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ET it be fo, thy truth then be thy dower:
Or he that makes his generation meffes
The barb'rous Scy
(1) Let, &c.] The Reader will do well to obferve, Shakefpear makes his characters in King Lear strictly conformable to the religion of their times: the not attending fufficiently to this, hath occafioned fome critics greatly to err in their remarks on this play.
To gorge his appetite, fhall to my bofom
Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
For that I am fome twelve or fourteen moon-fhines
(2) Wherefore, &c.] The baftard is here complaining of the tyranny of cuftom, and produces two inftances, to fhew the plague and oppreffion of it; the firft, in the cafe of elder brothers; the fecond, of bastards. With regard to the firft, we are to fuppofe him fpeaking of himself only as an objector, making the cafe his own, according to a common manner of arguing: "Wherefore, fays he, fhould I (or any man) stand in [within] the plague [the punishment or fcourge] of custom, why fhould I continue in its oppreffive power, and permit the courtesy of nations to deprive me, to take away from, rob, and injure me, because, &c.
(3) Who, &c.]. Mr. Warburton quotes a paffage here, well worth remarking-" How much the lines following this are in character, fays he, may be feen by that monstrous with of Vanini, the Italian atheift, in his tract, De admirandis naturae reginae deatque mortalium arcanis, printed at Paris 1616, the very year our poet died. O utinam extra legitimum & connubialem thorum effem procreatus! Ita enim progenitores mei in venerem incalefent ardentius, accumulatim affatimq; generofa femina contuliffent, é quibus ego formæ blanditiam, ac elegantiam, robuftas corporis vires, mentemque innubilam confequutus fuiffem. At quia conjuga run firm fobules bis orbatus fum bonis. Had the book been published but ten or twenty years fooner, who would not have believ'd that Shakespear alluded to this paffage? But
More compofition and fierce quality;
SCENE VIII. Aftrology ridicul'd.
(5) This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are fick in fortune, (often the furfeits of our
the divinity of his genius foretold, as it were, what fuch an atheist as Vanini would fay, when he wrote upon such a subject."
I have forbore giving a tranflation of the Latin, because Shakespear's words are a fine paraphrafe of it, and because it perhaps is not proper for all ears: but if, fuppofing Vanini had wrote first, we fhould have imagined, Shakespear alluded to him; why may we not, as it is, believe Vanini alluded to Shakespear
(4) Got 'tween fleep and wake.] This reading runs thro' all the editions, and is indeed very plausible: tho' it seems to me, the paffage originally ftood, Got atween fleep and wake. The a might very easily have been fo transposed, and atween is very common with all the old writers down to, and below our author.
(5) This, &c.] Aftrology was in much higher credit in our author's time than in Milton's, who, nevertheless, hath fatirised it in the feverest manner poffible, by making it patronised even by the devil himself: for in the 4th book of his Paradife Regain'd, the devil thus addresses our Saviour.
-If I read aught in heaven,
Or heav'n write aught of fate, by what the stars
Nor when: eternal fure, as without end,
own behaviour) we make guilty of our difafters, the fun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on neceffity, fools, by heavenly compulfion; knaves, thieves, and treacherous, by fpherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an inforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evafion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatifh difpofition on the charge of a star! my father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail, and my nativity was under Urfa major; fo that it follows, I am rough and letcherous. I fhould have been what I am, had the maidenlieft star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
SCENE XV. A Father curfing his Child.
Dear goddess, hear; and if thou dost intend
Without beginning; for no date prefixt
"Where it is to be obferv'd, (fays Mr. Warburton,) that the poet thought it not enough to difcredit judicial aftrology, by making it patronised by the devil, without fhewing at the fame time, the abfurdity of it. He has therefore very judiciously made him blunder, in the expreffion of portending a kingdom, which was without beginning. This deftroys all he would infinuate."
How sharper than a ferpent's tooth it is
Ingratitude in a Child.
(6) Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend, More hideous, when thou fhew'st thee in a child, Than the fea-monster.
ACT II. SCENE VI.
That fuch a flave as this should wear a sword, Who wears no honefty: (7) fuch fmiling rogues [as thefe,]
(6) Ingratitude, &c.] Ingratitude, a marble-hearted fiend, is more hideous and dreadful when fhewing itself in a child, than even that fea-monfter, which is the emblem itfelf of impiety and ingratitude: by which monfter he means the Hippotamus, or river-horse," which, fays Sandys, in his travels, p. 105. fignify'd murder, impudence, violence, and injuftice: for they fay, that he killeth his fire, and ravishes his own dam." Mr. Upton's alteration of, Than 'th' fea-monfter, seems unneceffary: for the poet makes ingratitude, a fiend, a monfter itself, and one more odious than even this hieroglyphical fymbol of impiety. See Obfervations on Shakespear, p. 203.
(7) Such, &c.] The words, as thefe, may be fafely omitted without injuring the fenfe; they are fiat and spoil the metre. The next lines are read thus in the old editions;
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords atwaine,
Atwaine is doubtless the genuine word, which was commonly ufed, fignifying, in two, afunder, in twain. And Mr. Upton obferving that Shakespear fometimes ftrikes off a fyllable or more from the latter part of a word, would preferve intrince in the text, which he explains by intrinficate. "Tis certain the author ufes intrinficate, but I don't remember ever to have met with intrince: "This fhortening of words, is indeed too much the genius of our language;" and as the Reader knows the fenfe of