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Would fail her obligation: If, sir, perchance,
LEAR. My curses on her! REG. O, sir, you are old; Nature in you stands on the very verge Of her confíne: you should be rul'd, and led By some discretion, that discerns your state Better than you yourself: Therefore, I pray you, That to our sister you do make return; Say, you have wrong'd her, sir3.
LEAR. Ask her forgiveness? Do you but mark how this becomes the house "?
she is in her scanting of her duty, then she knows better how to scant or be deficient in her duty, than he knows how to appreciate her desert. Will any one maintain, that Regan meant to express a hope that this would prove the case?
Shakspeare perplexed himself by placing the word less before know; for if he had written, "I have hope that you rather know how to make her desert less than it is, (to under-rate it in your estimation) than that she at all knows how to scant her duty," all would have been clear; but, by placing less before know, this meaning is destroyed.
Those who imagine that this passage is accurately expressed as it now stands, deceive themselves by this fallacy: in paraphras ing it, they always take the word less out of its place, and connect it, or some other synonymous word, with the word desert.
s Say, &c.] This, as well as the following speech, is omitted in the quartos. STEEVENS.
6 Do you but mark how this becomes THE HOUSE?] The order of families, duties of relation. WARBURTON.
In The Tempest we have again nearly the same sentiment: "But O how oddly will it sound that I
"Must ask my child forgiveness?" MALONE.
Dr. Warburton's explanation may be supported by the following passage in Milton on Divorce, b. ii. ch. xii. : - the restraint whereof, who is not too thick-sighted, may see how hurtful, how destructive, it is to the house, the church, and commonwealth!" TOLLET.
The old reading may likewise receive additional support from
Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary: on my knees I beg, [Kneeling. That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food. REG. Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks :
Return you to my sister.
Look'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
the following passage in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, 1598: Come up to supper; it will become the house wonderfull well." Mr. Tollet has since furnished me with the following extract from Sir Thomas Smith's Commonwealth of England, 4to. 1601, chap. ii. which has much the same expression, and explains it. "They two together [man and wife] ruleth the house. The house I call here, the man, the woman, their children, their servants, bond and free," &c. STEEVENS.
Again, in Painter's Palace of Pleasure :
"The gentleman's wife one day could not refraine (beholding a stagges head set up in the gentleman's house) from breaking into a laughter before his face, saying how that head became the house very well."
7 Age is UNNECESSARY:] i. e. Old age has few wants.
JOHNSON. This usage of the word unnecessary is quite without example; and I believe my learned coadjutor has rather improved than explained the meaning of his author, who seems to have designed to say no more than that it seems unnecessary to children that the lives of their parents should be prolonged. Age is unnecessary," may mean, old people are useless. So, in The Old Law, by Massinger:
your laws extend not to desert,
"But to unnecessary years; and, my lord,
Unnecessary in Lear's speech, I believe, means-in want of necessaries, unable to procure them. TYRWHITT.
LOOK'D BLACK upon me;] To look black, may easily be explain'd to look cloudy or gloomy. See Milton:
"So frown'd the mighty combatants, that hell
the bishops thereat
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart :-
Fye, fye, fye! LEAR. You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
9 TO FALL and blast her pride!] Thus the quarto: the folio reads not so well, to fall and blister. JOHNSON.
Fall is, I think, used here as an active verb, signifying to humble or pull down. "Ye fen-suck'd fogs, drawn from the earth by the powerful action of the sun, infect her beauty, so as to fall and blast, i. e. humble and destroy her pride." Shakspeare in other places uses fall in an active sense. So, in Othello:
"Each drop she falls will prove a crocodile." Again, in Troilus and Cressida :
“ — make him fall
"His crest, that prouder than blue Iris bends." In the old play of King Leir our poet found
"I ever thought that pride would have a fall." MAlone.
I see no occasion for supposing with Malone, that the word fall is to be considered in an active sense, as signifying to humble or pull down; it appears to me to be used in this passage in its common acceptation; and that the plain meaning is this, You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn up by the sun in order to fall down again and blast her pride." M. MASON.
I once proposed the same explanation to Dr. Johnson, but he would not receive it. STEEVENS.
1 — when the rash mood's on.] Thus the folio. The quartos read only,—“ when the rash mood"—perhaps leaving the sentence purposely unfinished, as indeed I should wish it to be left, rather than countenance the admission of a line so inharmonious as that in the text. STEEVENS.
It should be observed that the line objected to for its want of harmony, is rendered inharmonious by an alteration introduced by Mr. Steevens, who reads mood's on, instead of mood is on, as it stands in the folio, and is printed in the text. BOSWELL.
LEAR. No, Regan, thou shalt never have my
Thy tender-hefted nature2 shall not give Thee o'er to harshness; her eyes are fierce, but thine
Do comfort, and not burn 3: "Tis not in thee
2 Thy TENDER-HEFTED nature—] Hefted seems to mean the same as heaved. Tender-hefted, i. e. whose bosom is agitated by tender passions. The formation of such a participle, I believe, cannot be grammatically accounted for. Shakspeare uses hefts for heavings in The Winter's Tale, Act II. Both the quartos however read, "tender-hested nature; which may mean a nature which is governed by gentle dispositions. Hest is an old word signifying command. So, in The Wars of Cyrus, &c. 1594: Must yield to hest of others that be free." Hefted is the reading of the folio. STEEVENS.
3 Do comfort and NOT BURN:] The same thought, but more expanded, had already occurred in Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella :
"She comes with light and warmth, which like Aurora prove "Of gentle force, so that mine eyes dare gladly play "With such a rosie morne, whose beames, most freshly gay, "Scorch not, but onely doe darke chilling sprites remove.
So, in Timon of Athens :
to scant my SIZES,] To contract my allowances or proportions settled. JOHNSON.
"Thou sun that comfort'st burn." MALONE.
A sizer is one of the lowest rank of students at Cambridge, and lives on a stated allowance.
Sizes are certain portions of bread, beer, or other victuals, which in publick societies are set down to the account of particular persons: a word still used in colleges. So, in The Return from Parnassus :
"You are one of the devil's fellow-commoners; one that sizeth the devil's butteries."
"Fidlers, set it on my head; I use to size my musick, or go on the score for it." Return from Parnassus.
Size sometimes means company. So, in Cinthia's Revenge, 1613;
Against my coming in: thou better know'st
Good sir, to the purpose.
LEAR. Who put my man i' the stocks?
REG. I know't, my sister's': this approves her letter,
That she would soon be here.-Is your lady come?
LEAR. This is a slave, whose easy-borrow'd pride Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows:Out, varlet, from my sight!
Thou didst not know of't.-Who comes here? O
"He now attended with a barbal size
"Of sober statesmen," &c.
I suppose a barbal size is a bearded company. STEEVENS.
See a size in Minsheu's Dictionary. TOLLET.
5 Corn. What trumpet's that?
Reg. I KNOW'T, my sister's:] Thus, in Othello:
It should seem from both these passages, and others that might be quoted, that the approach of great personages was announced by some distinguishing note or tune appropriately used by their own trumpeters. Cornwall knows not the present sound; but to Regan, who had often heard her sister's trumpet, the first flourish of it was as familiar as was that of the Moor to the ears of lago.