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him without the old terms of respect, 'your grace,' 'my lord,' 'sir.' How characteristic it is that in the scene of Lear's recovery Kent speaks to him but once it is when the King asks 'Am I in France?' and he answers 'In your own kingdom, sir.'

In acting the part of a blunt and eccentric servingman Kent retains much of his natural character. The eccentricity seems to be put on, but the plainness which gets him set in the stocks is but an exaggeration of his plainness in the opening scene, and Shakespeare certainly meant him for one of those characters whom we love none the less for their defects. He is hot and rash; noble but far from skilful in his resistance to the King; he might well have chosen wiser words to gain his point. But, as he himself says, he has more man than wit about him. He shows this again when he rejoins Lear as a servant, for he at once brings the quarrel with Goneril to a head; and, later, by falling upon Oswald, whom he so detests that he cannot keep his hands off him, he provides Regan and Cornwall with a pretext for their inhospitality. One has not the heart to wish him different, but he illustrates the truth that to run one's head unselfishly against a wall is not the best way to help one's friends.

One fact about Kent is often overlooked. He is an old man. He tells Lear that he is eight and forty, but it is clear that he is much older; not so old as his master, who was 'four-score and upward' and whom he 'loved as his father,' but, one may suppose, three-score and upward. From the first scene we get this impression, and in the scene with Oswald it is repeatedly confirmed. His beard is grey. 'Ancient ruffian,' 'old fellow,' 'you stubborn ancient knave, you reverent braggart'—these are some of the expressions applied to him. Sir,' he says to Cornwall, 'I am too old to learn.' If his age is not remembered, we fail to realise the full beauty of his thoughtlessness of himself, his incessant

care of the King, his light-hearted indifference to fortune or fate.1 We lose also some of the naturalness and pathos of his feeling that his task is nearly done. Even at the end of the Fourth Act we find him saying,

My point and period will be throughly wrought

Or well or ill, as this day's battle's fought.

His heart is ready to break when he falls with his strong arms about Edgar's neck; bellows out as he'd burst heaven (how like him!) ;

threw him on my father,

Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear received; which in recounting
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack. Twice then the trumpet sounded,
And there I left him tranced;

and a little after, when he enters, we hear the sound of death in his voice:

I am come

To bid my king and master aye goodnight.

This desire possesses him wholly. When the bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in he asks merely, 'Alack, why thus?' How can he care? He is waiting for one thing alone. He cannot but yearn for recognition, cannot but beg for it even when Lear is bending over the body of Cordelia; and even in that scene of unmatched pathos we feel a sharp pang at his failure to receive it. It is of himself he is speaking, perhaps, when he murmurs, as his master dies, Break, heart, I prithee, break!' He puts aside Albany's invitation to take part in the government; his task is over:

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go:

My master calls me; I must not say no.

Kent in his devotion, his self-effacement, his cheerful stoicism, his desire to follow his dead lord,

1 See II. ii. 162 to end. The light-heartedness disappears, of course, as Lear's misfortunes thicken.

has been well likened to Horatio. But Horatio is not old; nor is he hot-headed; and though he is stoical he is also religious. Kent, as compared with him and with Edgar, is not so. He has not Edgar's ever-present faith in the 'clearest gods.' He refers to them, in fact, less often than to fortune or the stars. He lives mainly by the love in his own heart.1

The theatrical fool or clown (we need not distinguish them here) was a sore trial to the cultured poet and spectator in Shakespeare's day. He came down from the Morality plays, and was beloved of the groundlings. His antics, his songs, his dances, his jests, too often unclean, delighted them, and did something to make the drama, what the vulgar, poor or rich, like it to be, a variety entertainment. Even if he confined himself to what was set down for him, he often disturbed the dramatic unity of the piece; and the temptation to 'gag' was too strong for him to resist. Shakespeare makes Hamlet object to it in emphatic terms. The more learned

critics and poets went further and would have abolished the fool altogether. His part declines as the drama advances, diminishing markedly at the end of the sixteenth century. Jonson and Massinger exclude him. Shakespeare used him— we know to what effect—as he used all the other popular elements of the drama; but he abstained from introducing him into the Roman plays,2 and

1 This difference, however, must not be pressed too far; nor must we take Kent's retort,

Now by Apollo, king,

Thou swear'st thy gods in vain,

for a sign of disbelief. He twice speaks of the gods in another manner (i. i. 185, iii. vi. 5), and he was accustomed to think of Lear in his 'prayers' (i. i. 144).

The 'clown' in Antony and Cleopatra is merely an old peasant. There is a fool in Timon of Athens, however, and he appears in a scene (ii. ii.) generally attributed to Shakespeare. His talk sometimes

there is no fool in the last of the pure tragedies, Macbeth.

But the Fool is one of Shakespeare's triumphs in King Lear. Imagine the tragedy without him, and you hardly know it. To remove him would spoil its harmony, as the harmony of a picture would be spoiled if one of the colours were extracted. One can almost imagine that Shakespeare, going home from an evening at the Mermaid, where he had listened to Jonson fulminating against fools in general and perhaps criticising the Clown in Twelfth Night in particular, had said to himself: 'Come, my friends, I will show you once for all that the mischief is in you, and not in the fool or the audience. I will have a fool in the most tragic of my tragedies. He shall not play a little part. He shall keep from first to last the company in which you most object to see him, the company of a king. Instead of amusing the king's idle hours, he shall stand by him in the very tempest and whirlwind of passion. Before I have done you shall confess, between laughter and tears, that he is of the very essence of life, that you have known him all your days though you never recognised him till now, and that you would as soon go without Hamlet as miss him.'

The Fool in King Lear has been so favourite a subject with good critics that I will confine myself to one or two points on which a difference of opinion is possible. To suppose that the Fool is, like many a domestic fool at that time, a perfectly sane man pretending to be half-witted, is surely a most prosaic blunder. There is no difficulty in imagining that, being slightly touched in the brain, and holding the office of fool, he performs the duties of his office intentionally as well as involuntarily it is evident that he does so. But unless we suppose

reminds one of Lear's fool; and Kent's remark, 'This is not altogether fool, my lord,' is repeated in Timon, II. ii. 122, 'Thou art not altogether a fool'

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that he is touched in the brain we lose half the effect of his appearance in the Storm-scenes. The effect of those scenes (to state the matter as plainly as possible) depends largely on the presence of three characters, and on the affinities and contrasts between them; on our perception that the differences of station in King, Fool, and beggar-noble, are levelled by one blast of calamity; but also on our perception of the differences between these three in one respect, viz. in regard to the peculiar affliction of insanity. The insanity of the King differs widely in its nature from that of the Fool, and that of the Fool from that of the beggar. But the insanity of the King differs from that of the beggar not only in its nature, but also in the fact that one is real and the other simply a pretence. Are we to suppose then that the insanity of the third character, the Fool, is, in this respect, a mere repetition of that of the second, the beggar,—that it too is mere pretence? To suppose this is not only to impoverish miserably the impression made by the trio as a whole, it is also to diminish the heroic and pathetic effect of the character of the Fool. For his heroism consists largely in this, that his efforts to outjest his master's injuries are the efforts of a being to whom a responsible and consistent course of action, nay even a responsible use of language, is at the best of times difficult, and from whom it is never at the best of times expected. It is a heroism something like that of Lear himself in his endeavour to learn patience at the age of eighty. But arguments against the idea that the Fool is wholly sane are either needless or futile; for in the end they are appeals to the perception that this idea almost destroys the poetry of the character.

This is not the case with another question, the question whether the Fool is a man or a boy. Here the evidence and the grounds for discussion

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