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Then, as if rendered, by the shock, dubious of his own identity, he turns to those about him, and asks
Does any here know me? Why, this is not Lear:
Your name, fair gentlewoman? What pen, what imagination can do justice to this wonderful effusion?- What a complicated picture of internal agony, confusion and horror is here presented to the mind! All Lear's functions are for the moment suspended_his sorrow in astonishment-his rage in doubt and incredulity_his sensations reach above complaint-and his wrongs are so far beyond all likelihood, that he feels disposed rather to disbelieve his own existence, or his having children, than to give credit to the baseness of Goneril, till it is forced upon his belief by her cruel reply: then, for the first time, his feelings break forth in a succession of the most pathetic complaints, frightful execrations, poignant invectives against his own folly, and furious denuncïations against his daughter. It may, without fear of controversy, be affirmed, that a passage cannot be found in any poet, dramatic or other, in which passion is wrought up with equal probability or effect, to so stupendous a height-not one in which, without bursting the brain, the feelings are urged so close to the confines of madness, or in which every heart is so irresistibly summoned to sympathize with suffering humanity.
Lear. Darkness and devils!-
-Woe, that too late repents,
O sir, are you come? [ALBANY, Goneril's husband, enters.
Albany. Pray, sir, be patient.
Lear. Detested kite! thou liest:
Albany. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Lear. It be so my lord.
Goneril. Never afflict yourself to know the causo;
Here we have fresh occasion to notice the unparalleled judgment of Shakspeare in the distribution of his parts. The short departure of Lear gives an opportunity to Albany to avow his innocence and heighten the guilt of Goneril, by showing that he has no participation in it: besides it displays a natural trait in the feelings of the old king, who goes away—but cannot find it in his heart to leave his offending daughter without some further expostulation; and there. fore returns to vent his feelings further-the diminution of his train first in his mouth, because it is uppermost in his thoughts:
Lear. What, fifty of my followers at a chop!
Lear. I'll tell thee;-life and death! I am asham'd
[Exit Lear with his attendants. As we have traversed this act in detail, word by word with the author, we have at each step felt additional motives to condemn the alterations of this tragedy. There is not a part, or, as Garrick once wrote, "a drop" of it, that can be spared without injury to the piece. A proof of this is, that the reader's mind accompanies the author with delight through every sentence: for it is not only the rapidity, yet correctness—the orderly connexion, yet the vivid spirit, with which the action is conducted, which renders every scene so irresistible, but the sentiments so characteristic and illustrative, and the language in which they are conveyed so forcible, perspicuous and just, (every word being in its proper place, and requisite to the progression of the story) that nothing in the whole appears superfluous, and therefore every thing that is taken away must do an injury. Even the speeches of the Fool, though they retard the action of the play, and, along with it, the march of the mind, are so replete with wit, and, under the guise of idiocy, so full of what Johnson calls axioms of domestic wisdom that, with a very slight alteration,if judiciously managed,
the character would greatly enhance the value of the play, and the pleasure to be derived from it.
(To be continued.)