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That play'd on her ripe lip, seem'd not to know
“ The Pelian javelin in his better hand
“ Shot trembling rays,” &c. i. e. his best hand, his right. Steevens.
Doth not Dr. Warburton's alteration infer that Cordelia's sorrow was superior to her patience ? But it seemed that she was a queen over her passion; and the smiles on her lip appeared not to know that tears were in her eyes. “ Her smiles and tears were like a better day,” or “ like a better May,” may signify that they were like such a season where sunshine prevailed over rain. So, in All's Well that Ends Well, Act V, sc. iii, we see in the king “sunshine and hail at once, but to the brightest beams distracted clouds give way: the time is fair again, and he is like a day of season,” i.e. a better day. Tollet.
Both the quartos read-a better way; which being perfectly unintelligible, I have adopted part of the emendation introduced by Dr. Warburton. The late editions have given a better day, a reading which first appeared in a note of Mr. Theobald's. A better day, howerer it be understood, is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the context. If a better day means either a good day, or the best day, it cannot represent Cordelia's smiles and tears; for neither the one nor the other necessarily implies rain, without which, there is nothing to correspond with her tears; nor can a rainy day occasionally brightened by sunshine, with any propriety be called a good or the best day. We are compelled therefore to make some other change.
A better Nay, on the other hand, whether we understand by it, a good May, or a May better than ordinary, corresponds exactly with the preceding image; for in every May rain may be expected, and in a good, or a better May than ordinary, the sunshine, like Cordelia's smiles, will predominate. With respect to the corrupt reading, I have no great faith in the inversion of the w at the press, and rather think the error arose in some other way.
Mr. Steevens has quoted a passage from Sidney's Arcadia, which Shakspeare may have had in view. Perhaps the following passage, in the same book, p. 163, edit. 1593, bears a still nearer resemblance to that before us: “ And with that she prettily smiled, which mingled with her tears, one could not tell whether it were a mourning pleasure, or a delightful sorrow ; but like when a few April drops are scattered by a gentle zephyrus among fine-coloured flowers.” Malone.
Mr. Malone reads a better May. As objections may be started against either reading, I declare my inability to decide between them. I have therefore left that word in the text which I found in possession of it. We might read
Were like an April day:
“ The April's in her eyes: it is love's spring,
As pearls from diamonds dropp'd.5-In brief, sorrow
Made she no verbal question ?6
- siniles,] The quartos read--sinilets. This may be a diminutive of Shakspeare's coinage. Steevens.
5 As pearls from diamonds droppid. &c.] In The Two Gentlemen of Verona we have the same image:
“ A sea of melting pearl, which some call tears." Malone. The harshness of the foregoing line, in the speech of the Gentle. Inan, induces me to believe that our author might have written :
Like pearls from diamonds dropping, This idea might have been taken from the ornaments of the an. cient carcanet or necklace, which frequently consisted of table diamonds with pearls appended to them, or in the jewellers' phrase, 'dropping from them. Pendants for the ear are still called-drops.
A similar thought to this of Shakspeare, occurs in Middleton's Game at Chess, no date:
the holy dew lies like a pearl
“ Upon the bashful rose.”
“ Under the opening eye-lids of the morn." Steevens. 6 Made she no verbal question?] Means only, Did she enter into no conversation with you? In this sense our poet frequently uses the word question, and not simply as the act of interrogation. Did she give you to understand her meaning by words as well as by the foregoing external testimonies of sorrow? So, in All's Well that Ends Well:
she told ine " In a sweet verbal brief,” &c. Stecvens. 7 'Faith, once, or twice,] Thus the quartos. Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read-Yes, once, &c. Regan, in a subsequent scene, in like manner, uses the rejected word, however inelegant it may now appear:
“ Faith, he is posted hence on serious matter." Malone. 8 Let pity not be believed !] i. e. Let not such a thing as pity be supposed to exist! Thus the old copies; but the modern editors have hitherto read Let pity not believe it ;
And clamour moisten'd:9 then away she started
It is the stars,
Why, good sir?
9 And clamour noisten'd:] It is not impossible but Shakspeare might have formed this fine picture of Cordelia's agony from holy writ, in the conduct of Joseph ; who, being no longer able to restrain the versemence of his affection, commanded all his retinue from his presence; and then wept aloud, and discovered himself to his breth
- clamour moisten d:) That is, her out-cries were accompanied with tears. Johnson.
The old copies read-And clamour moisten’d her. I have no doubt that the word her was inserted by the compositor's eye glancing on the middle of the preceding line, where that word occurs; and there. fore have omitted it. It may be observed that the metre is complete without this word. A similar error has happened in The Winter's Tale. See Vol. VI, p 302, n. 3. She moisten'd clamour, or the exclamations she had uttered, with tears. This is perfectly intelligible; but clamour moisten’d her, is certainly nonsense. Malone.
govern our conditions ;] i. e. regulate our dispositions. See Vol. IX, p. 374, n. 9. Malone.
2- one self mate and mate -] The same husband and the same wife. Johnson. Self is used here, as in many other places in these plays, for self
these things sting His mind so veno
nomously, that burning shame - ] The metaphor is here preserved with great knowledge of nature. The cenom of poi
Detains him from Cordelia.
Alack, poor gentleman ! Kent. Of Albany's and Cornwall's powers you heard
Gent. 'Tis so; they are afoot.4
Kent. Well, sir, I'll bring you to our master Lear, And leave you to attend him: some dear causes Will in concealment wrap me up awhile; When I am known aright, you shall not grieve Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you, go Along with me.]
(Exeunt. SCENE IV.
The same. Å Tent.
Enter CORDELIA, Physician, and Soldiers.
sonous animals being a high caustick salt, that has all the effect of fire upon
part. Warburton. 4 'Tis so; they are afoot.) Dr. Warburton thinks it necessary to read, 'tis said; but the sense is plain, So it is that they are on foot.
Johnson. 'Tis so, means, I think, I have heard of them; they do not exist in report only; they are actually on foot. Malone.
some dear cause -] Some important business. See Timon of Athens, Act V, sc. ii, Vol. xv. Malorie. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
a ring, that I must use
- fumiter,] i. e. fumitory: by the old herbalists written fumittery. Harris.
7 With harlocks, hemlock, &c.] The quartos read-With hordocks ; the folio-With hardokes. Malone.
I do not remember any such plant as a hardock, but one of the most common weeds is a burdock, which I believe should be read here; and so Hanmer reads. Fohnson. Hardocks should be harlocks. Thus Drayton, in one of his Eclogues :
“ The honey-suckle, the harlocke,
“ The lilly, and the lady.smocke,” &c. Farmer. One of the readings offered by the quartos (though misspelt) is perhaps the true one. The hoar-dock, is the dock with whitish woolly leaves. Stecvens.
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
can man's wisdom do,
Phy. There is means, madam :
All bless'd secrets,
Enter a Messenger.
Cor. 'Tis known before; our preparation stands
Harlocks, must be a typographical error for charlock, the common name of sinapis aroensis, wild mustard. Harris.
8 Darnel,] According to Gerard, is the most hurtful of weeds among corn. It is mentioned in The Witches of Lancashire, 1634:
o. That cockle, darnel, poppy wild,
“ May choak his grain,” &c. See Vol. X, p 08, n.4. Steevens.
What can man's wisdom do,] Do should be omitted, as needless to the sense of the passage, and injurious to its metre. Thus, in Hamlet :
Try what repentance can: what can it not?” Do, in either place, is understood, though suppressed. Steevens. - the means to lead it.] The reason which should guide it.
Fohnson. important – ] In other places of this author for importunate. Johnson. See Comedy of Errors, Act V, sc. i. The folio reads, importuned.