So, too, that profoundly philosophical suspicion, that a rose, or a violet, did actually smell, to a person occupying this sublime position, very much as it did to another; a suspicion which, in the mouth of a common man, would have been literally sufficient to 'make a star-chamber matter of'; and all that thorough-going analysis of the trick and pageant of majesty which follows it, would, of course, come only as a graceful concession, from the mouth of that genuine piece of royalty, who contrives to hide so much of the poet's own 'sovereignty of nature,' under the mantle of his free and princely humours, the brave and gentle hero of Agincourt.
'Though I speak it to you,' he says, talking in the disguise of a 'private,' 'I think the King is but a man as I am, the violet smells to him as it doth to me; all his senses, have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness, he appears but a man; and though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like wing. When he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are'; and in the same scene, thus the royal philosopher versifies, and soliloquises on the same delicate question.
'And what have kings that "privates" have not, too, save ceremony,—save general ceremony? And what art thou, thou idol ceremony?—What is thy soul of adoration?'
A grave question, for a man of an inquiring habit of mind, in those times: let us see how a Poet can answer it.
'Art thou aught else but place, degree and form, Creating awe and fear in other men? Wherein, thou art less happy, being feared, Than they in fearing?
[Again and again this man has told us, and on his oath, that he cherished no evil intentions, no thought of harm to the king; and those who know what criticisms on the state, as it was then, he had authorised, and what changes in it he was certainly meditating and preparing the way for, have charged him with falsehood and perjury on that account; but this is what he means. He thinks that wretched victim of that most irrational and monstrous state of things, on whose head the crown of an arbitrary rule is placed, with all its responsibilities, in his infinite unfitness for them, is, in fact, the one whose case most of all requires relief. He is the one, in this theory, who suffers from this unnatural state of things, not less, but more, than his meanest subject. 'Thou art less happy being feared, than they in fearing.']
What drink'st thou oft instead of homage sweet But poison'd flattery? O! be sick, great greatness, And bid thy ceremony give thee cure. Thinkest thou the fiery fever will go out With titles blown from adulation? Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Interesting physiological questions! And though the author, for reasons of his own, has seen fit to put them in blank verse here, it is not because he does not understand, as we shall see elsewhere, that they are questions of a truly scientific character, which require to be put in prose in his time—questions of vital consequence to all men. The effect of 'poisoned flattery,' and 'titles blown from adulation' on the minds, of those to whose single will and caprice the whole welfare of the state, and all the gravest questions for this life and the next, were then entrusted, naturally appeared to the philosophical mind, perseveringly addicted to inquiries, in which the practical interests of men were involved, a question of gravest moment.
But here it is the physical difference which accompanies this so immense human distinction, which he appears to be in quest of; it is the control over nature with which these 'farcical titles' invest their possessor, that he appears to be now pertinaciously bent upon ascertaining. For we shall find, as we pursue the subject, that this is not an accidental point here, a casual incident of the character, or of the plot, a thing which belongs to the play, and not to the author; but that this is a poet who is somehow perpetually haunted with the impression that those who assume a divine right to control, and dispose of their fellow-men, ought to exhibit some sign of their authority; some superior abilities; some magical control; some light and power that other men have not. How he came by any such notions, the critic of his works is, of course, not bound to show; but that which meets him at the first reading is the fact, the incontestable fact, that the Poet of Shakspere's stage, be he who he may, is a poet whose mind is in some way deeply occupied with this question; that it is a poet who is infected, and, indeed, perfectly possessed, with the idea, that the true human leadership ought to consist in the ability to extend the empire of man over nature,—in the ability to unite and control men, and lead them in battalions against those common evils which infest the human conditions,—not fevers only but 'worser' evils, and harder to be cured, and to the conquest of those supernal blessings which the human race have always been vainly crying for. 'I am a king that find thee,' he says.
And having this inveterate notion of a true human regality to begin with, he is naturally the more curious and prying in regard to the claims of the one which he finds in possession; and when by the mystery of his profession and art, he contrives to get the cloak of that factitious royalty about him, he asks questions under its cover which another man would not think of putting.
'Canst thou,' he continues, walking up and down the stage in King Hal's mantle, inquiring narrowly into its virtues and taking advantage of that occasion to ascertain the limits of the prerogative—that very dubious question then,—
'Canst thou when thou command'st the beggar's knee, Command the health of it?'—
No? what mockery of power is it then? But, this in connection with the preceding inquiry in regard to the effect of titles on the progress of a fever, or the amenability of its paroxysm, to flexure and low bending, might have seemed perhaps in the mouth of a subject to savour somewhat of irony; it might have sounded too much like a taunt upon the royal helplessness under cover of a serious philosophical inquiry, or it might have betrayed in such an one a disposition to pursue scientific inquiries farther than was perhaps expedient. But thus it is, that THE KING can dare to pursue the subject, answering his own questions.
'No, thou proud dream That playst so subtly with a king's repose; I am a king that find thee; and I know 'Tis not the THE BALM, THE SCEPTRE, and THE BALL, THE SWORD, THE MACE, THE CROWN IMPERIAL, The inter-tissued ROBE of gold and pearl, The FARCED TITLE—
What is that?—Mark it:—the farced TITLE!—A bold word, one would say, even with a king to authorise it.
'The farced TITLE running 'fore the king, THE THRONE he sits on, nor the tide of POMP That beats upon the high shore of this world, No, not all these, thrice gorgeous CEREMONY, Not all these laid in BED MAJESTICAL, Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave Who, with a body filled, and vacant mind, Gets him to rest crammed with distressful bread, Never sees horrid night, the child of hell, But like a lackey from the rise to set Sweats in the eye of Phoebus; and all night Sleeps in Elysium.
Yes, there we have him, at last. There he is exactly. That is the scientific picture of him, 'poor man,' as this poet calls him elsewhere. What malice could a philosophic poet bear him? That is the monarchy that men were 'sanctifying themselves with,' and 'turning up the white of the eye to,' then. That is the figure that it makes when it comes to be laid in its state-bed, upon the scientific table of review, not in the formal manner of 'the second part' of this philosophy, but in that other manner which the author of the Novum Organum, speaks of so frequently, as the one to be used in applying it to subjects of this nature. That is the anatomy of him, which 'our method of inquiry and investigation,' brings out without much trouble 'when we come to particulars.' 'Truly we were in good hands,' as the other one says, who finds it more convenient, for his part, to discourse on these points, from a distance.
That is the figure the usurping monarch's pretensions make at the first blush, in the collections from which 'the vintage' of the true sovereignty, and the scientific principles of governments are to be expressed, when the true monarchy, the legitimate, 'one only man power,' is the thing inquired for. This one goes to 'the negative' side apparently. A wretched fellow that cannot so much as 'sleep o' nights,' that lies there on the stage in the play of Henry the Fourth, in the sight of all the people, with THE CROWN on his very pillow, by way 'facilitating the demonstration,' pining for the 'Elysium' at his meanest subject,—that the poor slave, 'crammed with distressful bread,' commands; crying for the luxury that the wet seaboy, on his high and giddy couch enjoys;—and from whose note-book came that image, dashed with the ocean spray,—who saw that seaboy sleeping in that storm?
But, as for this KING, it is the king which the scientific history brings out; whereas, in the other sort of history that was in use then, lie is hardly distinguishable at all from those Mexican kings who undertook to keep the heavenly bodies in their places, and, at the same time, to cause all things to be borne by the earth which were requisite for the comfort and convenience of man; a peculiarity of those sovereigns, of which the Man on the Mountains, whose study is so well situated for observations of that sort, makes such a pleasant note.
But whatever other view we may take of it, this, it must be conceded, is a tolerably comprehensive exhibition, in the general, of the mere pageant of royalty, and a pretty free mode of handling it; but it is at the same time a privileged and entirely safe one. For the liberty of this great Prince to repeat to himself, in the course of a solitary stroll through his own camp at midnight, when nobody is supposed to be within hearing, certain philosophical conclusions which he was understood to have arrived at in the course of his own regal experience, could hardly be called in question. And as to that most extraordinary conversation in which, by means of his disguise on this occasion, he becomes a participator, if the Prince himself were too generous to avail himself of it to the harm of the speakers, it would ill become any one else to take exceptions at it.
And yet it is a conversation in which a party of common soldiers are permitted to 'speak their minds freely' for once, though 'the blank verse has to halt for it,' on questions which would be considered at present questions of 'gravity.' It is a dialogue in which these men are allowed to discuss one of the most important institutions of their time from an ethical point of view, in a tone as free as the president of a Peace Society could use to-day in discussing the same topic, intermingling their remarks with criticisms on the government, and personal allusions to the king himself, which would seem to be more in accordance with the manners of the nineteenth century, than with those of the Poet's time.
But then these wicked and treasonous grumblings being fortunately encountered on the spot, and corrected by the king himself in his own august person, would only serve for edification in the end; if, indeed, that appeal to the national pride which would conclude the matter, and the glory of that great day which was even then breaking in the East, should leave room for any reflections upon it. For it was none other than the field of Agincourt that was subjected to this philosophic inquiry. It was the lustre of that immortal victory which was to England then, what Waterloo and the victories of Nelson are now, that was thus chemically treated beforehand. Under the cover of that renowned triumph, it was, that these soldiers could venture to search so deeply the question of war in general; it was in the person of its imperial hero, that the statesman could venture to touch so boldly, an institution which gave to one man, by his own confession no better or wiser than his neighbours, the power to involve nations in such horrors.
But let us join the king in his stroll, and hear for ourselves, what it is that these soldiers are discussing, by the camp-fires of Agincourt;—what it is that this first voice from the ranks has to say for itself. The king has just encountered by the way a poetical sentinel, who, not satisfied with the watchword—'a friend,'— requests the disguised prince 'to discuss to him, and answer, whether he is an officer, or base, common, and popular,' when the king lights on this little group, and the discussion which Pistol had solicited, apparently on his own behalf, actually takes place, for the benefit of the Poet's audience, and the answer to these inquiries comes out in due order.
Court. Brother John Bates, is not that the morning which breaks yonder?
Bates. I think it be, but we have no great cause to desire the approach of day.
Will. We see yonder the beginning of the day, but I think we shall never see the end of it. Who goes there?
King Henry. A friend.
Will. Under what captain serve you?
King. Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.
Will. A good old commander, and a most kind gentleman: I pray you, what thinks he of our estate?
King. Even as men wrecked upon a sand, that look to be washed off the next tide.
Bates. He hath not told his thought to the king?
King. No; nor it is not meet that he should; for though I speak it to you, I think the king is but a man as I am.
And it is here that he proceeds to make that important disclosure above quoted, that all his senses have but human conditions, and that all his affections, though higher mounted, stoop with the like wing; and therefore no man should in reason possess him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it, 'should dishearten his army.'
Bates. He may show what outward courage he will; but, I believe, as cold a night as 'tis, he could wish himself in the Thames, up to the neck; and so I would he were, and I by him, at all adventures, so we were quit here.
King. By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the king. I think he would not wish himself anywhere but where he is.
Bates. Then would he were here alone; so should he be sure to be ransomed, and a many poor men's lives saved.
King. I dare say you love him not so ill as to wish him here alone; howsoever you speak this to feel other men's minds; Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king's company; his cause being just, and his quarrel honorable.
Will. That's more than we know.
Bates. Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the king's subjects; if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.
Will. But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make; when all those legs and arms and heads chopped off in a battle shall join together at the latter day, and cry all—We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them; some upon the debts they owe; some upon their children rawly left. I am afeared that few die well, that die in battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument? Now if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.
King. So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise, do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness, by your rule, should be imposed upon his father that sent him: or if a servant, under his master's command, transporting a sum of money, be assailed by robbers, and die in many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of the servant's damnation.—But this is not so.... There is no king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to the arbitrament of swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers.
But the king pursues this question of the royal responsibility until he arrives at the conclusion that every subject's DUTY is THE KING'S, BUT EVERY SUBJECT'S SOUL IS HIS OWN, until he shows, indeed, that there is but one ultimate sovereignty; one to which the king and his subjects are alike amenable, which pursues them everywhere, with its demands and reckonings,—from whose violated laws there is no escape.
Will. 'Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill is upon his own head—[no unimportant point in the theology or ethics of that time]—THE KING is not to answer for it.
Bates. I do not desire the king should answer for me, and yet I determine to fight lustily for him.
King. I, myself, heard the king say, he would not be ransomed.
Will. Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully; but when our throats are cut, he may be ransomed and we ne'er the wiser.
King. If I live to see it, I will never trust his word after.
Will. Mass, you'll pay him then! That's a perilous shot out of an elder gun, that a poor and private displeasure can do against a monarch. You may as well go about to turn the sun to ice, with fanning in his face with a peacock's feather.
And, indeed, thus and not any less absurd and monstrous, appeared the idea of subjecting the king to any effect from the subject's displeasure, or the idea of calling him to account—this one, helpless, frail, private man, as he has just been conceded by the king himself to be, for any amount of fraud or dishonesty to the nation, for any breach of trust or honour. For his relation to the mass and the source of this fearful irresponsible power was not understood then. The soldier states it well. One might, indeed, as well go about to turn the sun to ice, with fanning in his face with a peacock's feather.
'You'll never trust his word after,' the soldier continues. 'Come, 'tis a foolish saying.'
'Your reproof is something too round,' is the king's reply. It is indeed round. It is one of those round replies that this poet is so fond of, and the king himself becomes 'the private' of it, when once the centre of this play is found, and the sweep of its circumference is taken. For the sovereignty of law, the kingship of the universal law in whomsoever it speaks, awful with God's power, armed with his pains and penalties is the scientific sovereignty; and in the scientific diagrams the passions, 'the poor and private passions,' and the arbitrary will, in whomsoever they speak, no matter what symbols of sovereignty they have contrived to usurp, make no better figure in their struggles with that law, than that same which the poet's vivid imagination and intense perception of incompatibilities, has seized on here. The king struggles vainly against the might of the universal nature. It is but the shot out of an 'elder gun;' he might as well 'go about to turn the sun to ice with fanning in his face with a peacock's feather.' 'I should be angry with you,' continues the king, after noticing the roundness of that reply, 'I should be angry with you, if the time were convenient.'
But as to the poet who composes these dialogues, of course he does not know whether the time is convenient or not;—he has never reflected upon any of those grave questions which are here so seriously discussed. They are not questions in which he can be supposed to have taken any interest. Of course he does not know or care what it is that these men are talking about. It is only for the sake of an artistic effect, to pass away the night, and to deepen for his hero the gloom which was to serve as the foil and sullen ground of his great victory, that his interlocutors are permitted to go on in this manner.
It is easy to see, however, what extraordinary capabilities this particular form of writing offered to one who had any purpose, or to an author, who wished on any account, to 'infold' somewhat his meaning;—that was the term used then in reference to this style of writing. For certainly, many things dangerous in themselves could be shuffled in under cover of an artistic effect, which would not strike at the time, amid the agitations, and the skilful checks, and counteractions, of the scene, even the quick ear of despotism itself.
And thus King Lear—that impersonation of absolutism—the very embodiment of pure will and tyranny in their most frantic form, taken out all at once from that hot bath of flatteries to which he had been so long accustomed, that his whole self-consciousness had become saturated, tinctured in the grain with them, and he believed himself to be, within and without, indestructibly, essentially,—'ay, every inch A KING;' with speeches on his supremacy copied, well nigh verbatim, from those which Elizabeth's courtiers habitually addressed to her, still ringing in his ears, hurled out into a single-handed contest with the elements, stripped of all his 'social and artificial lendings,' the poor, bare, unaccommodated, individual man, this living subject of the poet's artistic treatment,—this 'ruined Majesty' anatomized alive, taken to pieces literally before our eyes, pursued, hunted down scientifically, and robbed in detail of all 'the additions of a king'—must, of course, be expected to evince in some way his sense of it; 'for soul and body,' this poet tells us, 'rive not more in parting than greatness going off.'
Once conceive the possibility of presenting the action, the dumb show, of this piece upon the stage at that time, (there have been times since when it could not be done), and the dialogue, with its illimitable freedoms, follows without any difficulty. For the surprise of the monarch at the discoveries which this new state of things forces upon him,—the speeches he makes, with all the levelling of their philosophy, with all the unsurpassable boldness of their political criticism, are too natural and proper to the circumstances, to excite any surprise or question.
Indeed, a king, who, nurtured in the flatteries of the palace, was unlearned enough in the nature of things, to suppose that the name of a king was anything but a shadow when the power which had sustained its prerogative was withdrawn,—a king who thought that he could still be a king, and maintain 'his state' and 'his hundred knights,' and their prerogatives, and all his old arbitrary, despotic humours, with their inevitable encroachment on the will and humours, and on the welfare of others, merely on grounds of respect and affection, or on grounds of duty, when not merely the care of 'the state,' but the revenues and power of it had been devolved on others—such a one appeared, indeed, to the poet, to be engaging in an experiment very similar to the one which he found in progress in his time, in that old, decayed, riotous form of military government, which had chosen the moment of its utter dependence on the popular will and respect, as the fitting one for its final suppression of the national liberties. It was an experiment which was, of course, modified in the play by some diverting and strongly pronounced differences, or it would not have been possible to produce it then; but it was still the experiment of the unarmed prerogative, that the old popular tale of the ancient king of Britain offered to the poet's hands, and that was an experiment which he was willing to see traced to its natural conclusion on paper at least; while in the subsequent development of the plot, the presence of an insulted trampled outcast majesty on the stage, furnishes a cover of which the poet is continually availing himself, for putting the case of that other outraged sovereignty, whose cause under one form or another, under all disguises, he is always pleading. And in the poet's hands, the debased and outcast king, becomes the impersonation of a debased and violated state, that had given all to its daughters,—the victim of a tyranny not less absolute, the victim, too, of a blindness and fatuity on its own part, not less monstrous, but not, not—that is the poet's word—not yet irretrievable.
'Thou shalt find I will resume that shape, which thou dost think I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.' 'Do you mark that, my lord?'
But the question of that prerogative, which has consumed, in the poet's time, all the faculties of government constitutes only a subordinate part of the action of that great play, into which it is here incorporated; a play which comprehends in its new philosophical reaches, in its new and before-unimagined subtilties of analysis, the most radical questions of a practical human science; questions which the practical reason of these modern ages at the moment of its awakening, found itself already compelled to grapple with, and master.
'Consider him well.—Three of us are sophisticated.'
For this is the grand SOCIAL tragedy. It is the tragedy of an unlearned human society; it is the tragedy of a civilization in which grammar, and the relations of sounds and abstract notions to each other have sufficed to absorb the attention of the learned,—a civilization in which the parts of speech, and their relations, have been deeply considered, but one in which the social elements, the parts of life, and their unions, and their prosody, have been left to spontaneity, and empiricism, and all kinds of rude, arbitrary, idiomatical conjunctions, and fortuitous rules; a civilization in which the learning of 'WORDS' is put down by the reporter—invented— and the learning of 'THINGS'—omitted.
And in a movement which was designed to bring the human reason to bear scientifically and artistically upon those questions in which the deepest human interests are involved, the wrong and misery of that social state to which the New Machine, with its new combination of sense and reason, must be applied, had to be fully and elaborately brought out and exhibited. And there was but one language in which the impersonated human misery and wrong,—the speaker for countless hearts, tortured and broken on the rude machinery of unlearned social customs, and lawless social forces, could speak; there was but one tongue in which it could tell its story. For this is the place where science becomes inevitably poetical. That same science which fills our cabinets and herbariums, and chambers of natural history, with mute stones and shells and plants and dead birds and insects—that same science that fills our scientific volumes with coloured pictures true as life itself, and letter-press of prose description—that same science that anatomises the physical frame with microscopic nicety,—in the hand of its master, found in the soul, that which had most need of science; and his 'illustrated book' of it, the book of his experiments in it, comes to us filled with his yet living, 'ever living' subjects, and resounding with the tragedy of their complainings.
It requires but a little reading of that book to find, that the author of it is a philosopher who is strongly disposed to ascertain the limits of that thing in nature, which men call fortune,—that is, in their week-day speech,—they have another name for it 'o' Sundays.' He is greatly of the opinion, that the combined and legitimate use of those faculties with which man is beneficently 'armed against diseases of the world,' would tend very much to limit those fortuities and accidents, those wild blows,—those vicissitudes, that men, in their ignorance and indolent despair, charge on Fate or ascribe to Providence, while at the same time it would furnish the art of accommodating the human mind to that which is inevitable. It is not fortune who is blind, but man, he says,—a creature endowed of nature for his place in nature, endowed of God with a godlike faculty, looking before and after—a creature who has eyes, eyes adapted to his special necessities, but one that will not use them.
Acquaintance with law, as it is actual in nature, and inventions of arts based on that acquaintance, appear to him to open a large field of relief to the human estate, a large field of encroachment on that human misery, which men have blindly and stupidly acquiesced in hitherto, as necessity. For this is the philosopher who borrows, on another page, an ancient fable to teach us that that is not the kind of submission which is pleasing to God—that that is not the kind of 'suffering' that will ever secure his favour. He, for one, is going to search this social misery to the root, with that same light which the ancient wise man tells us, 'is as the lamp of God, wherewith He searcheth the inwardness of all secrets.'
The weakness and ignorance and misery of the natural man,—the misery too of the artificial man as he is,—the misery of man in society, when that society is cemented with arbitrary customs, and unscientific social arts, and when the instinctive spontaneous demoniacal forces of nature, are at large in it; the dependence of the social Monad, the constitutional specific human dependence, on the specific human law,—the exquisite human liability to injury and wrong, which are but the natural indications of those higher arts and excellencies, those unborn pre-destined human arts and excellencies, which man must struggle through his misery to reach;—that is the scientific notion which lies at the bottom of this grand ideal representation. It is, in a word, the human social NEED, in all its circumference, clearly sketched, laid out, scientifically, as the basis of the human social ART. It is the negation of that which man's conditions, which the human conditions require;—it is the collection on the Table of Exclusion and Rejection, which must precede the practical affirmation.
King. Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in it?
Hamlet. None in the world. It's the image of a murder done in Vienna.
In the poetic representation of that state of things which was to be redressed, the central social figure must, of course, have its place. For it is the Poet, the Experimental Poet, unseen indeed, deep buried in his fable, his new movements all hidden under its old garb, and deeper hidden still, in the new splendours he puts on it—it is the Poet—invisible but not the less truly, he,—it is the Scientific Poet, who comes upon the monarch in his palace at noonday, and says, 'My business is with thee, O king.' It is he who comes upon the selfish arrogant old despot, drunk with Elizabethan flatteries, stuffed with 'titles blown from adulation,' unmindful of the true ends of government, reckless of the duties which that regal assumption of the common weal brings with it—it is the Poet who comes upon this Doctor of Laws in the palace and prescribes to him a course of treatment which the royal patient himself, when once it has taken effect, is ready to issure from the hovel's mouth, in the form of a general prescription and state ordinance.
'Take physic, POMP; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou may'st shake the superflux to them, And show the heavens more just. Oh, I have taken too little care of This!'
It is that same Poet who has already told us, confidentially, under cover of King Hal's mantle, that 'the king himself is but a man' and that 'all his senses have but human conditions and that his affections, too, though higher mounted when they stoop, stoop with the like wing; that his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man';—it is that same Poet, and, in carrying out the purpose of this play, it has come in his way now to make good that statement. For it was necessary to his purpose here, to show that the State is composed throughout, down to its most loathsome unimaginable depths of neglect and misery, of individual men, social units, clothed of nature with the same faculties and essential human dignities and susceptibilities to good and evil, and crowned of nature with the common sovereignty of reason,—down-trodden, perhaps, and wrung and trampled out of them, but elected of nature to that dignity; it was necessary to show this, in order that the wisdom of the State which sacrifices to the senses of one individual man, and the judgment that is narrowed by the one man's senses, the weal of the whole,—in order that the wisdom of the State, which puts at the mercy of the arbitrary will and passions of the one, the weal of the many, might be mathematically exhibited,—might be set down in figures and diagrams. For this is that Poet who represents this method of inquiry and investigation, as it were, to the eye. This is that same Poet, too, who surprises elsewhere a queen in her swooning passion of grief, and bids her murmur to us her recovering confession.
'No more, but e'en a woman; and commanded By such poor passion, as the maid that milks, And does the meanest chares.'
So busy is he, indeed, in laying by this king's 'ceremonies' for him, beginning with the first doubtful perception of a most faint neglect,—a falling off in the ceremonious affection due to majesty 'as well in the general dependents as in the duke himself and his daughter,'—so faint that the king dismisses it from his thought, and charges it on his own jealousy till he is reminded of it by another,—beginning with that faint beginning, and continuing the process not less delicately, through all its swift dramatic gradations,—the direct abatement of the regal dignities,—the knightly train diminishing,—nay, 'fifty of his followers at a clap' torn from him, his messenger put in the stocks,—and 'it is worse than murder,' the poor king cries in the anguish of his slaughtered dignity and affection, 'to do upon respect such violent outrage,'—so bent is the Poet upon this analytic process; so determined that this shaking out of a 'preconception,' shall be for once a thorough one, so absorbed with the dignity of the scientific experiment, that he seems bent at one moment on giving a literal finish to this process; but the fool's scruples interfere with the philosophical humour of the king, and the presence of Mad Tom in his blanket, with the king's exposition, suffices to complete the demonstration. For not less lively than this, is the preaching and illustration, from that new rostrum which this 'Doctor' has contrived to make himself master of. 'His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man,' says King Hal. 'Couldst thou save nothing?' says King Lear to the Bedlamite. 'Why thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.' 'Is man,'—it is the king who generalises, it is the king who introduces this levelling suggestion here in the abstract, while the Poet is content with the responsibility of the concrete exhibition—'Is man no wore than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the cat no perfume:—Ha! here's three of us are sophisticated. Thou art the thing itself. UNACCOMMODATED MAN is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal, as thou art. Off, off, you lendings.' But 'the fool' is of the opinion that this scientific process of unwrapping the artificial majesty, this philosophical undressing, has already gone far enough.
'Pry'thee, Nuncle, be contented,' he says, 'it is a naughty night to swim in.'
For it is the great heath wrapped in one of those storms of wind and rain and thunder and lightning, which this wizard only of all the children of men knows how to raise, that he chooses for his physiological exhibition of majesty, when the palace-door has been shut upon it, and the last 'additions of a king' have been subtracted. It is a night—
'Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch, The lion, and the belly-pinched wolf Keep their fur dry'—
into which he turns his royal patient 'unbonneted.'
For the tyranny of wild nature in her elemental uproar must be added to the tyranny of the human wildness, the cruelty of the elements must conspire, like pernicious ministers, with the cruelty of arbitrary HUMAN will and passions, the irrational, INHUMAN social forces must be joined by those other forces that make war upon us, before the real purpose of this exhibition and the full depth and scientific comprehension of it can begin to appear. It is in the tempest that Lear finds occasion to give out the Poet's text. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Unaccommodated man in his struggle with nature. Man without social combinations, man without arts to aid him in his battle with the elements, or with arts that fence in his body, and robe it, it may be, in delicate and gorgeous apparelling, arts that roof his head with a princely dome it may be, and add to his native dignity and forces, the means and appliances of a material civilization, but leave his nobler nature with its more living susceptibility to injury, unsheathed, at the mercy of the brute forces that unscientific civilizations, with their coarse laws, with their cobwebs of WORDY learning, with their science of abstractions, unmatched with the subtilty of THINGS, are compelled to leave at large, uncaught, unentangled.
Yes, it is man in his relation to nature, man in his dependence on artificial aid, man in his two-fold dependence on art, that this tempest, this double tempest wakes and brings out, for us to 'consider,'—to 'consider well';—'the naked creature,' that were better in his grave than to answer with his uncovered body that extremity of the skies, and by his side, with his soul uncovered to a fiercer blast, his royal brother with 'the tempest in his mind, that doth from his senses take all feeling else, save what beats there.'
It is the personal weakness, the moral and intellectual as well as the bodily frailty and limitation of faculty, and liability to suffering and outrage, the liability to wrong from treachery, as well as violence, which are 'the common' specific human conditions, common to the King in his palace, and Tom o'Bedlam in his hovel; it is this exquisite human frailty and susceptibility, still unprovided for, that fills the play throughout, and stands forth in these two, impersonated; it is that which fills all the play with the outcry of its anguish.
And thus it is, that this poor king must needs be brought out into this wild uproar of nature, and stripped of his last adventitious aid, reduced to the authority and forces that nature gave him, invaded to the skin, and ready in his frenzy to second the poet's intent, by yielding up the last thread of his adventitious and artistic defences. All his artificial, social personality already dissolved, or yet in the agony of its dissolution, all his natural social ties torn and bleeding within him, there is yet another kind of trial for him, as the elected and royal representative of the human conditions. For the perpetual, the universal interest of this experiment arises from the fact, that it is not as the king merely, dissolving like 'a mockery king of snow' that this illustrious form stands here, to undergo this fierce analysis, but as the representative, 'the conspicuous instance,' of that social name and figure, which all men carry about with them, and take to be a part of themselves, that outward life, in which men go beyond themselves, by means of their affections, and extend their identity, incorporating into their very personality, that floating, contingent material which the wills and humours and opinions, the prejudices and passions of others, and the variable tide of this world's fortunes make—that social Name and Figure in which men may die many times, ere the physical life is required of them, in which all men must needs live if they will live in it at all, at the mercy of these uncontrolled social eventualities.
The tragedy is complicated, but it is only that same complication which the tragedy it stands for, is always exhibiting. The fact that this blow to his state is dealt to him by those to whom nature herself had so dearly and tenderly bound him, nay, with whom she had so hopelessly identified him, is that which overwhelms the sufferer. It is that which he seeks to understand in vain. He wishes to reason upon it, but his mind cannot master it; under that it is that his brain gives way,—the first mental confusion begins there. The blow to his state is a subordinate thing with him. It only serves to measure the wrong that deals it. The poet takes pains to clear this complication in the experiment. It is the wound in the affections which untunes the jarring senses of 'this child-changed father.' It is that which invades his identity.
'Are you our daughter? Does anyone here know me?' That is the word with which he breaks the silence of that dumb amazement, that paralysis of frozen wonder which Goneril's first rude assault brings on him. 'Why, this is not Lear; Ha! sure it is not so. Does any one here know me? Who is it that can tell me who I am?'
But with all her cruelty, he cannot shake her off. He curses her; but his curses do not sever the tie.
'But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter. Or rather, a disease that's in my flesh Which I must needs call mine. Filial ingratitude! Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand For lifting food to it?'
For that is the poet's conception of the extent of this social life and outgoing—that is the interior of that social whole, in which the dissolution he represents here is proceeding,—and that is the kind of new phenomenon which the science of man, when it takes him as he is, not the abstract man of the schools, not the logical man that the Realists and the Nominalists went to blows for, but 'the thing itself,' exhibits. As to that other 'man,'—the man of the old philosophy,—he was not 'worth the whistle,' this one thinks. 'His bones were marrowless, his blood was cold, he had no speculation in those eyes that he did glare with.' The New Philosopher will have no such skeletons in his system. He is getting his general man out of particular cases, building him up solid, from a basis of natural history, and, as far as he goes, there will be no question, no two words about it, as to whether he is or is not. 'For I do take,' says the Advancer of Learning, 'the consideration in general, and at large, of Human Nature, to be fit to be emancipated and made a knowledge by itself.' No wonder if some new aspects of these ordinary phenomena, these 'common things,' as he calls them, should come out, when they too come to be subjected to a scientific inquiry, and when the Poet of this Advancement, this so subtle Poet of it, begins to explore them.
And as to this particular point which he puts down with so much care, this point which poor Lear is illustrating here, viz. 'that our affections carry themselves beyond us,' as the sage of the 'Mountain' expresses it, this is the view the same Poet gives of it, in accounting for Ophelia's madness.
'Nature is fine in love; and where 'tis fine, It sends some precious instance of itself, After the thing it loves.'
'Your old kind father,' continues Lear, searching to the quick the secrets of this 'broken-heartedness,' as people are content to call it, this ill to which the human species is notoriously liable, though philosophy had not thought it worth while before 'to find it out;'
'Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,— O that way madness lies; let me shun that, No more of that.'
And it is while he is still undergoing the last extreme of the suffering which the human wrong is capable of inflicting on the affections, that he comes in the Poet's hands to exhibit also the unexplored depth of that wrong,—that monstrous, inhuman social error, that perpetual outrage on nature in her human law, which leaves the helpless human outcast to the rough discipline of nature, which casts him out from the family of man, from its common love and shelter, and leaves him in his vices, and helplessness, and ignorance, to contend alone with great nature and her unrelenting consequences.
'To wilful men The injuries that they themselves procure, Must be their school-masters,'—
is the point which the philosophic Regan makes, as she bids them shut the door in her father's face; but it is the common human relationship that the Poet is intent on clearing, while he notes the special relationship also; he does not limit his humanities to the ties of blood, or household sympathies, or social gradations.
But Regan's views on this point are seconded and sustained, and there seems to be but one opinion on the subject among those who happen to have that castle in possession; at least the timid owner of it does not feel himself in a position to make any forcible resistance to the orders which his illustrious guests, who have 'taken from him the use of his own house,' have seen fit to issue in it. 'Shut up your doors, (says Cornwall),
'Shut up your doors, my lord: 'tis a wild night. My REGAN COUNSELS well; COME OUT O' THE STORM.'
And it is because this representation is artistic and dramatic, and not simply historical, and the Poet must seek to condense, and sum and exhibit in dramatic appreciable figures, the unreckonable, undefinable historical suffering of years, aad lifetimes of this vain human struggle,—because, too, the wildest threats which nature in her terrors makes to man, had to be incorporated in this great philosophic piece; and because, lastly, the Poet would have the madness of the human will and passion, presented in its true scientific relations, that this storm collects into itself such ideal sublimities, and borrows from the human passion so many images of cruelty.
In all the mad anguish of that ruined greatness, and wronged natural affection, the Poet, relentless as fortune herself in her sternest moods, intent on his experiment only, will bring out his great victim, and consign him to the wind and the rain, and the lightning, and the thunder, and bid his senses undergo their 'horrible pleasure.'
For the senses, scorned as they had been in philosophy hitherto, the senses in this philosophy, have their report also,—their full, honest report, to make to us. And the design of this piece, as already stated in the general, required in its execution, not only that these two kinds of suffering, these two grand departments of human need, should be included and distinguished in it, but that they should be brought together in this one man's experience, so that a deliberate comparison can be instituted between them; and the Poet will bid the philosophic king, the living 'subject' himself, report the experiment, and tell us plainly, once for all, whether the science of the physical Arts only, is the science which is wanting to man; or whether arts—scientific arts—that take hold of the moral nature, also, and deal with that not less effectively, can be dispensed with; whether, indeed, man is in any condition to dispense with the Science and the Art which puts him into intelligent and harmonious relations with nature in general.
It was necessary to the purpose of the play to exhibit man's dependence on art, by means of his senses and his sensibilities, and his intellectual conditions, and all his frailties and liabilities,— his dependence on art, based on the knowledge of natural laws, universal laws,—constitutions, which include the human. It was necessary to exhibit the whole misery, the last extreme of that social evil, to which a creature so naturally frail and ignorant is liable, under those coarse, fortuitous, inartistic, unscientific social conglomerations, which ignorant and barbarous ages build, and under the tyranny of those wild, barbaric social evils, which our fine social institutions, notwithstanding the universality of their terms, and the transcendant nature of the forces which they are understood to have at their disposal, for some fatal reason or other, do not yet succeed in reducing.
It is, indeed, the whole ground of the Scientific Human Art, which is revealed here by the light of this great passion, and that, in this Poet's opinion, is none other than the ground of the human want, and is as large and various as that. And the careful reader of this play,—the patient searcher of its subtle lore,—the diligent collector of its thick-crowding philosophic points and flashing condensations of discovery, will find that the need of arts, is that which is set forth in it, with all the power of its magnificent poetic embodiment, and in the abstract as well,—the need of arts infinitely more noble and effective, more nearly matched with the subtlety of nature, and better able to entangle and subdue its oppositions, than any of which mankind have yet been able to possess themselves, or ever the true intention of nature in the human form can be realized, or anything like a truly Human Constitution, or Common-Weal, is possible.
But let us return to the comparison, and collect the results of this experiment.—For a time, indeed, raised by that storm of grief and indignation into a companionship with the wind and the rain, and the lightning, and the thunder, the king 'strives in his little world of man,'—for that is the phrasing of the poetic report, to out-scorn these elements. Nay, we ourselves hear, as the curtain rises on that ideal representative form of human suffering, the wild intonation of that human defiance—mounting and singing above the thunder, and drowning all the elemental crash with its articulation; for this is an experiment which the philosopher will try in the presence of his audience, and not report it merely. With that anguish in his heart, the crushed majesty, the stricken old man, the child-wounded father, laughs at the pains of the senses; the physical distress is welcome to him, he is glad of it. He does not care for anything that the unconscious, soulless elements can do to him, he calls to them from their heights, and bids them do their worst. Or it is only as they conspire with that wilful human wrong, and serve to bring home to him anew the depth of it, by these tangible, sensuous effects,—it is only by that means that they are able to wound him.
'Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters,'
that is the argument.
'I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness.'
Surely that is logical; that is a distinction not without a difference, and appreciable to the human mind, as it is constituted,—surely that is a point worth putting in the arts and sciences.
'I never gave you kingdoms, called you children; You owe me no subscription; why, then, let fall Your horrible pleasure? Here I stand your slave, A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man; But yet, I call you servile ministers, That have with two pernicious daughters joined Your high, engendered battles 'gainst a head So old and white as this. O, O, 'tis foul.'
And in his calmer mood, when the storm has done its work upon him, and all the strength of his great passion is exhausted,—when his bodily powers are fast sinking under it, and like the subtle Hamlet's 'potent poison,' it begins at last to 'o'er-crow his spirit'—when he is faint with struggling with its fury, wet to the skin with it, and comfortless and shivering, he still maintains through his chattering teeth the argument; he will still defend his first position—
'Thou thinkst 'tis much that this contentious storm Invades us to the skin; so 'tis to thee, But where the greater malady is fixed, The lesser is scarce felt.'
'The tempest in my mind Doth from my senses take all feeling else, Save what beats there.'
'In such a night To shut me out! Pour on, I will endure. In such a night as this.'
And when the shelter he is at last forced to seek is found, at the door his courage fails him; and he shrinks back into the storm again, because 'it will not give him leave to think on that which hurts him more.'
So nicely does the Poet balance these ills, and report the swaying movement. But it is a poet who does not take common-place opinions on this, or on any other such subject. He is one whose poetic work does not consist in illustrating these received opinions, or in finding some novel and fine expression for them. He is observing nature, and undertaking to report it, as it is, not as it should be according to these preconceptions, or according to the established poetic notions of the heroic requisitions.
But there is no stage that can exhibit his experiment here in its real significance, excepting that one which he himself builds for us; for it is the vast lonely heath, and the Man, the pigmy man, on it—and the KING, the pigmy king, on it;—it is all the wild roar of elemental nature, and the tempest in that 'little world of man,' that have to measure their forces, that have to be brought into continuous and persevering contest. It is not Gloster only, who sees in that storm what 'makes him think that a man is but a worm.'
Doubtless, it would have been more in accordance with the old poetic notions, if this poor king had maintained his ground without any misgiving at all; but it is a poet of a new order, and not the old heroic one, who has the conducting of this experiment; and though his verse is not without certain sublimities of its own, they have to consist with the report of the fact as it is, to its most honest and unpoetic, unheroic detail.
And notwithstanding all the poetry of that passionate defiance, it is the physical storm that triumphs in the end. The contest between that little world of man and the great outdoor world of nature was too unequal. Compelled at last to succumb, yielding to 'the tyranny of the open night, that is too rough for nature to endure—the night that frightens the very wanderers of the dark, and makes them keep their caves, while it reaches, with its poetic combination of horrors, that border line of the human conception which great Nature's pencil, in this Poet's hand, is always reaching and completing,—
'Man's nature cannot carry The affliction nor the fear.'
—Unable to contend any longer with 'the fretful element'—unable to 'outscorn' any longer 'the to and fro conflicting wind and rain'—weary of struggling with 'the impetuous blasts,' that in their 'eyeless rage' and 'fury' care no more for age and reverence than his daughters do—that seize his white hairs, and make nothing of them—'exposed to feel what wretches feel'—he finds at last, with surprise, that art—the wretch's art—that can make vile things precious. No longer clamoring for 'the additions of a king,' but thankful for the basest means of shelter from the elements, glad to avail himself of the rudest structure with which art 'accommodates' man to nature, (for that is the word of this philosophy, where it is first proposed)—glad to divide with his meanest subject that shelter which the outcast seeks on such a night—ready to creep with him, under it, side by side—'fain to hovel with swine and rogues forlorn, in short and musty straw'—surely we have reached a point at last where the action of the piece itself—the mere 'dumb show' of it—becomes luminous, and hardly needs the player's eloquence to tell us what it means.
Surely this is a little like 'the language' of Periander's message, when he bid the messenger observe and report what he saw him do. It is very important to note that ideas may be conveyed in this way as well as by words, the author of the Advancement of Learning remarks, in speaking of the tradition of the principal and supreme sciences. He takes pains to notice, also, that a representation, by means of these 'transient hieroglyphics,' is much more moving to the sensibilities, and leaves a more vivid and durable impression on the memory, than the most eloquent statement in mere words. 'What is sensible always strikes the memory more strongly, and sooner impresses itself, than what is intellectual. Thus the memory of brutes is excited by sensible, but not by intellectual things;' and thus, also, he proposes to impress that class which Coriolanus speaks of, 'whose eyes are more learned than their ears,' to whom 'action is eloquence.' Here we have the advantage of the combination, for there is no part of the dumb show, but has its word of scientific comment and interpretation.
'Art cold [to the Fool]? I am cold myself. Where is this STRAW, my fellow? The art of our necessities is strange, That can make vile things precious. Come, your hovel. Come, bring us to this hovel.'
For this is what that wild tragic poetic resistance and defiance comes to—this is what the 'unaccommodated man' comes to, though it is the highest person in the state, stripped of his ceremonies and artificial appliances, on whom the experiment is tried.
'Where is this straw, my fellow? Art cold? I am cold myself. Come, your hovel. Come, bring us to this hovel.'
When that royal edict is obeyed,—when the wonders of the magician's art are put in requisition to fulfil it,—when the road from the palace to the hovel is laid open,—when the hovel, where Tom o' Bedlam is nestling in the straw, is produced on the stage, and THE KING—THE KING—stoops, before all men's eyes, to creep into its mouth,—surely we do not need 'a chorus to interpret for us'—we do not need to wait for the Poet's own deferred exposition to seize the more obvious meanings. Surely, one catches enough in passing, in the dialogues and tableaux here, to perceive that there is something going on in this play which is not all play,—something that will be earnest, perhaps, ere all is done,—something which 'the groundlings' were not expected to get, perhaps, in 'their sixe-penn'orth' of it at the first performance,—something which that witty and splendid company, who made up the Christmas party at Whitehall, on the occasion of its first exhibition there, who sat there 'rustling in silk,' breathing perfumes, glittering in wealth that the alchemy of the storm had not tried, were not, perhaps, all informed of; though there might have been one among them, 'a gentleman of blood and breeding,' who could have told them what it meant.
'We construct,' says the person who describes this method of philosophic instruction, speaking of the subtle prepared history which forces the inductions—'we construct tables and combinations of instances, upon such a plan, and in such order, that the understanding may be enabled to act upon them.'
'They told me I was everything.'
They told me I was everything,' says the poor king himself, long afterwards, when the storm has had its ultimate effect upon him.
'To say ay and no to everything that I said!—[To say] ay and no too WAS NO GOOD DIVINITY. They told me, I had white hairs in my beard, ere the black ones were there. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at my bidding; there I found them, there I smelt them out. Go to, they are not men of their words: they told me I was everything; 'tis a lie; I am not ague-proof.'
'I think the king is but a man, as I am' [says King Hal], 'All his senses have the like conditions; and his affections, though higher mounted, when they stoop, stoop with the like wing.'
But at the door of that rude hut the ruined majesty pauses. In vain his loving attendants, whom, for love's sake, this Poet will still have with him, entreat him to enter. Storm-battered, and wet, and shivering as he is, he shrinks back from the shelter he has bid them bring him to. He will not 'in.' Why? Is it because 'the tempest will not give him leave to ponder on things would hurt him more.' That is his excuse at first; but another blast strikes him, and he yields to 'the to and fro conflicting wind and rain,' and says—
'But I'll go in.'
Yet still he pauses. Why? Because he has not told us why he is there;—because he is in the hands of the Poet of the Human Kind, the poet of 'those common things that our ordinary life consisteth of,' who will have of them an argument that shall shame that 'resplendent and lustrous mass of matter' that old philosophers and poets have chosen for theirs;—because the rare accident—the wild, poetic, unheard-of accident—which has brought a man, old in luxuries, clothed in soft raiment, nurtured in king's houses, into this rude, unaided collision with nature;—the poetic impossibility, which has brought the one man from the apex of the social structure down this giddy depth, to this lowest social level;—the accident which has given the 'one man,' who has the divine disposal of the common weal, this little casual experimental taste of the weal which his wisdom has been able to provide for the many—of the weal which a government so divinely ordered, from its pinnacle of personal ease and luxury, thinks sufficient and divine enough for the many,—this accident—this grand poetic accident—with all its exquisite poetic effects, is, in this poet's hands, the means, not the end. This poor king's great tragedy, the loss of his social position, his broken-heartedness, his outcast suffering, with all the aggravations of this poetic descent, and the force of its vivid contrasts—with all the luxurious impressions on the sensibilities which the ideal wonders of the rude old fable yield so easily in this Poet's hands,—this rare accident, and moving marvel of poetic calamity,—this 'one man's' tragedy is not the tragedy that this Poet's soul is big with. It is the tragedy of the Many, and not the One,—it is the tragedy that is the rule, and not the exception,—it is the tragedy that is common, and not that which is singular, whose argument this Poet has undertaken to manage.
'Come, bring us to your hovel.'
The royal command is obeyed; and the house of that estate, which has no need to borrow its title of plurality to establish the grandeur of its claim, springs up at the New Magician's word, and stands before us on the scientific stage in its colossal, portentous, scientific grandeur; and the king—the king—is at the door of it: the Monarch is at the door of the Many. For the scientific Poet has had his eye on that structure, and he will make of it a thing of wonder, that shall rival old poets' fancy pieces, and drive our entomologists and conchologists to despair, and drive them off the stage with their curiosities and marvels. There is no need of a Poet's going to the supernatural for 'machinery,' this Poet thinks, while there's such machinery as this ready to his hands unemployed. 'There's something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.' There's no need of going to the antique for his models; for he is inventing the arts that will make of this an antiquity.
The Monarch has found his meanest subject's shelter, but at the door of it he is arrested—nailed with a nail fastened by the Master of Assemblies. He has come down from that dizzy height, on the Poet's errand. He is there to speak the Poet's word,—to illustrate that grave abstract learning which the Poet has put on another page, with a note that, as it stands there, notwithstanding the learned airs it has, it is not learning, but 'the husk and shell' of it. For this is the philosopher who puts it down as a primary Article of Science, that governments should be based on a scientific acquaintance with 'the natures, dispositions, necessities and discontents of the people'; and though in his book of the Advancement of Learning, he suggests that these points 'ought to be,' considering the means of ascertaining them at the disposal of the government, 'considering the variety of its intelligences, the wisdom of its observations, and the height of the station where it keeps sentinel, transparent as crystal,'—here he puts the case of a government that had not availed itself of those extraordinary means of ascertaining the truth at a distance, and was therefore in the way of discovering much that was new, in the course of an accidental personal descent into the lower and more inaccessible regions of the Common Weal it had ordered. This is the crystal which proves after all the most transparent for him. This is the help for weak eyes which becomes necessary sometimes, in the absence of the scientific crystal, which is its equivalent.
The Monarch is at the hovel's door, but he cannot enter. Why? Because he is in that school into which his own wise REGAN, that 'counsels' so 'well'—that Regan who sat at his own council-table so long, has turned him; and it is a school in which the lessons must be learned 'by heart,' and there is no shelter for him from its pitiless beating in this Poet's economy, till that lesson he was sent there to learn has been learned; and it was a Monarch's lesson, and at the Hovel's door he must recite it. He will not enter. Why? Because the great lesson of state has entered his soul: with the sharpness of its illustration it has pierced him: his spirit is dilated, and moved and kindling with its grandeur: he is thinking of 'the Many,' he has forgotten 'the One,'—the many, all whose senses have like conditions, whose affections stoop with the like wing. He will not enter, because he thinks it unregal, inhuman, mean, selfish to engross the luxury of the hovel's shelter, and the warmth of the 'precious' straw, while he knows that he has subjects still abroad with senses like his own, capable of the like misery, still exposed to its merciless cruelties. It was the tenant of the castle, it was the man in the house who said, 'Come, let's be snug and cheery here. Shut up the door. Let's have a fire, and a feast, and a song,—or a psalm, or a prayer, as the case may be; only let it be within—no matter which it is':
'Shut up your doors, my lord; 'tis a wild night,— My Regan counsels well; come out o' the storm.'
But here it is the houseless man, who is thinking of his kindred,—his royal family, for whom God has made him responsible, out in this same storm unbonneted; and in the tenderness of that sympathy, in the searching delicacy of that feeling with which he scrutinizes now their case, they seem to him less able than himself to resist its elemental 'tyranny.' For in that ideal revolution—in that exact turn of the wheel of fortune—in that experimental 'change of places,' which the Poet recommends to those who occupy the upper ones in, the social structure, as a means of a more particular and practical acquaintance with the conditions of those for whom they legislate, new views of the common natural human relations; new views of the ends of social combinations are perpetually flashing on him; for it is the fallen monarch himself, the late owner and disposer of the Common Weal, it is this strangely philosophic, mysteriously philosophic, king—philosophic as that Alfred who was going to succeed him—it is the king who is chosen by the Poet as the chief commentator and expounder of that new political and social doctrine which the action of this play is itself suggesting.
In that school of the tempest; in that one night's personal experience of the misery that underlies the pompous social structure, with all its stately splendours and divine pretensions; in that New School of the Experimental Science, the king has been taking lessons in the art of majesty. The alchemy of it has robbed him of the external adjuncts and 'additions of a king,' but the sovereignty of MERCY, the divine right of PITY, the majesty of the HUMAN KINDNESS, the grandeur of the COMMON WEAL, 'breathes through his lips' from the Poet's heart 'like man new made.'
Kent. Good, my lord, enter here.
Lear. Prythee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease. . . . . But, I'll go in. In, boy,—go first—[To the Fool.] You, houseless poverty'—
He knows the meaning of that phrase now.
'Nay get thee in. I'll PRAY, and then I'll sleep.'
[Fool goes in.]
'Poor, naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,'—
There are no empty phrases in this prayer, the critic of it may perceive: it is a learned prayer; the petitioner knows the meaning of each word in it: the tempest is the book in which he studied it.
'How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you From seasons such as these? O, I have taken Too little care of THIS. [Hear, hear]. Take physic, POMP; [Hear.] Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayest shake the superflux to them, And show the HEAVENS more just.'
That is his prayer. To minds accustomed to the ceremonial a religious worship, 'with court holy water in a dry house' only, or to those who have never undertaken to compose a prayer for the king and all the royal family at the hovel's mouth, and in such immediate proximity to animals of a different species, it will not perhaps seem a very pious one. But considering that it was understood to have been composed during the heathen ages of this realm, and before Christianity had got itself so comfortably established as a principle of government and social regulations, perhaps it was as good a prayer for a penitent king to go to sleep on, as could well be invented. Certainly the spirit of Christianity, as it appeared in the life of its Founder, at least, seems to be, by a poetic anachronism incorporated in it.
But it is never the custom of this author to leave the diligent student of his performances in any doubt whatever as to his meaning. It is a rule, that everything in the play shall speak and reverberate his purpose. He prolongs and repeats his burthens, till the whole action echoes with them, till 'the groves, the fountains, every region near, seem all one mutual cry.' He has indeed the Teacher's trick of repetition, but then he is 'so rare a wondered teacher,' so rich in magical resources, that he does not often find it necessary to weary the sense with sameness. He is prodigal in variety. It is a Proteus repetition. But his charge to his Ariel in getting up his Masques, always is,—
'Bring a corollary, Rather than want a spirit.'
Nay, it would be dangerous, not wearisome merely, to make the text of this living commentary continuous, or to bring too near together 'those short and pithy sentences' wherein the action unwinds and fashions into its immortal groups. And the curtain must fall and rise again, ere the outcast duke,—his eyes gouged out by tyranny, turned forth to smell his way to Dover,—can dare to echo, word by word, the thoughts of the outcast king.
Led by one whose qualification for leadership is, that he is 'Madman and Beggar, too,'—for as Gloster explains it to us, explaining also at the same time much else that the scenic language of the play, the dumb show, the transitory hieroglyphic of it presents, and all the criticism of it,
''T IS THE TIME'S PLAGUE WHEN MADMEN LEAD THE BLIND'—
groping with such leadership his way to Dover—'smelling it out'—thus it is that his secret understanding with the king, in that mad and wondrous philosophical humour of his, betrays itself.
Gloster. Here, take this purse [to Tom o'Bedlam], thou whom the heaven's plagues Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched Makes thee the happier:—Heavens, deal so still! Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man That slaves your ordinance, that will not SEE Because he doth not FEEL, feel your power quickly; So distribution should undo excess, And each man have enough.
Lear. O I have taken Too little care of this. Take physic, Pomp; Expose thyself to FEEL what wretches FEEL, That thou may'st shake the superflux to them, And show the Heavens more just.
Truly, these men would seem to have been taking lessons in the same school. But it is very seldom that two men in real life, of equal learning on any topic, coincide so exactly in their trains of thought, and in the niceties of their expression in discussing it. The emphasis is deep, indeed, when this author graves his meaning with such a repetition. But Regan's stern school-master is abroad in this play, enforcing the philosophic subtleties, bringing home to the senses the neglected lessons of nature; full of errands to 'wilful men,' charged with coarse lessons to those who will learn through the senses only great Nature's lore—that 'slave Heaven's ordinance—that will not SEE, because they do not FEEL.'
THE KING AND THE BEGGAR.
Armado. Is there not a ballad, boy, of the King and the Beggar?
Moth. The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since: but, I think, now 'tis not to be found; or, if it were, it would neither serve for the writing, nor for the tune.
Armado. I will have the subject newly writ over, that I may example my digression by some mighty precedent. Love's Labour's Lost.
But the king's philosophical studies are not yet completed; for he is in the hands of one who does not rely on general statements for his effects; one who is pertinaciously bent on exploring those subterranean social depths, that the king's prayer has just glanced at—who is determined to lay bare to the utmost, to carry the torch of his new science into the lowest recess of that wild, nameless mass of human neglect and misery, which the regal sympathy has embraced for him in the general; though not, indeed, without some niceties of detail, which shew that the eye of a true human pity has collected the terms in which he expresses it.
That vast, immeasurable mass of social misery, which has no learned speech, no tragic dialect—no, or 'it would bear such an emphasis,' that 'its phrase of sorrow might conjure the wandering stars, and bid them stand like wonder-wounded hearers'—that misery which must get a king's robe about it, ere, in the Poet's time, it could have an audience, must needs be produced here, ere all this play was played, in its own native and proper shape and costume, daring as the attempt might seem.
The author is not satisfied with the picturesque details of that misery which he has already given us, with its 'looped and windowed raggedness,' its 'houseless head,' its 'unfed sides'; it must be yet more palpably presented. It must be embodied and dramatically developed; it must be exhibited with its proper moral and intellectual accompaniments, too, before the philosophic requisitions of this design can be fulfilled.
To the lowest deeps of the lowest depths of the unfathomed social misery of that time, the new philosopher, the Poet of the Advancement of Learning, will himself descend; and drag up to the eye of day,—undeterred by any scruple of poetic sensibility,—in his own unborrowed habiliments, with all the badges of his position in the state upon him, the creature he has selected as one of the representatives of the social state as he finds it;—the creature he has selected as the representative of those loathsome, unpenetrated masses of human life, which the unscientific social state must needs generate.
For the design of this play, in its exhibition of the true human need, in its new and large exhibition of the ground which the Arts of a true and rational human civilization must cover, could not but include the defects of that, which passed for civilization then. It involved necessarily, indeed, the most searching and relentless criticisms of the existing institutions of that time. That cry of social misery which pervades it, in which the natural, and social, and artificial evils are still discriminated through all the most tragic bursts of passion—in which the true social need, in all its comprehension, is uttered—that wild cry of human anguish, prolonged, and repeated, and reverberated as it is—is all one outcry upon the social wisdom of the Poet's time. It constitutes one continuous dramatic expression and embodiment of that so deeply-rooted opinion which the New Philosopher is known to have entertained, in regard to the practical knowledge of mankind as he found it; his opinion of the real advances towards the true human ends which had been made in his time; an opinion which he has, indeed, taken occasion to express elsewhere with some distinctness, considering the conditions which hampered the expression of his philosophical conclusions; but it is one which could hardly have been produced from the philosophic chair in his time, or from the bench, or at the council-table, in such terms as we find him launching out into here, without any fear or scruple.
For those who persuade themselves that it was any part of this player's intention to bring out, for the amusement of his audiences, an historical exhibition of the Life and Times of that ancient Celtic king of Britain, whose legendary name and chronicle he has appropriated so effectively, will be prevented by that view of the subject from ever attaining the least inkling of the matter here. For this Magician has quite other work in hand. He does not put his girdles round the earth, and enforce and harass with toil his delicate spirits,—he does not get out his book and staff, and put on his Enchanter's robe, for any such kind of effect as that. For this is not any antiquary at all, but the true Prospero; and when a little more light has been brought into his cell, his garments will be found to be, like the disguised Edgar's—'Persian.'
It is not enough, then, in the wild revolutionary sweep of this play, to bring out the monarch from his palace, and set him down at the hovel's door. It is not enough to open it, and shew us, by the light of Cordelia's pity—that sunshine and rain at once—the 'swine' in that human dwelling, and 'the short and musty-straw' there. For the poet himself will enter it, and drag out its living human tenant into the day of his immortal verse. He will set him up for all ages, on his great stage, side by side with his great brother. He will put the feet of these two men on one platform, and measure their stature—for all their senses have the like conditions, as we have heard already; and he will make the king himself own the KINDRED, and interpret for him. For this group must needs be completed 'to the eye'; these two extremes in the social scale must meet and literally embrace each other, before this Teacher's doctrine of 'MAN'—'man as distinguished from other species'—can be artistically exhibited. For it is this picture of the unaccommodated man—'unaccommodated' still, with all his empiric arts, with all his wordy philosophy—it is this picture of man 'as he is,' in the misery of his IGNORANCE, in his blind struggle with his law of KIND, which is his law of 'BEING,'— unreconciled to his place in the universal order, where he must live or have no life—for the beast, obedient to his law, rejects from his kinds the degenerate man—it is this vivid, condensed, scientific exhibition, this scientific collection of the fact of man as he is, in his empiric struggle with the law which universal nature enforces, and will enforce on him with all her pains and penalties till he learns it—it is this 'negation' which brings out the true doctrine of man and human society in this method of inquiry. For the scientific method begins with negations and exclusions, and concludes only after every species of rejection; the other, the common method, which begins with 'AFFIRMATION,' is the one that has failed in practice, the one which has brought about just this state of things which science is undertaking to reform.
But this levelling, which the man of the new science, with his new apparatus, with his 'globe and his machines,' contrives to exhibit here with so much 'facility,' is a scientific one, designed to answer a scientific purpose merely. The experimenter, in this case, is one who looks with scientific forebodings, and not with hope only, on those storms of violent political revolution that were hanging then on the world's horizon, and threatening to repeat this process, threatening to overwhelm in their wild crash, all the ancient social structures—threatening 'to lay all flat'! That is not the kind of change he meditates. His is the subtle, all-penetrating Radicalism of the New Science, which imitates the noiseless processes of Nature in its change and Re-formation.
There is a wild gibberish heard in the straw. The fool shrieks, 'Nuncle, come not in here,' and out rushes 'Tom o Bedlam'—the naked creature, as Gloster calls him—with his 'elf locks,' his 'blanketed loins,' his 'begrimed face,' with his shattered wits, his madness, real or assumed—there he stands.
We know, indeed, in this instance, that there is gentle, nay, noble blood, there, under that horrid guise. It is the heir of a dukedom, we are told, but an out-cast one, who has found himself compelled, for the sake of prolonging life, to assume that shape, as other wretches were in the Poet's time for that same purpose,—men who had lost their dukedoms, too, as it would seem, such as they were, in some way, and their human relationships, too. But notwithstanding this alleviating circumstance which enables the audience to endure the exhibition in this instance, it serves not the less effectually in the Poet's hand, as 'THE CONSPICUOUS INSTANCE' of that lowest human condition which this grand Social Tragedy must needs include in its delineations.
Here are some of the prose English descriptions of this creature, which we find already included in the commentaries on this tragedy; and which shew that the Poet has not exaggerated his portrait, and that it is not by way of celebrating any Anglo-Saxon or Norman triumph over the barbarisms of the joint reigns of REGAN and GONERIL, that he is produced here.
'I remember, before the civil wars, Tom o' Bedlams went about begging,' Aubrey says. Randle Holme, in his 'Academy of Arms and Blazon,' includes them in his descriptions, as a class of vagabonds 'feigning themselves mad.' 'The Bedlam is in the same garb, with a long staff,' etc., 'but his cloathing is more fantastic and ridiculous; for being a madman, he is madly decked and dressed all over with rubans, feathers, cuttings of cloth, and what not, to make him seem a madman, when he is no other than a dissembling knave.'
In the Bellman of London, 1640, there is another description of him—'He sweares he hath been in Bedlam, and will talk frantickely of purpose; you see pinnes stuck in sundry places of his naked flesh, especially in his armes, which paine he gladly puts himselfe to; calls himself by the name of Poore Tom; and coming near anybody, cries out, 'Poor Tom's a cold.' Of these Abraham men, some be exceeding merry, and doe nothing but sing songs, fashioned out of their own braines; some will dance; others will doe nothing but either laugh or weepe; others are dogged, and so sullen, both in looke and speech, that spying but a small company in a house, they bluntly and boldly enter, compelling the servants, through fear, to them what they demand.'
This seems very wicked, very depraved, on the part of these persons, especially the sticking of pins in their bare arms; but even our young dukeling Edgar says—
'While I may scape, I will preserve myself: and am bethought To take the basest and most poorest shape, That ever penury, in contempt of MAN, Brought near to beast: my face I'll grime with filth; Blanket my loins; elf all my hair in knots; And with presented nakedness outface The winds, and persecutions of the sky. The country gives me PROOF and PRECEDENT Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices, Strike in their numb'd and mortified bare arms, Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary; And with this horrible object, from low farms, Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes and mills, Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers, Enforce their charity.—'Poor Turlygood!' 'poor Tom!' Thats something yet, Edgar I nothing am.
But the poet is not contented with the minuteness of this description. This character appears to have taken his eye as completely as it takes King Lear's, the moment that he gets a glimpse of him; and the poet betrays throughout that same philosophical interest in the study, which the monarch expresses so boldly; for beside the dramatic exhibition, and the philosophical review of him, which King Lear institutes, here is an autographical sketch of him, and of his mode of living—
'What are you there? Your names?'
cries Gloster, when he comes to the heath, with his torch, to seek out the king and his party; whereupon Tom, thinking that an occasion has now arrived for defining his social outline, takes it upon him to answer, for his part—
'Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water-[newt]; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, swallows the old rat, and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipped from tything to tything' [this is an Anglo-Saxon institution one sees]; 'and stocked, punished, and imprisoned; who hath had three suits to his back' [fallen fortunes here, too] 'six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear.'
The Jesuits had been, then, recently and notoriously at work in England, endeavouring professedly to cast out 'the fiend' from many possessed persons; and it appeared, to this great practical philosopher, that this creature he has fetched up here from the subterranean social abysses of his time, presented a very fitting subject for the operations of practitioners professing any miraculous or superior influence over the demons that infest human nature, or those that have power over human fortunes. He has brought him out here thus distinctly, for the purpose of inquiring whether there is any exorcism which can meet his case, or that of the great human multitude, that no man can number, of whose penury and vice he stands here as the elected, pre-eminent, royal representative. In that survey and report of human affairs, which this author felt himself called upon to make, the case of this poor creature had attracted his attention, and appeared to him to require looking to; and, accordingly, he has made a note of it.
He is admirably seconded in his views on this subject, by the king himself, who, in that fine philosophic humour which his madness and his misery have served to develop in him, stands ready to lend himself to the boldest and most delicate philosophical inquiries. For the point to be noted here,—and it is one of no ordinary importance,—is, that this mad humour for philosophical investigation, which has seized so strangely the royal mind, does not appear to be at all in the vein of that old-fashioned philosophy, which had been rattling its abstractions in the face of the collective human misery for so many ages. For the helplessness of the human creature in his struggle with the elements, and those conditions of his nature which put him so hopelessly at the mercy of his own kind and kindred, seem to suggest to the royal sufferer, who has the advantage of a fresh experience to stimulate his apprehension, that there ought to be some relief for the human condition from this source, that is, from PHILOSOPHY; and his inquiries and discoveries are all stamped with the unmistakeable impress of that fire new philosophy, which was not yet out of the mint elsewhere—which was yet undergoing the formative process in the mind of its great inventor;—that philosophy, which we are told elsewhere 'has for its principal object, to make nature subservient to the wants and state of Man';—and which concerns itself for that purpose with ideas as they exist in nature, as causes, and not as they exist in the mind of man as words merely.
If there had been, indeed, any intention of paying a marked compliment to the philosophy which still held all the mind of the world in its grasp, at that great moment in history, in which Tom o' Bedlam makes his first appearance on any stage, it is not likely that that sage would have been just the person appointed to hold the office of Philosopher in Chief, and Councillor extraordinary to his Majesty.
The selection is indeed made on the part of the king, in perfect good faith, whatever the Poet's intent may be; for from the moment that this creature makes his appearance, he has no eyes or ears for anything else. And he will not be parted from him. For this startling juxtaposition was not intended by the Poet to fulfil its effect as a mere passing tableau vivant. The relation must be dramatically developed; that astounding juxtaposition must be prolonged, in spite of the horror of the spectators, and the disgust and rude displeasure of the king's attendants. They seek in vain to part these two men. The king refuses to stir without him. 'He will still keep with his philosopher.' He has a vague idea that his regal administration stands in need of some assistance, and that philosophy ought to be able to give it, and that the Bedlamite is in some way connected with the subject, but confused as the association is, it is a pertinacious one; and, in spite of their disgust the king's friends are obliged to take this wretch with them. For Gloster does not know, after all, it is 'his own flesh and blood' he sees there. He cannot even recognize the common kindred in that guise, as the king does, when he philosophises on his condition. And the rough aristocratic contempt and indifference which is manifested by the king's party, as a matter of course, for this poor human victim of wrong and misfortune, is made to contrast with their boundless sympathy and tenderness for the king, while the poet aiming at broader relationships, finds the mantle of his humanity wide enough for them, both.
As for the king,—startled in the midst of those new views of human wretchedness which his own sufferings have occasioned, and while those desires to remedy it, with which his penitence is accompanied, are still on his lip, by this wild apparition and embodiment of his thought, in that new accession of his mental disorder, which the presence of this object seems to occasion, that confounding of proximate conceptions, which leads him to regard this man as a source of new light on human affairs, is one of those exquisite physiological exhibitions of which only this scientific artist is capable.
And, in fact, it must be confessed, that this 'learned Theban' himself, notwithstanding the unexpected dignity of his promotion, does not appear to be altogether wanting in a taste, at least, for that new kind of philosophical investigation, which seems to be looked for at his hands. The king's inquiries appear to fall in remarkably with the previous train of his pursuits. In the course of his experiments, he seems himself to have struck upon that new philosophic proceeding, which has been called 'putting philosophy upon the right road again.'
Only the philosophic domain which that new road in philosophy leads to, appears to be very considerably broader, as 'Tom' takes it, than that very vivid, but narrow limitation of its fields, which Mr. Macaulay has set down in our time, would make it. Indeed, this 'philosopher,' that Lear so much inclines to, appears to have included in his investigations the two extremes of the new science of practice. He has sounded it apparently 'from its lowest note to the top of its key.'
'What is your study?' says the king to him, eyeing him curiously, and apparently struck with the practical result—anxious to have a word with him in private, but obliged to conduct the examination on the stage.
'How to prevent THE FIEND,' is Tom's reply. 'How to prevent the fiend and to kill vermin.'
This is the Poet who says elsewhere, 'that without good nature, men are themselves but a nobler kind of vermin.'
One cannot but observe, however, that Poor Tom's researches in this quite new field of a practical philosophy, do not appear to have been followed up since his time with any very marked success. One of these departments of 'his study' has indeed been seized, and is now occupied by whole troops of modern philosophers; but their inquiries, though very interesting and doubtlessly useful, do not appear to exhibit that direct and palpable bearing on practice, to which Tom's programme so severely inclines. For he is one who would make 'the art and practic part of life, the mistress to his theoric.' And as to that other mysterious object of his inquiries, Mr. Macaulay is not the only person who appears to think, that that does not come within the range of anything human. Many of our scholars are still of the opinion that, 'court holy water' is the best application in the world for him; and the fact that he does not appear to get 'prevented' with it; it is a fact which of course has nothing to do with the logical result. For our philosophers are still determined to reason it 'thus and thus,' without taking into account the circumstance, that 'the sequent effect' with which 'nature finds itself scourged,' is not touched by their reasons.
King Lear's own inquiries seem also to include with great distinctness, the two great branches of the new philosophical inquiry. His mind is indeed very eagerly bent on the pursuit of causes. And though in the paroxysms of his mental disorder, he is apt to confound them occasionally, this very confusion, as it is managed, only serves to develop the breadth of the philosophic conception beneath it.
'He hath no daughters, Sir.' 'Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature to such a lowness, but—his UNKIND daughters.' It is, of course, his own new and terrible experience which points the inquiry, and though the physical causes are not omitted in it, it is not strange that the moral should predominate, and that his mind should seem to be very curiously occupied in tracking the ethical phenomena to their sources 'in nature.'
In the midst of the uproar of the Tempest, he does indeed begin with the physical investigation. He puts to his 'learned Theban' the question, which no learned Theban had then ever suspected of lying within the range of the scholar's investigations—that question which has been put to some purpose since—'What is the cause of thunder?' But his philosophic inquiry does not stop there,—where all the new philosophy has stopped ever since, and where some of our scholars declare it was meant to stop, notwithstanding the plainest declarations of its inventor to the contrary—with the investigation of physical causes.
For, after all, it is 'the tempest in his mind' that most concerns him. His philosopher, his practical philosopher, must be able to explore the conditions of that, and find the conductors for its lightnings. 'For where the greater malady is fixed, the lesser is scarce felt.' 'Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are his daughters.' After all, it is Regan's heart that appears to him to be the trouble—it is that which must first be laid on the table; and as soon as he decides to have a philosopher among 'his hundred,' he gives orders to that effect.
'Then let them anatomise Regan; see what breeds about her heart: Is there any CAUSE IN NATURE that makes these hard hearts?'
A very fair subject for philosophical inquiry, one would say; and, on the whole, as profitable and interesting a one, perhaps, as some of those that engage the attention of our men of learning so profoundly at present. In these days of enlightened scientific procedure, one would hardly undertake the smallest practical affair with the aid of any such vague general notions or traditional accounts of the properties to be dealt with, as those which our learned Thebans appear to find all-sufficient for their practices, in that particular department which Lear seems inclined to open here as a field for scientific exploration.
And it is perfectly clear that the author, whoever he may be, is very much of Lear's mind on this point, for he does not depend upon Lear alone to suggest his views upon it. There is never a person of this drama that does not do it.
THE USE OF EYES.
'All that follow their noses are led by their eyes, but—blind men.'
The Play is all strewn throughout, and tinctured in the grain, with the finest natural philosophy, of that new and very subtle and peculiar kind, which belongs to the earlier stages of the physical inquiry, and while it was still in the hands of its original inventors. Even in physics, there are views here which have not been developed any further since this author's time. It is not merely in the direct discourse on questions of physical science, as in the physician's report of the resources of his art, or in Cordelia's invocation to 'all the blessed secrets—the unpublished virtues of the earth,' that the track of the new physiological science, which this work embodies, may be seen. It runs through it all; it betrays itself at every turn. But the subtle and occult relations of the moral and physical are noted here, as we do not find them noted elsewhere, in less practical theories of nature.
That there is something in the design of this play which requires an elaborate and systematic exhibition of the 'special' human relationships, natural and artificial, political, social, and domestic, almost any reading of it would show. And that this design involves, also, a systematic exhibition of the social consequences arising from the violation of the natural laws or duties of these relationships, and that this violation is everywhere systematically aggravated,—carried to its last conceivable extreme, so that all the play is filled with the uproar of one continued outrage on humanity; this is not less evident for the Poet is not content with the material which his chronicle offered him, already invented to his hands for this purpose, but he has deliberately tacked to it, and intricately connected with it throughout, another plot, bearing on the surface of it, and in the most prominent statements, the author's intention in this respect; which tends not only in the most unequivocal manner to repeat and corroborate the impressions which the story of Lear produces, but to widen the dramatic exhibition, so as to make it capable of conveying the whole breadth of the philosophic conception. For it is the scientific doctrine of MAN that is taught here; and that is, that man must be human in all his relations, or 'cease to be.' It is the violation of the ESSENTIAL humanity. It is a DEGENERACY which is exhibited here, and the 'SEQUENT EFFECTS' which belong naturally to the violation of a law that has the force of the universe to sustain it. And it is not by accident that the story of the illegitimate Edmund begins the piece; it is not for nothing that we are compelled to stop to hear that, before even Lear and his daughters can make their entrance. The whole story of the base and base-born one, who makes what he calls nature—the rude, brutal, spontaneous nature—his goddess and his law, and ignores the human distinction; this part was needed in order to supply the deficiences in the social diagrams which the original plot presented; and, indeed, the whole story of the Duke of Gloster, which is from first to last a clear Elizabethan invention, and of which this of Edmund is but a part, was not less essential for the same purpose.