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Sc. 4. p. 233.
LEAR. That fellow handles his bow like a crow keeper.
The notes on this passage serve only to identify the character of a crow-keeper; but the comparison still remains to be explained. On this occasion we must consult our sole preceptor in the manly and too much neglected science of archery, the venerable Ascham. In speaking of awkward shooters he says, "Another coureth downe and layeth out his buttockes, as thoughe hee should shoote at crowes."
Sc. 4. p. 234.
LEAR. O well-flown bird!
The notes are at variance as to whether Lear allude to archery or falconry. Certainly to the latter. In an old song on hawking set for four voices by Thomas Ravenscroft, O well flown, is a frequent address to the hawk.
Sc. 4. p. 239.
LEAR. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and handydandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?
Mr. Malone's explanation of this children's
sport is confirmed by the following extract from A free discourse touching the murmurers of the tymes, MS. "They hould safe your childrens patrymony, and play with your majestie as men play with little children at handye dandye, which hand will you have, when they are disposed to keep any thinge from them." The above discourse is a very bold and libellous address to King James I. on his pacific character, written, anonymously, with great powers of composition.
Sc. 4. p. 240.
LEAR. There thou might'st behold the great image of authority: a dog's obey'd in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand :
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind,
For which thou whip'st her. The usurer hangs
Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
This admirable speech has a remarkable coincidence with the following passage from "Parke's Curtaine-drawer of the world," 1612, 4to, p. 16, a work of very considerable merit. "The potency and power of magnificence and greatnesse
dare looke sinne openly in the face in the very market place, and the eye of authority never takes notice thereof: the poore harlot must be stript and whipt for the crime that the courtly wanton and the citie-sinner ruffle out, and passe over and glory in, and account as nothing. The poore thiefe is hanged many times that hath stolne but the prise of a dinner, when sometimes hee that robbes both church and commonwealth is seene to ride on his footecloth." If this book was written according to its date, and Mr. Malone be right as to that of Lear, a fact which is not meant to be controverted, the merit of originality will rest with Shakspeare.
Sc. 4. p. 241.
EDG. O, matter and impertinency mix'd.
This word was not used in its modern and corrupted sense of sauciness or intrusion, but merely to express something not belonging to the subject. Thus, an old collection of domestic recipes &c. entitled, The treasurie of commodious conceits, 1594, is said to be "not impertinent for every good huswife to use in her house amongst her own familie." It does not seem to have been used in the sense of rude or unman
nerly till the middle of the seventeenth century; nor in that of saucy till a considerable time afterwards.
Sc. 4. p. 241.
we came crying hither.
Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air,
Evidently taken from Pliny as translated by Philemon Holland. "Man alone, poor wretch [nature] hath laid all naked upon the bare earth, even on his birth day to cry and wrawle presently from the very first houre that he is borne into this world." Proeme to book 7.
THE fool in this play is the genuine domestic buffoon; but notwithstanding his sarcastical flashes of wit, for which we must give the poet credit, and ascribe them in some degree to what is called stage effect, he is a mere natural with a considerable share of cunning. Thus Edgar calls him an innocent, and every one will immediately
distinguish him from such a character as Touchstone. His dress on the stage should be particoloured; his hood crested either with a cock'scomb to which he often alludes, or with the cock's head and neck. His bauble should have a head like his own with a grinning countenance, for the purpose of exciting mirth in those to whom he occasionally presents it.
The kindness which Lear manifests towards his fool, and the latter's extreme familiarity with his master in the midst of the most poignant grief and affliction, may excite surprise in those who are not intimately acquainted with the simple manners of our forefathers. An almost contemporary writer has preserved to us a curious anecdote of William duke of Normandy, afterwards William I. of England, whose life was saved by the attachment and address of his fool. An ancient Flemish chronicle among the royal MSS. in the British Museum, 16, F. iii., commences with the exile of Salvard lord of Roussillon and his family from Burgundy. In passing through a forest, they are attacked by a cruel giant, who kills Salvard and several of his people; his wife Emergard and a few others only escaping. This scene the illuminator of the manuscript, which is of the fifteenth century, has chosen to exhibit.