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Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! I might have sav❜d her; now she's

for ever! gone

Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!

What is't thou say'st?

Her voice was ever soft,

Gentle, and low: an excellent thing in woman:

I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee.

Off. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.

Did I not, fellow?

Who are you?

I have seen the day, with my good biting faulchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me.
Mine eyes are none o'the best:- I'll tell you straight.
Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,
One of them we behold. 5

Lear. This is a dull sight: Are you not Kent?

The same;

Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius?
Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He'll strike, and quickly too: He's dead and rotten.
Kent. No, my good lord; I am the very man;—
Lear. I'll see that straight.

Kent. That, from your first of difference and decay," Have follow'd your sad steps.


You are welcome hither, Kent. Nor no man else7; all's cheerless, dark, and

deadly. —

Your eldest daughters have fore-doom'd themselves,
And desperately are dead.


Ay, so I think,

If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,

One of them we behold.] i, e. If Fortune, to display the plenitude of her power, should brag of two persons, one of whom she had highly elevated, and the other she had wofully depressed, we now behold the latter.


of difference and decay,] Decay for misfortunes,

7 Nor no man else;] Kent means, I welcome! No, nor no man


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Alb. He knows not what he says; and vain it is

That we present us to him.


Very bootless.

Enter an Officer.

Off. Edmund is dead, my lord.

That's but a trifle here. ·



You lords, and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come,
Shall be applied: For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,

To him our absolute power: -You, to your rights;

[To EDGAR and KENT. With boot, and such addition as your honours Have more than merited. All friends shall taste


The wages of their virtue, and all foes

The cup of their deservings. - O, see, see!

Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd!1 No, no, no life:

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never!

Pray you, undo this button2: Thank you, sir. —

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Do you see this? Look on her, — look, — her lips, Look there, look there!

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[He dies.

He faints! - My lord, my lord, Kent. Break, heart; I pr'ythee, break!

this great decay may come,] This great decay is Lear, this piece of decay'd royalty, this ruin'd majesty.

9 With boot,] With advantage, with increase.

And my poor fool is hang'd!] This is an expression of tenderness for his dead Cordelia, (not his fool, as some have thought,) on whose lips he is still intent, and dies away while he is searching there for indications of life. Poor fool, in the age of Shakspeare, was an expression of endearment.

2 Pray you, undo this button:] The Rev. Dr. J. Warton judiciously observes, that the swelling and heaving of the heart is described by this most expressive circumstance.

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Kent. Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates


That would upon the rack of this tough world

Stretch him out longer.


O, he is gone, indeed. Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long: He but usurp'd his life.

Alb. Bear them from hence. - Our present business Is general woe. Friends of my soul, you twain

Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls, and I must not say, no.

Alb. The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we, that are young,
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

[Exeunt, with a Dead March."

The tragedy of Lear is deservedly celebrated among the dramas of Shakspeare. There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates our passions, and interests our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking oppositions of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope. There is no scene which does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress or conduct of the action, and scarce a line which does not conduce to the progress of the scene. So powerful is the current of the poet's imagination, that the mind which once ventures within it, is hurried irresistibly along.

On the seeming improbability of Lear's conduct, it may be observed, that he is represented according to histories at that time vulgarly received as true. And, perhaps, if we turn our thoughts upon the barbarity and ignorance of the age to which this story is referred, it will appear not so unlikely as while we estimate Lear's manners by our own. Such preference of one daughter to another, or resignation of dominion on such conditions, would be yet credible,

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