Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- 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.

Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page

Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 464

     I will not go into the various views of these lines, but will simply say what seems to me most probable. It does not matter much where precisely Goneril's 'exit' comes; but I believe the Folios are right in giving the words 'Ask me not what I know' to Edmund. It has been pointed out by Knight that the question 'Know'st thou this paper?' cannot very well be addressed to Goneril, for Albany has already said to her, 'I perceive you know it.' It is possible to get over this difficulty by saying that Albany wants her confession: but there is another fact which seems to have passed unnoticed. When Albany is undoubtedly speaking to his wife, he uses the plural pronoun, 'Shut your mouth, dame,' 'No tearing, lady; I perceive you know it.' When then he asks 'Know'st thou this paper?' he is probably not speaking to her.

     I should take the passage thus. At 'Hold, sir,' [omitted in Qq.] Albany holds the letter out towards Edmund for him to see, or possibly gives it to him.1 The next line, with its 'thou,' is addressed to Edmund, whose 'reciprocal vows' are mentioned in the letter. Goneril snatches at it to tear it up: and Albany, who does not know whether Edmund ever saw the letter or not, says to her 'I perceive you know it,' the 'you' being emphatic (her very wish to tear it showed she knew what was in it). She practically admits her knowledge, defies him, and goes out to kill herself. He exclaims in horror at her, and, turning again to Edmund, asks if he knows it. Edmund, who of course does not know it, refuses to answer (like Iago), not (like Iago) out of defiance, but from chivalry towards Goneril; and, having refused to answer this charge, he goes on to admit the charges brought against himself previously by Albany (82 f.) and Edgar (130 f.). I should explain the change from 'you' to 'thou' in his speech by supposing that at first he is speaking to Albany and Edgar together.

7. V. iii. 278.
     Lear, looking at Kent, asks,

                      Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o' the best: I'll tell you straight.
  Kent. If fortune brag of two she loved and hated (Qq. or),
One of them we behold.

   1'Hold' can mean 'take'; but the word 'this' in line 160 ('Know'st thou this paper?') favours the idea that the paper is still in Albany's hand.

Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page