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STEW. No, madam.
REG. What might import my sister's letter to him?
STEW. I know not, lady.
REG. 'Faith, he is posted hence on serious mat
It was great ignorance, Gloster's eyes being out,
His nighted life; moreover, to descry
The strength o'the enemy.
STEW. I must needs after him, madam, with
REG. Our troops set forth to-morrow; stay with
The ways are dangerous.
may not, madam; My lady charg'd my duty in this business.
presence, but prevents him from speaking to, or even seeing her husband. RITSON.
The quartos read—with your lady. In the manuscripts from which they were printed an L only was probably set down, according to the mode of that time. It could be of no consequence to Regan, whether Edmund spoke with Goneril at home, as they had travelled together from the Earl of Gloster's castle to the Duke of Albany's palace, and had on the road sufficient opportunities for laying those plans of which Regan was apprehensive. On the other hand, Edmund's abrupt departure without even speaking to the Duke, to whom he was sent on a commission, could not but appear mysterious, and excite her jealousy. MALONE.
His nighted life;] i. e. His life made dark as night, by the extinction of his eyes. STEEVENS.
with my letter.] So the folio. The quartos read— MALONE.
letters. The meaning is the same.
REG. Why should she write to Edmund? Might
Transport her purposes by word? Belike, Something I know not what-I'll love thee
Let me unseal the letter.1
Madam, I had ratherREG. I know, your lady does not love her hus
I am sure of that: and, at her late being here, She gave strange œiliads,2 and most speaking looks To noble Edmund: I know, you are of her bosom. STEW. I, madam?
REG. I speak in understanding; you are, I know
Therefore, I do advise you, take this note :*
1 Let me unseal &c.] I know not well why Shakspeare gives the Steward, who is a mere factor of wickedness, so much fidelity. He now refuses the letter; and afterwards, when he is dying, thinks only how it may be safely delivered. JOHNSON. She gave strange œiliads,] Oeillade, Fr. a cast, or sig
nificant glance of the
Greene, in his Disputation between a He and She Coneycatcher, 1592, speaks of "amorous glances, smirking oeiliades," &c. STEEVENS.
I speak in understanding; you are, I know it.] Thus the folio. The quartos read-in understanding, for I know't. MALONE.
So, in The Winter's Tale: "I speak as my understanding instructs me." STEEVENS.
I do advise you, take this note:] Note means in this place not a letter, but a remark. Therefore observe what I am saying. JOHNSON.
Than for your lady's :-You may gather more.5
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
STEW. 'Would I could meet him, madam! I would show
What party I do follow.
Fare thee well. [Exeunt.
The Country near Dover.
Enter GLOSTER, and EDGAR, dressed like a
GLO. When shall we come to the top of that same hill?
EDG. You do climb up it now: look, how we labour.
You may gather more.] You may infer more than I have directly told you. JOHNSON.
So, in King Henry VI. P. I:
give him this;] I suppose Regan here delivers a ring or some other favour to the Steward, to be conveyed to Edmund. MALONE.
7 What party-] Quarto, What lady. JOHNSON.
Scene VI.] This scene, and the stratagem by which Gloster is cured of his desperation, are wholly borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, Book II. JOHNSON.
EDG. Why, then your other senses grow imper
By your eyes' anguish.
But in my garments.
Methinks, you are better spoken. EDG. Come on, sir; here's the place :-stand still.-How fearful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes só low!?
No, truly.] Somewhat, necessary to complete the measure, is omitted in this or the foregoing hemistich. Sir Thomas Hanmer supplies the defect, though perhaps but aukwardly, by reading
No truly, not. STEEVENS.
thy voice is alter'd; &c.] Edgar alters his voice in order to pass afterwards for a malignant spirit. JOHNSON.
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!] This description has been much admired since the time of Addison, who has remarked, with a poor attempt at pleasantry, that " he who can read it without being giddy, has a very good head, or a very bad The description is certainly not mean, but I am far from thinking it wrought to the utmost excellence of poetry. He that looks from a precipice finds himself assailed by one great and dreadful image of irresistible destruction. But this overwhelming idea is dissipated and enfeebled from the instant that the mind can restore itself to the observation of particulars, and diffuse its attention to distinct objects. The enumeration of the
The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air,
choughs and crows, the samphire-man, and the fishers, counteracts the great effect of the prospect, as it peoples the desert of intermediate vacuity, and stops the mind in the rapidity of its descent through emptiness and horror. JOHNson.
It is to be considered that Edgar is describing an imaginary precipice, and is not therefore supposed to be so strongly impressed with the dreadful prospect of inevitable destruction, as a person would be who really found himself on the brink of one. M. MASON.
- Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!] phire grows in great plenty on most of the sea-cliffs in this country: it is terrible to see how people gather it, hanging by a rope several fathom from the top of the impending rocks as it were in the air." Smith's History of Waterford, p. 315, edit. 1774.
This personage is not a mere creature of Shakspeare's imagination, for the gathering of samphire was literally a trade or common occupation in his time, it being carried and cried about the streets, and much used as a pickle. So, in a song in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, in which the cries of London are enumerated under the title of the cries of Rome:
"I ha' rock-samphier, rock-samphier;
"Thus go the cries in Rome's faire towne; "First they go up street, and then they go "Buy a map, a mill-mat," &c.
Again, in Venner's Via recta, &c. 4to. 1622: “ Samphire is in like manner preserved in pickle, and eaten with meates. It is a very pleasant and familiar sauce, and agreeing with man's body." MALONE.
her cock;] Her cock-boat. JOHNSON.
So, in The Tragedy of Hoffman, 1637: "I caused my lord to leap into the cock, &c.at last our cock and we were cast ashore."