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Ha! is it come to this?
She'll flay thy wolfish visageHe was, however, mistaken ; for the first object he encounters in the castle of the Earl of Gloucester, whither he fled to meet his other daughter, was his servant in the stocks; from whence he may easily conjecture what reception he is to meet with:
Death on my state! Wherefore
He adds immediately afterwards,
O me, my heart! my rising heart!—but down. By which single line, the inexpressible anguish of his mind, and the dreadful conflict of opposite passions with which it is agitated are more forcibly expressed than by the long and laboured speech, enumerating the causes of his anguish, that Rowe and other modern tragic writers would certainly have put into his mouth. But Nature, Sophocles, and Shakspeare represent the feelings of the heart in a different manner; by a broken hint, a short exclamation, a word, or a look:
They mingle not, ’mid deep-felt sighs and groans,
When Jocasta, in Sophocles, has discovered that @dipus was the murderer of her husband, she immediately leaves the stage: but in Corneille and Dryden she continues on it during a whole scene,
in a very
to bewail her destiny in set speeches. I should be guilty of insensibility and injustice if I did not take this occasion to acknowledge that I have been more moved and delighted by hearing this single line spoken by the only actor of the age who understands and relishes these little touches of nature, and therefore the only one qualified to personate this most difficult character of Lear, than by the most pompous declaimer of the most pompous speeches in Cato or Tamerlane. In the next scene,
the old king appears distressful situation. He informs Regan, whom he believes to be still actuated by filial tenderness, of the cruelties he had suffered from her sister Goneril? in very pathetic terms:
With how depraved a quality-0 Regan ! It is a stroke of wonderful art in the poet to represent bim incapable of specifying the particular ill usage he has received, and breaking off thus abruptly, as if his voice was choked by tenderness and resentment.
When Regan counsels him to ask her sister forgiveness, he falls on his knees with a very striking kind of irony, and asks her how such supplicating language as this becometh him:
Dear daughter, I confess that I am old !
But being again exhorted to sue for reconciliation, the advice wounds him to the quick, and forces him into execrations against Gonerill, which, though they chill the soul with horror, are yet well suited to the impetuosity of his temper:
She hatb abated me of half my train;
Into her scornful eyes! The wretched king, little imagining that he is to be outcast from Regan also, adds very movingly;
'Tis not in thee
-Thou better know'st
Wherein I thee endow'dThat the hopes he had conceived of tender usage from Regan should be deceived, heightens his distress to a great degree. Yet it is still aggravated and increased by the sudden appearance of Gonerill; upon the unexpected sight of whom he exclaims,
-Who comes here? O heavens !
Make it your cause, send down and take my part ! This address is surely pathetic beyond expression : it is scarce enough to speak of it in the cold terms of criticism. There follows a question to Gonerill, that I have never read without tears :
Ar't not ashamed to look upon this beard ?
This scene abounds with many noble turns of passion; or rather conflicts of very different passions. The inhuman daughters urge him in vain, by all the sophistical and unfilial arguments they were mistresses of, to diminish the number of his train. He answers them by only four poignant words:
I gave you all!
When Regan at last consents to receive him, but without any attendants, for that he might be served by her own domestics, he can no longer contain his disappointment and rage. First he appeals to the heavens, and points out to them a spectacle that is indeed inimitably affecting :
You see me here, ye Gods! a poor old man,
Then suddenly he addresses Gonerill and Regan in the severest terms and with the bitterest threats :
-No, you unnatural hags!
Nothing occurs to his mind severe enough for them to suffer, or him to inflict. His passion rises to a height that deprives him of articulation. He tells them that he will subdue his sorrow, though almost irresistible; and that they shall not triumph over his weakness :
-You think I'll weep!
O fool- -I shall go mad ! which is an artful anticipation, that judiciously prepares us for the dreadful event that is to follow in the succeeding acts.
No, 114. SATURDAY, DEC. 8, 1753.
Sperat infestis, netuit secundus,
ALMET, the Dervise, who watched the sacred lamp in the sepulchre of the Prophet, as he one day rose up from the devotions of the morning, which he had performed at the gate of the temple with his body turned towards the east and his forehead on the earth, saw before him a man in splendid apparel attended by a long retinue, who gazed steadfastly at him with a look of mournful complacence, and seemed desirous to speak, but unwilling to offend.
The Dervise, after a short silence, advanced, and saluting him with the calm dignity which independence confers upon humility, requested that he would reveal his purpose.
“ Almet," said the stranger," “ thou seest before thee a man whom the hand of prosperity has overwhelmed with wretchedness. Whatever I once desired as the means of happiness I now possess; but