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Yet I am doubtful: for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

with Macbeth: defi

acters.

One of the points of difference between this play Contrast and its near contemporary Macbeth is the extent to which in King Lear the minor characters are in- niteness of dividualized. Macbeth, as we observed, is somewhat minor charmore in the Marlowe tradition, in the sense that one colossal figure fills the stage, and the rest, with few exceptions, are sketched only so far as is necessary for their function as foils to the evil Titan they subserve. In Lear, Edgar and Edmund, Gloucester and Albany, Kent and the Fool are limned to the life. They revolve upon their own axes, besides circling in their orbits around the central figure. The part of Edgar must be one of the most difficult to enact in the entire range of Shakespearean rôles. It demands a versatility such as only the most accomplished actors can compass. Hamlet's feigning of madness is child's play to the relentless realism with which the chivalrous Edgar transmutes himself into the loathsome Bedlamite. His “nothing's more than matter.”

The outstanding characteristic of the Fool we The Fool: have already noted. His function is to intensify our

pessimism. perception of the horrors of the situation, not to dull it or relieve our strain. As in war-time the memory of the days of peace deepens our sense of present horror, and any note from the old symphony reminds us how the bells are jangled; so jests, that in other days would add spice and sweetness to life, in such a context as the world of Lear only acidulate the

the nadir of

The“ relief” comes from Kent and Edgar.

bitterness of death in life, and pile horror upon horror. Lear's motley follower is a master of irony. Were he to curse God and die, it would be more tolerable than the inhuman vividness, the merciless veracity, with which he paints the things of his world as they are. Koheleth's “vanity of vanities" sounds like a love-song beside the icy despair of this “bitter fool.”

The real relief comes not from him, but from the faithful Kent. In this awful play, only Kent and Edgar safeguard our threatened sanity, by reminding us of that other real world, in which truth and manly fealty still exist. Though his loyalty is made excessive by its touch of superstition,—though he does not quite escape, as his master does, from the ironical illusion of divinity about a king,—yet Kent is by nature true as steel. Through his fidelity we are enabled to retain our faith in the worth of life. If it were a world made up of none but Gonerils and Regans, of Cornwalls and Edmunds, then the sun would be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, and the stars would fall from heaven, and we should beseech the mountains and the rocks to fall upon us and hide us. But through that hell of Mammon-greed and Moloch-homicide, where love is perverted into the lust of Beelzebub, and the fair face of the earth itself grows hideous in the sullen glare of Tartarean flames, the humanity of Kent and Edgar keeps alive our almost spent and gasping faith in the hidden heart of man. Kent it is who sees how merciful is death, how far better than any more stretching on the rack of this tough world. Like the Stoic Horatio, he parts from us with the assurance that his loyalty is not bounded by the grave. He will follow after his departed leader, lest in the undis

covered country there should still be need for fealty
like his: -
I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;

V iii 321 f.
My master calls me; I must not say no.
To live by sympathetic imagination through the The strain
experiences of Othello and Desdemona, Hamlet and upon Shake-

speare. Ophelia, Gloucester and Edgar, Lear and Cordelia, is terrific even for the reader. What these giant creations, and, still more, what the limning of that evil world in which they are entangled, cost the man Shakespeare, their creator, is more than it hath entered into the heart of man to conceive. We feel, with Professor Raleigh, that even Shakespeare's mind is now in danger; even that noble and most sovereign reason comes perilously near to being like sweet bells jangled. The explanation of the poet's years of darkness is holden from us; the tales of despised love which so many students have read into the Sonnets are all groundless, and, even though they were not, they could not solve for us this mystery.

There is much sound insight mingled with Shaw's the pert trifling of the essay in which Bernard Shaw Dark Lady

of the seeks to convince us that the creator of Lear was pre- Sonnets, dominantly a happy man. Shakespeare, it is certain, preface. was too great to be a pessimist. He does not die of a broken heart, and his last state is not one of moody railing at the world. Always there is the joy peculiar to genius, the ecstasy of creation, which, as Tasso has said, the poet alone shares with God.? By grace of this, the man who passed through the fiery hell of Macbeth and Lear overlived that awful, and to any less man blasting, experience. The

2 Non merita nome di Creatore, se non Iddio ed il Poeta.

life, would mean insanity. Even to be righteous overmuch is a danger: St. Francis may become St.

Simeon Stylites. We have to cling to the precious The balance inconsistencies, the seeming weaknesses and foibles, of normal life.

that keep us sane. It is better to eat with Pharisees and publicans, and to be called a winebibber, than to feed on locusts and wild honey in the inhuman solitude of the wilderness. Well was it for Shakespeare that his daily walk was among the kindly haunts of men; for so he was enabled to master the devil that tempted him in that lonely place where his soul fought out the struggle of Lear in the storm.

Dante, they said, was the man who had been in hell; and Dante never quite got out again, because they could always see it in his face. But the man Shakespeare did not reveal to his fellows what he had seen and known. His triumph was that after Lear he still could laugh.

CHAPTER VIII

THE WINTER'S TALE”: THE COMEDY OF FOLLY AND

FATE

THE

HE fourth and last of the periods into which Shakewe divide Shakespeare's literary life is repre

speare's

last period sented by three plays, between which there is a fam- and its ily likeness, as marked as their difference from the products. productions of his earlier years. These three are Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. In Pericles we have a drama only partially of Shakespeare's authorship, though in the portions which criticism is unanimous in ascribing to him we have foreshadowings of some of the rarest excellences of his final trilogy. Pericles dates back to the year 1608 or earlier; Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale are most probably ascribed to 1610, and The Tempest to 1611. We know with certainty that The Winter's Tale was being played at the Globe Theatre in May, 1611, and that it was acted at Court on November 5th of the same year. It was witnessed at the Globe in May by a certain Dr. Simon Forman, who pre- Forman's served in a MS. diary (recovered some years since) Diary. an account of the performance he saw. The fairly complete outline of the plot jotted down by Forman leaves no doubt that what he witnessed was the extant play by Shakespeare. As in the case of Cymbeline and The Tempest, there are no quarto editions of this play. It was first published in the Folio of

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