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Who having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
Who 'twas that so endur'd, with his strong arms
He fasten'd on my neck, and bellow'd out
As he'd burst heaven; threw him on my father:
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him,
That ever ear receiv'd: which in recounting,
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack: Twice then the trumpet sounded,
And there I left him tranc'd.


But who was this?

Edg. Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in disguise Follow'd his enemy king, and did him service

Improper for a slave.

Enter a Gentleman hastily, with a bloody Knife. Gent. Help! help! O help!


What kind of help?

Speak, man.

"Tis hot, it smokes ;

Edg. What mean's that bloody knife?

It came even from the heart of


Who, man? speak.

Gent. Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister By her is poison'd; she confesses it.

Edm. I was contracted to them both; all three Now marry in an instant.

Alb. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead!This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble; Touches us not with pity. [Exit Gentleman.

Enter KENT.


Here comes Kent, sir.

Alb. O! it is he.

The time will not allow the compliment,
Which very manners urges.


I am come

To bid my king and master aye good night;
Is he not here?


Great thing of us forgot!

Speak, Edmund, where's the king? and where's CorSee'st thou this object, Kent?

[delia?-[The Bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in. Kent. Alack, why thus?


Yet Edmund was belov'd:

The one the other poison'd for my sake,
And after slew herself.

Alb. Even so.-Cover their faces.

Edm. I pant for life:-Some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,-
Be brief in it,-to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia:-
Nay, seud in time.


Run, run, O, run

Edg. To who, my lord?-Who has the office? send

Thy token of reprieve.

Edm. Well thought on; take my sword,

Give it the captain.

Alb. Haste thee, for thy life.

[Exit Edgar.

Edm. He hath commission from thy wife and me

To hang Cordelia in the prison, aud

To lay the blame upon her own despair,

That she fordid herself.

Alb. The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.

[Edmund is borne off.

Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his Arms;
EDGAR, Officer, and others.

Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!-O, you are men of Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so [stones; That heaven's vault should crack :-O, she is gone for


I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She's dead as earth :-Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.


Is this the promis'd end?
Edg. Or image of that horror?'
Lear. This feather stirs ; she lives! if it be so,

Fall, and cease!

It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows

That ever I have felt.


O my good master! [Kneeling.

Lear. Pr'ythee, away.


"Tis noble Kent, your friend.
Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have sav'd her; now she's gone for ever!—
Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little, Ha!

What is't thou say'st?-Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman :-
I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee.

Off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.


Did I not, fellow? I have seen the day, with my good biting faulchion I would have made them skip: I am old now, And these same crosses spoil me.-Who are you? Mine eyes are none o'the best:-I'll tell you straight. Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated, One of them we behold.

Lear. This is a dull sight: Are you not Kent? Kent. The same; Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius? Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that; He'll strike, and quickly too :-He's dead and rotten. Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man;Lear. I'll see that straight.

Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay, Have follow'd your sad steps.


You are welcome hither,

Kent. Nor no man else; all's cheerless, dark, and


Your eldest daughters have foredoom'd themselves,
And desperately are dead.


Ay, so I think.

Alb. He knows not what he says; and vain it is That we present us to him.


Very bootless.

Enter an Officer.

Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.


That's but a trifle here.

You lords, and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come,
Shall be applied: For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,

To him our absolute power:-You, to your rights;

[To Edgar and Kent. With boot, and such addition as your honours Have more than merited.-All friends shall taste The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings.-O, see, see!

Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life: Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!-

Pray you, undo this button: Thank you, sir.-
Do you see this? Look on her,-look,-her lips,-
Look there, look there!—

[He dies.

He faints! My lord, my lord,-
Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break!


Look up, my lord.

Kent. Vex not his ghost:-O, let him pass! he hates


That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.

O, he is

gone, indeed.

endur'd so long:

Kent. The wonder is, he hath
He but usurp'd his life.

Alb. Bear them from hence.
Is general woe. Friends of my

Our present business soul, you twain

[To Kent and Edgar.

Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls, and I must not say, no.

Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we, that are young,
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

[Exeunt, with a dead March.

The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct to the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind, which once ventures within it, is burried irresistibly along.

On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible, if told of a petty prince of Guinea or Madagascar. Shakspeare, indeed, by the mention of his earls and dukes, has given us the idea of times more civilized, and of life regulated by softer manners; and the truth is, that though he so nicely discriminates, and so minutely describes the characters of men, he commonly neglects and confounds the characters of ages, by mingling customs ancient and modern, English and foreign.

My learned friend Mr. Warton, who has in The Adventurer very minutely criticised this play, remarks, that the instances of cruelty are too savage and shocking, and that the intervention of Edmund destroys the simplicity of the story. These objections may, I think, be answered by repeating, that the cruelty of the

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