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Fifth, printed in 1617, quarto; perhaps by some tricking bookseller, who meant to impose it upon the world for Shakspeare's, who dy'd the year
be, fore. This play - which' opens with that prince's wildness and robberies before he caine to the crown, and so comprehends something of the story of both parts of Henry IV. as well as of Henry V. -- is a very medley of nonfense and ribaldry; and, it is my firm belief, was prior to Shakspeare's Henries; and the identical “ displeasing play” mention'd in the epilogue to 2 Henry IV.; for that such a play should be written after his, or receiv'd upon any stage, has no face of probability. There is a charačer in it callid-Sir John Oldcastle; who holds there the place of Sir John Falstaff, but his very antipodes in every other particular, for it is all dullness: and it is to this character that Shakspeare alludes, in those much-disputed passages; one in his Henry IV. p. 184, and the other in the epilogue to his second part; where the words " for Oldcastle dy'd a martyr” hint at this miserable performance, and it's fate, which was damnation.
Lear's distressful story has been often told in poems, ballads, and chronicles : but to none of these are we indebted for Shakspeare's Lear; but to a filly old play which made it's first appearance in 1605, the title of which is as follows:-- "The True Chronicle Hi-| story of King Leir, and his three daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella, As it hath been divers and fundry | times lately acted. | LONDON, | Printed by Simon Stafford for John Wright, and are to bee fold at his shop at Christes Church dore, next Newgate- | market. 1605. (4o 1. 4. ).--As it is a great curiosity, and very scarce, the title is here inserted at large: and for the same reason, and also to fhew the use that Shakspeare made of it, some extracts. shall now be added.
The author of this Leir has kept him close to the chronicles; for he ends his play with the reinstating King Leir in his throne, by the aid of Cordella and her husband. But take the entire fable in his own words. Towards the end of the play, at signature H. 3. you find Leir in France: upon whose coast he and his friend Perillus are landed in so necessitous a condition, that, having nothing to pay their passage, the mariners take their cloaks, leaving them their jerkins in exchange : thus attir'd, they go up further into the country; and there, when they are at the point to perish by samine, insomuch that Perillus offers Leir his arm to feed upon, they light upon Gallia and his qucen, whom the author has brought down thitherward, in progress, disguis d. Their discourfe is overheard by Cordella, who immediately knows them ; but, at her husband's persuasion, forbears to discover herself a while, relieves them with food, and then alks their story; which Leir gives her in these words:
“ Leir. Then know this first, I am a Brittayne borne,
the youngest of the three,
" And thought to try which of them lov'd me best,
By asking of them, which would do most for me? 5. The first and second flattred me with words, " And vowd they lòv'd me better then their lives : “ The youngeft fayd, she loved me as a child
Might do: her answere I esteem'd most vild, “ And presently in an outragious mood,
I turnd her from me to go finke or swym: " And all I had, even to the very clothes,
gave in dowry with the other two: 46 And she that best deserv'd the greatest share, “ I gave her nothing but disgrace and care. “ Now mark the sequell: When I had done thus, " I foiournd in my eldest daughters houfe, " Where for a time I was intreated well, “ And liv'd in state sufficing my content: “But every day her kindneffe did grow cold, on Which I with patience put up well ynough " And seemed not to see the things I saw: " But at the last she grew fo far incenst - With moody fury, and with causeleffe hate, ". That in most vild and contumelious termes, " She bade me pack, and harbour somewhere else, " Then was I fayne for refuge to repayre “ Unto my other daughter for reliefe, " Who gave me pleasing and most courteous words; " But in her actions shewed herselfe so fore, “ As never any daughter did before : " She prayd me in a morning out betime, • To go to a thicket two miles from the court, !". Poynting that there she would come talke with me: " There she had set a shaghayrd murdring wretch, “ To massacre my honest friend and me.
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66 And now I am constraind to feeke reliefe
defert. 6. Cor. No doubt she will, I dare bę sworne she will.'»
pays me but
Thereupon ensues her discovery; and, with it, a circumstance of some beauty, which Shakspeare has borrow'd, -(v. Lear, p. 517,) their kneeling to each other, and mutually contending which should ask forgiveness. The next page presents us Gallia, and Mumford who commands under him, marching to embarque their forces, to re-instate Leir; and the next, a sea-port in Britain, and officers setting a watch, who are to fire a beacon to give notice if any ships approach, in which there is some low humour that is pafsible enough. Gallia and his forces arrive, and take the town by surprize:- immediately upon which, they are encounter'd by the forces of the two elder sisters, and their husbands: a battle ensues; Leir conquers; be and his friends enter victorious, and the play closes thus:
" Thanks (worthy Mumford) to the last of all,
No, thou hast lion-like layd on to-day,
chasing the Cornwall King and Cambria;
Come, fonne and daughter who did me advance,
Such is the Leir, now before us. Who the author of it should be, I cannot surmise; for neither in manner nor style has it the least resemblance to any of the other tragedies of that time: most of them rise now and then, and are poetical; but this creeps in one dull tenour, from beginning to end, after the specimen here inserted: it should seem he was a Latinist, by the translation following:
" Feare not, my lord, the perfit good indeed,
But whoever he was, Shakspeare has done him the honour to follow him in a stroke or two: one has been observ'd upon above; and the reader, who is acquainted with Shakspeare's Lear, will perceive another in the second line of the concluding speech : and here is a third; “Knowest thou these letters ? " says Leir to Regan, (fign. I. 36.) shewing her hers and her sister's letter commanding his death; upon which she snatches at the letters, and tears them: (v. Lear, p. 541, 542,) another, and that a most signal one upon one account, occurs at signature C. 35: 6. But he, the myrrour of mild patience, up
wrongs, and never gives reply;" Perillus says this of Leir; comprizing therein his character, as drawn by this author; how opposite to that which Shakspeare has given him, all know: and yet he has found means to put nearly the same words into the very mouth of his Lear,
“ No, I will be the pattern of all patience,
1 " I will say nothing." Lastly, two of Shakspeare's personages, Kent, and the steward, seem to owe their existence to the above-mention'd " shag-hair'd wretch," and the Perrillus of this Leir.
The episode of Gloster and his two sons is taken from the Arcadia: in which romance there is a chapter thus intitl'd;—"The pitifull fiate, and storie of