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Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly;
So distribution should undo excess
And each man have enough.

And Edgar says the same thing again in the fields near Dover when, in the disguise of a peasant, he meets his father.

Glou. Now, good sir, what are you u?
EDGAR. A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows;

Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,

Am pregnant to good pity. Observe that all these sentiments are perfectly natural in the mouths of all these characters, because of the antiphonal basis on which the whole play is set up. The inner structure of “King Lear," and the reinforcements of character by character, and effect by effect, are what make it the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies.

The power of iteration on the stage was never better illustrated. Every speech strikes in the same spot on the same musical anvil. Before Lear actually goes mad, he prophesies eight times, in crescendo, that he is about to go mad. Perhaps the true resemblance between Shakespeare's tragedies and Greek tragedy is to be found in this passion of Shakespeare for converging repetitions of thought.

In producing this play, its inner structure must be borne in mind. Unless the underplots and minor characters are staged in an interesting way, the play will lose half its power; for it is upon the strings of these half-heard instruments that the resonance of the whole depends. The entire text cannot be given, it is too long: the problem is to keep the tale moving by using the vital parts of it. Much costume, much scenery, or a too elaborate storm, will kill the drama. We should accept the conventions of a crude symbolism, and patch together the scenes with a free Elizabethan hand, so that a child or an ignorant person can follow the story.

Shakespeare often uses a change of scene as we to-day use a drop curtain -- merely to break in upon a long interview, and give variety.

Thus, the scene where Kent is in the stocks is divided by the apparition of Edgar on the heath. The madness of Lear in the hovel scene is separated from his madness at the farmhouse by a short and very dull interview between the two villains, Edmund and Cornwall.

The whole of this play, after the opening pageant of the abdication, is a medley of detached scenes: it is in form a scatterbrained play, and in substance the most solid thing in human drama.

One more kind of iteration in it must be noticed. Part of the pathos in “Lear” comes from the way in which the old gentleman is haled about from one place to another.

We see him first refused admittance at Albany's palace; then thrust out in the storm from Gloucester's palace; then on the heath in the storm; then before a hovel in the storm; then rescued by Gloucester and taken to a farmhouse in the storm; next, removed on a pallet from the farmhouse; next, wandering in the fields near Dover; next, on a bed, asleep in a tent in the French camp; then being led by soldiers across the stage, in company with Cordelia, to find a place of safety; then brought on the stage in company with Cordelia, both of them as prisoners; next, led off the stage, guarded; and finally, reëntering, with the dead body of Cordelia in his arms.

We must deal with the stage business in “Lear” with as light a hand as if it were a farce, and the tragedy in it will take care of itself.



THERE are so many reasons why Shakespeare's greater plays affect us powerfully, that it seems like fatuity to point out special good qualities in any one of them; yet, as a great many people have tried their hand at this, and the practice never seems to have injured the plays, I will hazard a few remarks upon the nature of dramatic writing, and illustrate them with the play of “Macbeth.”

The main point about dramatic writing is that everything must be made obvious. A man who writes a book may state his idea and develop it and adorn it at leisure. He may even hide it with charms, and compensate the reader in a hundred ways for his obscurity. But in a theatre ideas must be delivered through a series of shocks. Shakespeare's method of doing this is by the contrast of opposites. He places two effects beside one another, and causes the idea to jump out by the contact. This is true as to his great effects of element with element, conception with conception, scene with scene. It is true also of his dramatis personæ. He must have kings and beggars, good angels and devils. It is true also of the give-and-take of his dialogue. The dazzling play of opposites throughout Shakespeare, whether in adjectives, phrases, scenes, characters, or climaxes, is what makes him

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stageable. Say "Heaven” to him, he says “Hell”; “Black," — "White"; "To be, “Not to be." He shadows each impression with a double that has been refracted from the thing itself, and causes an idea to stand in the air vividly, like an apparition.

This double-flash in Shakespeare is to be found in his earliest and in his latest work. There is a famous emendation of his text which shows up this action of his mind in a startling manner. In “Love's Labor's Lost” the professed love-hater, Biron, gives a whimsical description of Cupid, calling him “a wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,' 'a regent of loverhymes, lord of folded arms," etc. One of the lines in the folio text reads as follows:

This signior Iunio's giant dwarf don Cupid. After the commentators had wearied themselves with trying to identify “Iunio,” or “Junio,” with one Junius, a Roman captain in a play by Beaumont and Fletcher; after they had amended “ Junio” "Julio" and had imagined a reference to Giulio Romano -- someone at last suggested the reading, –

This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, Dan Cupid, and learned and unlearned alike shouted “Shakespeare!”

I mention in passing this passion of Shakespeare for the antithetical. It is his habit, a part of his dramatic technique, and it runs all through his work. But we must not fix our attention on it, or try to fathom it; for many shimmers of fancy are at play, some of them small and silvery as aspen leaves, and others as large as the shadow cast by a mainsail.


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