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[138] the strange combination, a Puritan Saint with a conscience wrung into distortion. Lear is not Lear, Hamlet not Hamlet, without a glimpse at the conditions that have made them what they are. With the worst villains of the play, we need, as Margaret Fuller profoundly said, to ‘hear the excuses men make to themselves for their worthlessness.’ But these conditions, these excuses, constitute the plot.

It is easy enough to dismiss plot from the scene, if it means only a conundrum like that in ‘The Dead Secret,’ or a series of riddles like the French detective novels. In these the story is all, there is no character worth unravelling; and when we have once got at the secret the book is thrown away. But where the plot is a profound study of the development of character, it can never be thrown away; and unless we have it, the character is not really studied. What we do at any given moment is largely the accumulated result of all previous action; and that action again comes largely from the action of those around us. ‘We are all members one of another.’ Just as we are all learning this in political economy,

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Lear (2)
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