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Edg. How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you in?
Edm. I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses. Edg. Do you busy yourself with that?
Edm. I promise you,' the effects he writes of, succeed unhappily: [as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,2 nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
Edg. How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
Edm. Come, come ;] when saw you my father last? Edg. Why, the night gone by.
Edm. Spake you with him?
Edg. Ay, two hours together.
Edm. Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him, by word or countenance? Edg. None at all.
Edm. Bethink yourself, wherein you may have offended him; and at my entreaty, forbear his presence, till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure; which at this instant so rageth in him, that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay. Edg. Some villain hath done me wrong.
Edm. That's my fear. [I pray you, have a continent3 forbearance, till the speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord
fa mi including a tritonus or sharp fourth, consisting of three tones without the intervention of a semi-tone, expressed in the modern scale by the letters F G A B, would form a musical phrase extremely disagreeable to the ear. Edmund, speaking of eclipses as portents and prodigies, compares the dislocation of events, the times being out of joint, to the unnatural and offensive sounds fa sol la mi.-Dr. Burney.
1 The folio edition commonly differs from the first quarto, by augmentations or insertions; but in this place, it varies by the omission of all between brackets.
2 For cohorts some editors read courts.
3 i. e. temperate. All between brackets is omitted in the quartos.
speak. Pray you, go; there's my key.-If you do stir abroad, go armed.
Edg. Armed, brother?]
Edm. Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed. I am no honest man, if there be any good meaning towards you. I have told you what I have seen and heard, but faintly; nothing like the image and horror of it. 'Pray you, away.
Edg. Shall I hear from you anon?
Edm. I do serve you in this business.—
A credulous father, and a brother noble,
SCENE III. A Room in the Duke of Albany's
Enter GONERIL and Steward.
Gon. Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?
Stew. Ay, madam.
Gon. By day and night he wrongs me; every hour He flashes into one gross crime or other,
That sets us all at odds. I'll not endure it;
His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us
If you come slack of former services,
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one, [Not to be overruled. Idle old man,1 That still would manage those authorities, That he hath given away!—Now, by my life, Old fools are babes again; and must be used With checks, as flatteries,-when they are seen abused.2]
Remember what I have said.
Very well, madam.
Gon. And let his knights have colder looks among
What grows of it, no matter; advise your fellows so. [I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall, That I may speak.3]-I'll write straight to my sister, To hold my very course.-Prepare for dinner.
SCENE IV. A Hall in the same.
Enter KENT, disguised.
Kent. If but as well I other accents borrow,
For which I razed 5 my likeness.-Now, banished Kent,
1 This line and the four following are not in the folio. Theobald observes, that they are fine in themselves, and much in character for Goneril.
2 The meaning of this passage may be, "Old men are babes again, and must be accustomed to checks as well as flatteries, especially when the latter are seen to be abused by them."
3 The words in brackets are found in the quartos, but omitted in the folio.
4 To diffuse here means to disguise, to render it strange, to obscure it. See Merry Wives of Windsor. We must suppose that Kent advances looking on his disguise.
5 i. e. effaced.
Enter LEAR, Knights, and Attendants.
Lear. Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go, get it ready. [Exit an Attendant.] How now, what art thou?
Kent. A man, sir.
Lear. What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
Kent. I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly, that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and says little; to fear judgment; to fight, when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.2
Lear. What art thou?
Kent. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
Lear. If thou be as poor for a subject, as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou? Kent. Service.
Lear. Who wouldst thou serve?
Lear. Dost thou know me, fellow?
Kent. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance, which I would fain call master.
Lear. What's that?
Lear. What services canst thou do?
Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.
Lear. How old art thou?
Kent. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old, to dote on her for any thing. I have years on my back forty-eight.
1 To converse signifies immediately and properly to keep company, to have commerce with.
2 It is not clear how Kent means to make the eating no fish a recommendatory quality, unless we suppose that it arose from the odium then cast upon the papists, who were the most strict observers of periodical fasts.
Lear. Follow me; thou shalt serve me; if I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.-Dinner, ho, dinner!-Where's my knave? my fool? Go you, and call my fool hither.
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
Lear. What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back. Where's my fool, ho?—I think the world's asleep. How now? where's that mongrel?
Knight. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well. Lear. Why came not the slave back to me, when I called him?
Knight. Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
Lear. He would not!
Knight. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a great abatement of kindness appears, as well in the general dependants, as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
Lear. Ha! say'st thou so?
Knight. I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent, when I think your highness is wronged.
Lear. Thou but remember'st me of mine own conception. I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity,' than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness: I will look further into't.-But where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days. Knight. Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.
1 By jealous curiosity, Lear appears to mean a punctilious jealousy, resulting from a scrupulous watchfulness of his own dignity. See the second note on the first scene of this play.
2 A very pretence is an absolute design.