« ZurückWeiter »
Man's life is cheap as beast's: thou art a lady ;
-0, fool, I shall go mad !
If there is any thing in any author like this yearning of the heart, these throes of tenderness, this profound expression of all that can be thought and felt in the most heart-rending situations, we are glad of it; but it is in some author that we have not read.
The scene in the storm, where he is exposed to all the fury of the elements, though grand and terrible, is not so fine, but the moralizing scenes with Mad Tom, Kent, and Gloster, are upon a par with the former. His exclamation in the supposed trial-scene of his daughters, “See the little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me;" his issuing his orders, “ Let them ana- . tomize Regan, see what breeds about her heart," and his reflection when he sees the misery of Edgar,
Nothing but his unkind daughters could have brought him to this,” are in a style of pathos, where the extremest resources of the imagination are call. ed in to lay open the deepest movements of the heart, which was peculiar to Shakspeare. In the same style and spirit is bis interrupting the Fool, who asks, " whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman," by answering " A king, a king !"
The indirect part that Gloster takes in these scenes, where his generosity leads him to relieve Lear and resent the cruelty of his daughters, at the very time that he is bimself iostigated to seek the life of his son, and suffering under the sting of his supposed ingratitude, is a striking accompaniment to the situation of Lear. Indeed, the manner in which the threads of the story are woven together is almost as wonderful in the way of art, as the carrying on the tide of passion, still varying and unimpaired, is on the score of nature. Among the remarkable instances of this kind, are Edgar's meeting with his old blind father; the deception he practises upon him when he pretends to lead him to the top of Dover-cliff—" Come on, sir, here's the place,” to prevent his ending his life and miseries together; his encounter with the perfidious Steward, whom he kills, and his finding the letter from Gonerill to his brother upon him, which leads to the final catastropbe, and brings the wheel of Justice “full circle home” to the guilty parties. The bustle and rapid succession of events in the last scenes is surprising. But the meeting between Lear and Cordelia is by far the most affecting part of them. It has all the wildness of poetry, and all the heartfelt truth of na
ture. The previous account of her reception of the news of his unkind treatment, her involuntary reproaches to her sisters, “ Shame, ladies, shame,” Lear's backwardness to see his daughter, the picture of the desolate state to which he is reduced, “ Alack, 'tis he; why he was met even now, as mad as the vex'd sea, singing aloud,” only prepare the way for and heighten our expectation of what follows, and assuredly this expectation is not disappointed, when, through the tender care of Cordelia he revives and recollects her.
“ Cordelia. How does my royal lord? How fares your ma
Cordelia. Sir, do you know me ?
Cordelia. 0, look upon me, sir,
Lear. Pray, do not mock me:
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Cordelia. And so I am, I am !"
Almost equal to this in awful beauty is their consolation of each other, when, after the triumph of their enemies, they are led to prison.
" Cordelia. We are not the first,
Lear. No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison :
Edmund. Take them away.
Lear. Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The concluding events are sad, paipfully sad; but their pathos is extreme. The oppression of the feelings is relieved by the very interest we take in the misfortunes of others, and by the reflections to which they give birth. Cordelia is banged in prison by the orders of the bastard Edmund, which are
known too late to be countermanded, and Lear dies broken-hearted, lamenting over her.
“ Lear. And my poor fool is hanged ! No, no, no life :
He dies, and indeed we feel the truth of what Kent says on the occasion
“ Vex not his ghost: 0, let him pass! he hates him,
Yet a happy ending has been contrived for this play, which is approved of by Dr. Johnson and copdemned by Schlegel. A better authority than either on any subject in which poetry and feeling are concerned, has given it in favour of Shakspeare, in some remarks on the acting of Lear, with which we shall conclude this account.
“ The LEAR of Shakspeare cannot be acted. The contemptible machinery with which they mimick the storm which he goes out in, is not more inadequate to represent the horrours of the real elements, than any actor can be to represent Lear. The greatness of Lear is not in corporal dimension, but in intellectual; the explosions of his passions are terrible as a volcano : they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that rich sea, his mind, with all its vast riches. It is his mind which is laid bare. This case of flesh and blood seems too insignificant to be thought on; even as he himself neglects it. On the stage we see no