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Kent. Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity, Under the allowance of your grand aspect, Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire On flickering Phoebus' front,2
What mean'st by this? Kent. To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer: he that beguiled you, in a plain accent, was a plain knave; which, for my part, I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to it.3
Corn. What was the offence you gave him?
It pleas'd the king his master, very late,
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, conjunct,5 and flattering his displeasure,
That worthy'd him, got praises of the king
2 On flickering Phoebus' front,] Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, says this word means to flutter. I meet with it in The History of Clyomon, Knight of the Golden Shield, 1599:
"By flying force of flickering fame your grace shall under
Again, in The Pilgrim of Beaumont and Fletcher :
"That hovers over her, and dares her daily;
Stanyhurst, in his translation of the fourth Book of Virgil's Æneid, 1582, describes Iris
"From the sky down flickering," &c.
And again, in the old play, entitled, Fuimus Troes, 1633:
"With gaudy pennons flickering in the air."
Dr. Johnson's interpretation is too vague for the purpose. To flicker is indeed to flutter; but in a particular manner, which may be better exemplified by the motion of a flame, than explained by any verbal description. Henley.
though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to it.] Though I should win you, displeased as you now are, to like me so well as to entreat me to be a knave. Johnson.
4 Never any:] Old copy:
I never gave him any.
The words here omitted, which are unnecessary to sense and inju rious to metre, were properly extruded by Sir T. Hanmer as a manifest interpolation. Steevens.
5 conjunct,] is the reading of the old quartos; compact, of the folio. Steevens.
For him attempting who was self-subdu'd;
None of these rogues, and cowards,
But Ajax is their fool.8
Fetch forth the stocks, ho!
You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,
Sir, I am too old to learn:
Call not your stocks for me: I serve the king;
Fetch forth the stocks:
6 fleshment -] A young soldier is said to flesh his sword, the first time he draws blood with it. Fleshment, therefore, is here metaphorically applied to the first act of service, which Kent, in his new capacity, had performed for his master; and, at the same time, in a sarcastick sense, as though he had esteemed it an heroick exploit to trip a man behind, that was actually falling. Henley.
So, in The First Part of King Henry IV, Vol. VIII, p. 332:
7 Drew on me here.] Old copy:
Drew on me here again.
But as Kent had not drawn on him before, and as the adverbagain, corrupts the metre, I have ventured to leave it out. Steevens.
8 But Ajax is their fool.] Meaning, as we should now express it. Ajax is a fool to them, there are none of these knaves and cowards, that if you believe themselves, are not so brave, that Ajax is a fool compared to them; alluding to the Steward's account of their quarrel, where he says of Kent," This ancient ruffian, whose life I have spared in pity to his gray beard." When a man is compared to one who excels him very much in any art or quality-it is a vulgar expression to say, "He is but a fool to him." M. Mason.
The foregoing explanation of this passage was suggested also by Mr. Malone, in his Second Appendix to the Supplement to Shakspeare, Svo. 1783, in opposition to an idea of mine, which I readily allow to have been erroneous. Steevens.
Our poet has elsewhere employed the same phraseology. So, in The Taming of the Shrew:
"Tut, she's a lamb, a dove, a fool to him."
The phrase in this sense is yet used in low language. Malone.
ancient knave,] Two of the quartos read-miscreant knave, and one of them-unreverent, instead of reverend. Steevens.
As I've life and honour, there shall he sit till noon.
Sir, being his knave, I will.
8 [Stocks brought out.1
Corn. This is a fellow of the self-same colour2 Our sister speaks of :-Come, bring away the stocks. Glo. Let me beseech your grace not to do so: *His fault is much, and the good king his master Will check him for 't: your purpos'd low correction Is such, as basest and contemned'st wretches,4 For pilferings and most common trespasses, Are punish'd with :* the king must take it ill, That he's so slightly valued in his messenger, -Should have him thus restrain'd.
I'll answer that.
Reg. My sister may receive it much more worse, To have her gentleman abus'd, assaulted,
For following her affairs.5-Put in his legs.
[KENT is put in the Stocks. Come, my good lord; away. [Exeunt REG. and CORN. Glo. I am sorry for thee, friend; 'tis the duke's plea
Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
1 Stocks &c.] This is not the first time that stocks had been intro. duced on the stage. In Hick Scorner, which was printed early in the reign of King Henry VIII, Pity is put into them, and left there till he is freed by Perseverance and Contemplacyon. Steevens.
2 colour-] The quartos read, nature.
3 His fault-] All between the asterisks is omitted in the folio.
4 - and contemned'st wretches,] The quartos read—and temnes· wretches. This conjectural emendation was suggested by Mr. Stee Malone.
I found this correction already made in an ancient hand in the margin of one of the quarto copies. Steevens.
5 For following her affairs. &c.] This line is not in the folio.
6 I know not whether this circumstance of putting Kent in th stocks be not ridiculed in the punishment of Numps, in Ben Jonson Bartholomew Fair.
It should be remembered, that formerly in great houses, as still i some colleges, there were moveable stocks for the correction of th Farmer.
Will not be rubb'd, nor stopp'd:7 I'll entreat for thee. Kent. Pray, do not, sir: I have watch'd, and travell'd
Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I'll whistle.
Glo. The duke 's to blame in this; 'twill be ill taken.
Kent. Good king, that must approve the common saw!8 Thou out of heaven's benediction com'st
To the warm sun!
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter!-Nothing almost sees miracles,
7 Will not be rubb'd, nor stopp'd:] Metaphor from bowling.
Good king, that must approve the common saw! &c.] That art now to exemplify the common proverb, That out of, &c. That changest better for worse. Hanmer observes, that it is a proverbial saying, applied to those who are turned out of house and home to the open weather. It was perhaps used of men dismissed from an hospital, or house of charity, such as was erected formerly in many places for travellers. Those houses had names properly enough alluded to by heaven's benediction. Johnson.
The saw alluded to, is in Heywood's Dialogues on Proverbs, Book II, chap. v:
"In your running from him to me, ye runne, "Out of God's blessing into the warme sunne? Kent was not thinking of the king's being turned out of house and home to the open weather, a misery which he has not yet experienced, but of his being likely to receive a worse reception from Regan than that which he had already experienced from his elder daughter Goneril. Hanmer therefore certainly misunderstood the passage.
A quotation from Holinshed's Chronicle, may prove the best comment on it. "This Augustine after his arrival converted the Saxons indeed from Paganisme, but, as the proverb sayth, bringing them out of Goddes blessing into the warme sunne, he also imbued them with no lesse hurtful superstition than they did know before."
See also Howell's Collection of English proverbs, in his Dictionary, 1660: "He goes out of God's blessing to the warm sun, viz. from good to worse." Malone.
9 Nothing almost sees miracles,] Thus the folio. The quartos read-Nothing almost sees my wrack. Steevens.
1- I know, 'tis from Cordelia; &c.] This passage, which some of the editors have degraded as spurious to the margin, and others have silently altered, I have faithfully printed according to the quarto,
Who hath most fortunately been inform'd
from which the folio differs only in punctuation. The passage is very obscure, if not corrupt. Perhaps it may be read thus:
Cordelia is informed of our affairs, and when the enormous care of seeking her fortune will allow her time, she will employ it in remedying losses. This is harsh; perhaps something better may be found. I have at least supplied the genuine reading of the old copies. Enormous is unwonted, out of rule, out of the ordinary course of things.
Johnson. So, Holinshed, p. 647: "The maior perceiving this enormous dəing," &c. Steevens.
and shall find time
From this enormous state,-seeking to give
Losses their remedies:] I confess I do not understand this passage, unless it may be considered as divided parts of Cordelia's letter, which he is reading to himself by moonlight: it certainly conveys the sense of what she would have said. In reading a letter, it is natural enough to dwell on those circumstances in it that promise the change in our affairs which we most wish for; and Kent having read Cordelia's assurances that she will find a time to free the injured from the enormous misrule of Regan, is willing to go to sleep with that pleasing reflection uppermost in his mind. But this is mere conjecture.
Dr. Johnson's explanation of this passage cannot be right; for although in the old ballad from whence this play is supposed to be taken, Cordelia is forced to seek her fortune, in the play itself she is Queen of France, and has no fortune to seek; but it is more difficult to discover the real meaning of this speech, than to refute his conjecture. It seems to me, that the verb, shall find, is not governed by the word Cordelia, but by the pronoun I, in the beginning of the sentence; and that the words from this enormous state, do not refer to Cordelia, but to Kent himself, dressed like a clown, and condemned to the stocks,-an enormous state indeed for a man of his high rank. The difficulty of this passage has arisen from a mistake in all the former editors, who have printed these three lines, as if they were a quotation from Cordelia's letter, whereas they are in fact the words of Kent himself; let the reader consider them in that light, as part of Kent's own speech, the obscurity is at an end, and the meaning is clearly this: "I know that the letter is from Cordelia, (who hath been informed of my obscured course) and shall gain time, by this strange disguise and situation, which I shall employ in seeking to remedy our present losses." M. Mason.