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-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 446

not halloo. These are all examples of mere carelessness as to matters which would escape attention in the theatre, -- matters introduced not because they are essential to the plot, but in order to give an air of verisimilitude to the conversation. And here is perhaps another instance. When Lear determines to leave Goneril and go to Regan he says, 'call my train together' (I. iv. 275). When he arrives at Gloster's house Kent asks why he comes with so small a train, and the Fool gives a reply which intimates that the rest have deserted him (II. iv. 63 ff.). He and his daughters, however, seem unaware of any diminution; and, when Lear 'calls to horse' and leaves Gloster's house, the doors are shut against him partly on the excuse that he is 'attended with a desperate train' (308). Nevertheless in the storm he has no knights with him, and in III. vii. 15 ff. we hear that 'some five or six and thirty of his knights'1 are 'hot questrists after him,' as though the real reason of his leaving Goneril with so small a train was that he had hurried away so quickly that many of his knights were unaware of his departure.

     This prevalence of vagueness or inconsistency is probably due to carelessness; but it may possibly be due to another cause. There are, it has sometimes struck me, slight indications that the details of the plot were originally more full and more clearly imagined than one would suppose from the play as we have it; and some of the defects to which I have drawn attention might have arisen if Shakespeare, finding his matter too bulky, had (a) omitted to write some things originally intended, and (b), after finishing his play, had reduced it by excision, and had not, in these omissions and excisions, taken sufficient pains to remove the obscurities and inconsistencies occasioned by them.

     Thus, to take examples of (b), Lear's 'What, fifty of my followers at a clap!' (I. iv. 315) is very easily explained if we suppose that in the preceding conversation, as originally written, Goneril had mentioned the number. Again the curious absence of any indication why Burgundy should have the first choice of Cordelia's hand might easily be due to the same cause. So might the ignorance in which we are left as to the fate of the Fool, and several more of the defects noticed in the text.

   1It has been suggested that 'his' means 'Gloster's'; but 'him' all through the speech evidently means Lear.

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