NAHUM TATE'S ORIGINAL 1681 CRITICAL STUDY OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S KING LEAR
Acted at the
Reviv'd with Alterations.
by N. TATE
Printed for E. Flesher, and are to be sold by R. Bent-
ley, and M. Magnes in Russel-street near Covent-Garden, 1681
My Esteemed FRIEND
Thomas Boteler, Esq;
You have a natural Right to this Piece, since by your Advice I attempted the Revival of it with Alterations. Nothing but the Pow'r of your Persuasions, and my Zeal for all the Remains of Shakespear cou'd have wrought me to so bold an Undertaking. I found that the New-modelling of this Story wou'd force me sometimes on the difficult Task of making the chiefest Persons speak something like their Character, on Matter whereof I had no Ground in my Author. Lear's real and Edgar's pretended Madness have so much of extravagant Nature (I know not how else to express it), as cou'd never have started but from our Shakespear's Creating Fancy. The Images and Language are so odd and surprizing, and yet so agreeable and proper, that whilst we grant that none but Shakespear could have form'd such Conceptions; yet we are satisfied that they were the only Things in the World that ought to be said on those Occasions. I found the whole to answer your account of it, a Heap of Jewels, unstrung, and unpolisht; yet so dazzling in their Disorder, that I soon perceiv'd I had seiz'd a Treasure. 'Twas my good Fortune to light on one Expedient to rectify what was wanting in the Regularity and Probability of the Tale, which was to run through the whole, as Love betwixt Edgar and Cordelia, that never chang'd a Word with each other in the Original. This renders Cordelia's Indifference, and her Father's Passion in the first Scene, probable. It likewise give Countenance to Edgar's Disguise, making that a generous Design that was before a poor Shift to save his Life. The Distress of the Story is evidently heightened by it; and it particularly gave Occasion of a New Scene or Two, of more Success (perhaps) than Merit. This method necessarily threw me on making the Tale conclude in a Success to the innocent distrest Persons: Otherwise I must have incumpred the Stage with dead Bodies, which Conduct makes many Tragedies conclude with unseasonable Jests. Yet was I wract with no small Fears for so bold a Change, till I found it well receiv'd by my Audience; and if this will not satisfy the Reader, I can produce an Authority that questionless will. Neither is it of so Trivial an Undertaking to make a Tragedy and happily, for 'tis more difficult to save than 'tis to Kill: The Dagger and Cup of Poison are always in Readiness; but to bring the Action to the last Extremity, and then by probable means to recover All, will require the Art and Judgment of a Writer, and cost him many a Pang in the Performance.
I have one thing more to apologize for, which is that I have us'd less Quaintness of Expression even in the Newest Parts of this Play. I confess, 'twas Design in me, partly to comply with my Author's Style, to make the Scenes of a Piece, and partly to give it some Resemblance of the Time and Persons here Represented. This, Sir, I submit wholly to you, who are both a Judg and Master of Style. Nature had exempted you before you went Abroad from the Morose Saturnine Humour of our Country, and you brought home the Refinedness of Travel without the Affectation. Many faults I see in the following Pages, and question not but you will discover more; yet I will presume so far on your Friendship as to make the whole a Present to you, and Subscribe myself
Your obliged Friend
and humble Servant,
Since by Mistakes your best delights are made
(For e'en your Wives can please in Masquerade0,
'Twere worth our while, to have drawn you in this Day
By a new Name to our old honest Play;
But he that did this Evenings Treat prepare
Bluntly resolv'd before hand to declare
Your Entertainment should be most old Fare.
Yet hopes since in rich Shakespear's soil it grew
'Twill relish yet, with those whose tasts are true,
And his Ambition is to please a Few.
If then this Heap of Flow'rs shall chance to wear
Fresh beauty in the Order they now bear,
Even this Shakespear's Praise; each rustick knows
'Mongst plenteous Flow'rs a Garland to Compose
Which strung by this Course hand may fairer show
But 'twas a Power Divine first made 'em grow,
Why should these Scenes lie hid, in which we find
What may at once divert and teach the Mind;
Morals were always proper for the Stage,
But are ev'n necessary in this Age.
Poets must take the Churches Teaching Trade,
Since Priests their Province of Intrigue invade;
But we the worst in this Exchange have got,
In vain our Poets Preach, whilst Churchmen Plot.
King Lear, Mr. Betterton.
Gloster, Mr. Gillo.
Kent, Mr. Wiltshire.
Edgar, Mr. Smith.
Bastard, Mr. Jo. Williams.
Cornwall, Mr. Norris.
Albany, Mr. Bowman.
Gentleman-Usher, Mr. Jevon.
Gonerill, Mrs. Shadwell.
Regan, Lady Slingsby.
Cordelia, Mrs. Barry
Guards, Officers, Messengers, Attendants