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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 330

of treachery and ingratitude, that troubles his old brain, makes his mind 'beat,'1 and forces on him the sense of unreality and evanescence in the world and the life that are haunted by such evil. Nor, though Prospero can spare and forgive, is there any sign to the end that he believes the evil curable either in the monster, the 'born devil,' or in the more monstrous villains, the 'worse than devils,' whom he so sternly dismisses. But he has learnt patience, has come to regard his anger and loathing as a weakness or infirmity, and would not have it disturb the young and innocent. And so, in the days of King Lear, it was chiefly the power of 'monstrous' and apparently cureless evil in the 'great world' that filled Shakespeare's soul with horror, and perhaps forced him sometimes to yield to the infirmity of misanthropy and despair, to cry 'No, no, no life,' and to take refuge in the thought that this fitful fever is a dream that must soon fade into a dreamless sleep; until, to free himself from the perilous stuff that weighed upon his heart, he summoned to his aid his 'so potent art,' and wrought this stuff into the stormy music of his greatest poem, which seems to cry,

You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need,

and, like the Tempest, seems to preach to us from end to end, 'Thou must be patient,' 'Bear free and patient thoughts.'2

   1Cf. Hamlet, III. i. 181:

This something-settled matter in his heart,
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself.

   2I believe the criticism of King Lear which has influenced me most is that in Prof. Dowden's Shakespere, His Mind and Art (though, when I wrote my lectures, I had not read that criticism for many years), and I am glad that this acknowledgment gives me the opportunity of repeating in print an opinion which I have often expressed to students, that anyone entering on the study of Shakespeare, and unable or unwilling to read much criticism, would do best to take Prof. Dowden for his guide.

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