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Gon. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted condition, but therewithal, the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
Reg. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him, as this of Kent's banishment.
Gon. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. 'Pray you, let us hit togeth
If our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
Reg. We shall further think of it.
SCENE II. A Hall in the Earl of Gloster's Castle.
Enter EDMUND, with a letter. Edm. Thou, nature, art my goddess ; 3 to thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague* of custom; and permit The curiosity 5 of nations to deprive o me, For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines Lag of a brother? Why bastard ? wherefore base ? When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous, and my shape as true, As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us With base ? with baseness ? bastardy ? base, base? Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take More composition and fierce quality, Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
1 i. e. temper; qualities of mind confirmed by long habit. 2 We must strike while the iron's hot.
3 Edmund calls nature his goddess, for the same reason as we call a bastard a natural son.
4 “ Wherefore should I submit tamely to the plague (i. e. the evil) or mjustice of custom ?”
5 The nicety of civil institutions, their strictness and scrupulosity, 6 To deprive is equivalent to disinherit. Holinshed speaks of the line of Henry before deprived.
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Enter GLOSTER. Glo. Kent banished thus! and France in choler
parted ! And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power ! Confined to exhibition ! All this done Upon the gad!3 -Edmund! how now? what
news? Edm. So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter. Glo. Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
Edm. I know no news, my lord.
Glo. No? What needed then that terrible despatch of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let's see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
Edm. I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o’erread; for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your overlooking
Glo. Give me the letter, sir.
1 To subscribe is to yield, to surrender. 2 Erhibition is an allowance, a stipend. 3 i. e. in haste, equivalent to upon the spur. A gad was a sharp-pointed piece of steel, used as a spur to urge catile forward; whence goaded for. ward. Mr. Nares suggests, that to gad and gadding, originate from being on the spur to go about.
Edm. I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.
Glo. Let's see, let's see.
Edm. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.
Glo. [Reads.] This policy, and reverence of age, makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us, till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond” bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar !-Humph-Conspiracy! -Sleep till I waked him—you should enjoy half his revenue, -my son Edgar!-Had be a hand to write this ? a heart and brain to breed it in ? —When came this to you? Who brought it?
Edm. It was not brought me, my lord, there's the cunning of it; I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
Glo. You know the character to be your brother's ?
Edm. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
Glo. It is his.
Edm. It is his hand, my lord; but, I hope, his heart is not in the contents.
Glo. Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?
Edm. Never, my lord; but I have often heard him maintain it to be fit, that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage
his Glo. O villain, villain !-His very opinion in the letter !-Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish!-Go, sirrah, seek him ;
1 “ As an essay," &c. means as a trial or taste of my virtue. “To assay, or rather essay, of the French word essayer,” says Baret.
2 i. e. weak and foolish.
I'll apprehend him.—Abominable villain !—Where is he ?
Edm. I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please ye to suspend your indignation against my brother, till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course; where,' if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honor, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honor, and to no other pretence of danger.
Glo. Think you so ?
Edm. If your honor judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and that without any further delay than this very evening.
Glo. He cannot be such a monster. [Edm. Nor is not, sure.
Glo. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him.-Heaven and earth!4]—Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you; frame the business after your own wisdom; I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.
Edm. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
Glo. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide ; in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond
1 Where for whereas.
5" Wind më into him.” Another example of familiar expressive phraseology not unfrequent in Shakspeare.
6 " I would give all that I am possessed of, to be satisfied of the truth.” 7 To convey is to conduct, or carry through.
8 That is, though natural philosophy can give account of eclipses, yet we feel their consequences.
cracked between son and father. [This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father. The king falls from bias of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the best of our time; machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves !']—Find out this villain, Edmund, it shall lose thee nothing ; do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished ! his offence, honesty !-Strange! strange!
[Exit. Edm. This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, (often the surfeit of our own behavior,) we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity; fools, by heavenly compulsion ; knaves, thieves, and treachers 2 by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows I am rough and lecherous.—Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar
Enter EDGAR. and pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o’Bedlam.-0, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.?
1 All between brackets is omitted in the quartos.
2 Treachers is the reading of the folio. Chaucer, in his Romaunt of the Rose, mentions “ the false treacher ; " and Spenser many times uses the same epithet. The quartos all read treacherers.
Shakspeare shows, by the context, that he was well acquainted with the property of these syllables in solmization, which imply a series of sounds so unnatural that ancient musicians prohibited their use. The monkish writers on music say mi contra fa, est diabolus : the interval