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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 457

     The battle, it will be seen, is represented only by military music within the tiring-house, which formed the back of the stage. 'The scene,' says Spedding, 'does not change; but 'alarums' are heard, and afterwards a 'retreat,' and on the same field over which that great army has this moment passed, fresh and full of hope, reappears, with tidings that all is lost, the same man who last left the stage to follow and fight in it.1 That Shakespeare meant the scene to stand thus, no one who has the true faith will believe.'

     Spedding's suggestion is that things are here run together which Shakespeare meant to keep apart. Shakespeare, he thinks, continued Act IV. to the 'exit Edgar' after l. 4 of the above passage. Thus, just before the close of the Act, the two British armies and the French army had passed across the stage, and the interest of the audience in the battle about to be fought was raised to a high pitch. Then, after a short interval, Act V opened with the noise of battle in the distance, followed by the entrance of Edgar to announce the defeat of Cordelia's army. The battle, thus, though not fought on the stage, was shown and felt to be an event of the greatest importance.

     Apart from the main objection of the entire want of evidence of so great a change having been made, there are other objections to this idea and to the reasoning on which it is based. (1) The pause at the end of the present Fourth Act is far from 'faulty,' as Spedding alleges it to be; that Act ends with the most melting scene Shakespeare ever wrote; and a pause after it, and before the business of the battle, was perfectly right. (2) The Fourth Act is already much longer than the Fifth (about fourteen columns of the Globe edition against about eight and a half), and Spedding's change would give the Fourth nearly sixteen columns, and the Fifth less than seven. (3) Spedding's proposal requires a much greater alteration in the existing text than he supposed. It does not simply shift the division of the two Acts, it requires the disappearance and re-entrance of the blind Gloster. Gloster, as the text stands, is alone on the stage while the battle is being fought at a distance, and the reference to the tree shows that he was on the

   1Where did Spedding find this? I find no trace of it, and surely Edgar would not have risked his life in the battle, when he had, in case of defeat, to appear and fight Edmund. He does not appear 'armed,' according to the Folio, till V. iii. 117.

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