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How far Garrick might have approximated to perfection in these passages we cannot tell; for we have seen too much of the baneful effects of enthusiasm upon the judgment, to give implicit faith to the wonders we have heard of him in this part; and our scepticism on the subject has not been at all diminished by observing that little less praise has been lavished on other actors, who certainly have made but a water-gruel affair of King Lear. It is our opinion, however, that there are several of those passages so transcendently and sublimely pathetic, that they cannot gain, in representation, and must rather lose, by any histrionic powers, however great. Mossop's utterance of
O Regan, Goneril!
would rend a heart if it were made of knotted oak:--but who is he that can give the whole speech with the same impressive effect that may be experienced from reading it? The transition from ten. derness to horror however in the words
O that way madness lies; let me shun that;
was admirably marked by Cooke.- “ Truth,” said old Charles Macklin, “ is so plain, so obvious, so simple, and so old, that it gives no pleasure.” In the productions of Shakspeare truth so essentially presides, that all his portraits seem, to the vulgar mind, scarcely to intitle him to any particular praise:—they are so much nature itself that, like Columbus's egg in the traditionary story, they appear, when once known, such as any one might have done, if he had only thought of it. But it so happens, that Shakspeare is he who, above all dramatic poets, ancient or modern, makes, as Dr. Johnson says, his persons “act and speak by the influence of those general passions and feelings by which all minds are agitated.” All other poets, and the best too only, describe_Shakspeare imitates nature; or rather he becomes the very person he represents, imagines himself in his situation, and acts and speaks under the impression of the character he assumes. Hence the external appearance of his portraits seems familiar to us, and are indeed such as every man thinks, when he sees them, that he himself would appear were he exposed to similar circumstances.
Thus, when Edgar, in disguise, comes forward and tells his tale of sufferings, Lear's associating his miseries with his own, and, in his distraction, ascribing them to the same cause, is precisely what nature would dictate, but what not one poet in a million would have thought of. How natural, and yet how exquisitely touching, is his question
What, have his duughters brought him to this pass? Then turning to Edgar,
Couldst thou save nothing? - Didst thou give them all? “ Mr. Murphy," says Dr. Johnson, “a very judicious critic, observes with great justness, that Lear would move our compassion but little, did we not rather consider the injured Father than the degraded king.” We will add, that while Lear's continued recurrence to that subject not only excites our compassion, but claims our approbation, his beautiful moral effusions inforce our veneration for him as a man of once brilliant virtues, however obscured they might have been by passion. Still following his own wayward conceptions, he takes it for granted that Edgar owes his ruin to his daughters, and in the bitterness of his heart he curses them:
Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated o'er men's faults, light on thy daughters. And then, in perfect congruity with his character, irritable, hasty, and impetuous, he replies to Kent, who tells him that Edgar has no daughters:
Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature
To such a lowness, but his unkind daughters. Another admirable stroke of nature, not generally so much noticed as it deserves, is this:-Exhausted with the severity of the storm, VOL. IV.
and his mind partially reduced to a more temperate state, by a scries of reflections on his situation, he agrees to take shelter in a hovel, but not till he has urged the inexpediency of doing so, with a plausible but false reasoning, admirably adapted to his circumstances, and well calculated to afford him scope for moral apothegmatizing.
The art of our necessities is strange
Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
When the mind's free,
Pr’ythee go in thyself; seek thine own ease;
Nay, get thee in. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep. Here the miseries of his fellow creatures are recommended to his serious consideration, by recurrence to his own sufferings:
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
From seasons such as these?
Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco,but his sensibility tells him he does so too late, and he falls into a conscientious selfreproach for his past negligence:
O I have ta’en
At this moment of sober reflection, Edgar comes forth, and his assumed madness produces an immediate relapse in Lear, who sinks back into a state of frenzy, worse than his former; yet even in this state he moralizes on Edgar's degraded condition:
“ Is man no more than this? Consider him well; thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume:-Ha! here's three of us sophisticated!—Thou art the thing itself:
-Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.”
Thus does Shakspeare make Lear, even in his madness, develop and illustrate his natural character, and show himself to be consistently, whether in sanity or in frenzy, the same benevolent, rash, fond, impetuous character, and so habituated to moral reflection, that even in the derangement of his intellect, he cherishes it. Nor can any thing be more philosophically exact than the broad distinction the poet has drawn between the feigned madness of Edgar and the real insanity of Lear. Edgar assumes, as the topic of his fictitious ravings, an idea which could not occur to a rational being, or be dwelt upon in a state of mental sanity:—the foul fiend persecutes him. This is quite out of nature—and what is more, he does not stick to it-he is not uniform: as in all cases of fictitious madness, he in spite of himself occasionally wanders into rationality, and all his feigned images of distraction are evidently forced and fabricated: he discovers sympathy too—he feels compassion for Lear; but Lear not only adheres to one grievance as the leading topic of his wandering effusions, but strains every incident that occurs to a conformity with that topic, and associates every occurrence with the idea of it.-The tempest is joined with his daughters against him-Nothing but unkind daughters could bring a man to such ruin as Edgar's—And when he fancies a court of justice seated, in which he appoints Edgar and the fool to preside as judges, he arraigns his daughters before it:
“ I'll see their trial first:- Bring in the evidence
“ Thou robed man of justice take thy place." “Arraign her first; 'tis Goneril. I here take my oath before this honoura“ ble assembly, she kick'd the poor king her father.”
“ And here's another, whose warpt looks proclaim
Arms, arms, sword, fire!-Corruption in the place!
“ False justice, why hast thou let her 'scape?" “ Then let them anatomize Regan; se what breeds about her heart: Is " there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?"
The fancy that Regan is making her escape is wonderfully fine, nor is the idea of inspecting her heart less so.
In the fourth act, the madness of Lear is increased in degree, and supported by the author with proportionate power. Here he extends his anger from his two daughters to the whole sex, upon whom he pours forth his splenetic frenzy in terms of invective, which, however, have more truth than delicacy to recommend them, but are checkered with some admirable moral reflections.
Through this section of the character, the acting of Mr. Cooke was less striking than we expected to find it. All that he attempted he accomplished; but he seemed cautious of attempting much, aware, no doubt, of the very ticklish ground on which he stood, as respecting the part he had to personate and the audience to whom he was performing. Some passages there are in the mad part of Lear, which run a chance of exciting ludicrous emotions if there be not a certain aptitude in the audience to comprehend and relish them, as well as consummate skill and power in the actor. In some of the most pathetic lines, and interesting situations, of the fourth act, there are points to which the slightest unexpected or outre incident might give a turn, the very reverse of the actor's intention, and produce stupid merriment instead of tears. We remember to have seen one of the most heart-rending representations that ever was witnessed in any theatre, (we mean Mrs. Barry's last scene of Omiscinda, in the tragedy of Alonzo,) turned into riotous merriment, by a dog's walking in upon the stage, and with his tail wagging, seeming to contemplate what was going forward. Most people know how a bare yawn from a musician in the orchestra, while Garrick was playing, caused such convulsions of laughter in the house, that the actor was so disconcerted that he could not, with all his confidence, recover himself for the night, and was with difficulty prevailed upon to forgive the innocent yawner. We know too, that it is highly improbable Mr. Cooke should not have heard that, without any provocation whatever, save what arises from the clumsy misconceptions of an ignorant coarse few in our pit and gallery-yea, and sometimes in the boxes too-fits of merriment frequently take place exactly in the very parts of the performance where neither poet, player, nor spectator of common sense, could imagine such a thing possible. In all likelihood, therefore, Mr. Cooke thought it advisable to be more temperate in the personification of Lear, in those passages, than he otherwise would have been