARCADIA." The Leonatus of the tale is Edgar in the play.

Shakspere's "LEAR" was first published in 1608, with this "full and particular" title-page :-“ Mr. William Shake-speare, his true Chronicle History of the Life and Death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate Life of Edgar, Sonne and Heire to the Earle of Glocester, and his sullen and assumed humour of Tom of Bedlam. As it was plaid before the King's Majesty at White-hall, upon S. Stephens Night, in Christmas Holidaies. By his Majesties Servants playing usually on the Banck-side. Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Paul's Churchyard, at the signe of the Pied Bull, neere St. Austin's Gate, 1608." There were two other editions of the play published by the same bookseller, in the same year; but, notwithstanding these indubitable evidences of popularity, the play, for some inexplicable reason, was not again reprinted till its appearance in the original folio of 1623.

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indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault? Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.

Glo. But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Though this knave came somewhat saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair: there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. -Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund? Edm. No, my lord.

Glo. My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.

Edm. My services to your lordship.

Kent. I must love you, and sue to know you better.

Edm. Sir, I shall study deserving.

Glo. He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.-The King is coming.

[Trumpets sound within.

REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants.
Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,

Glo. I shall, my liege.

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Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.

Reg. I am made of that self metal as my sister, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love: Only she comes too short, that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys

Which the most precious square of sense possesses, And find I am alone felicitate

In your dear highness' love.

Then poor Cordelia!


And yet not so, since I am sure my love's
More richer than my tongue.

Lear. To thee and thine, hereditary ever,
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that confirmed on Goneril.-Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France, and milk of Burgundy,
Strive to be interessed; what can you say, to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
Cor. Nothing, my lord.

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Come not between the dragon and his wrath:

I loved her most, and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery.-Hence, and avoid my sight! [TO CORDELIA.

So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father's heart from her!-Call France :-
who stirs?

Call Burgundy.-Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters' dowers digest this third:
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty.-Ourself, by monthly


With reservation of an hundred knights,
By you to be sustained, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name and all the additions to a king;

The sway,

Revénue, execution of the rest,

Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part between you. [ Giving the crown.
Kent. Royal Lear,

Whom I have ever honoured as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master followed,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,-
Lear. The bow is bent and drawn: make from
the shaft.

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