Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

from the press, this tragedy was published, although there were then nineteen of no inferior rank among his works which were known to the public only upon the stage. Why this long interval passed thus unimproved by the dealers in dramatic literature, and why this play was chosen from among so many, to be published only a year before the appearance of the collected edition, (the intentions in regard to which could hardly have been unknown to the trade, or even to the public,) can only be a matter of very vague conjecture. We know that it was high in general favor; but I am inclined to the opinion that in addition to this claim upon a publisher's notice, it had also that of being one of its author's very latest productions. It certainly seems strange that after thirteen years had passed without the publication of one of Shakespeare's plays, during the first half of which period he produced works which were as well adapted for the press as any that had previously been issued, a publisher should go back at least eighteen years for one, which was the case if the "Moor of Venise" performed before King James, in 1604, was Shakespeare's Othello, in the only form in which it is known to us.

The text of the edition of 1622 is tolerably well printed for a dramatic publication of its period. But its pages are still plentifully sprinkled with printers' and transcribers' errors, of which it has more, according to my observation, than the folio copy of the same play. It also differs from the folio in the omission of many important passages, some of which are absolutely essential to the continuity of the dialogue; and the variation of the two texts, as regards phrases and single words, is unusually noticeable. It is very rarely indeed, however, that the readings of the folio in the last respect are not better and they are often much better- than those of the quarto. But the folio is not without its share of those typographical errors and omissions which are so common in the printed plays of the Elizabethan period; and although the errors are of inferior importance and the omissions trifling in comparison with those of the quarto copy, still the latter affords invaluable aid in the formation of the text, to the approximate perfection of which conjecture has frequently to be called in. That the reader may see the grounds of this opinion, and compare the texts himself, the readings of the quarto are given, and its variations noticed, more frequently in the Notes on this play than in those on most of the others of which there are quarto

copies; unless, as in the case of Richard the Third, or Romeo and Juliet, or King Lear, the earlier edition exhibits a text which I was subjected to revision before the issue of the later. There is a quarto edition of Othello which was published in 1630, and which differs in some cases from the folio, in others from the preceding quarto, but (if I may trust the collations of Steevens, Capell, and Mr. Collier,) only with the extremest rarity, and upon the most insignificant points, from both. After a careful consideration of its readings, I have come to the conclusion that it is only a reprint of the quarto of 1622 corrected by the text of the folio, having some typographical errors peculiar to itself, and a very few unimportant corrections and sophistications, such as crept into almost every dramatic reprint of the period. I therefore regard it as of no authority, and make no mention of its readings. In at least two passages the text of this tragedy appears to be hopelessly corrupted.

The period of the action of Othello, says Reed, "may be ascer tained from the following circumstances:Solymus the Second formed his design against Cyprus in 1569, and took it in 1571. This was the only attempt the Turks ever made upon that island after it came into the hands of the Venetians, (which was in the year 1473.) Wherefore the time must fall in with some part of that interval. We learn from the play that there was a junction of the Turkish fleet at Rhodes, in order for the invasion of Cyprus; that it first came sailing towards

un Caualiero, e Senatore,

[graphic]

Cyprus, then went to Rhodes, there met another squadron, and then resumed its way to Cyprus. These are real historical facts which happened when Mustapha, Solymus's general, attacked Cyprus, in May, 1570, which, therefore, is the true period of this performance." See Knolles's History of the Turks, pp. 838, 846, 867.

For the costume of the play, Vecelli's Habiti Antichi e Moderni affords ample and excellent contemporary authority; but upon this point the reader is referred to the Introduction to The Merchant of Venice. He will there find mention of a small book of Italian costume, illuminated about the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a description of some of the Venetian dresses, representations of which still exist in that mutilated volume. The costume of the Doge of Venice is very generally known, but that of other Venetian ranks, not so well; and it seemed worth while to give here representations of three of the illuminated figures just mentioned. The first is that of a man of

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

equestrian and senatorial rank, such as the Brabantio of this tragedy. The robe in this dress is of a bright crimson color; the sleeves are lined with rich golden brown; the flap over the shoulder is white, thickly embroidered in gold and crimson; the little cap is black. The second figure is that of a marine General, or Admiral as he would now be called; and as, at the period when these illuminations were made, the dress of naval and military officers was hardly distinguished, it may be assumed that this figure

gives us very nearly, if not

exactly, the

Cortegiana fuori di casa

[graphic]

costume proper to Othello. All the drapery of this figure is deep crimson, even to the bonnet; the leadingstaff is also crimson, with a golden spiral. The third figure is a very singular one. It is that of a Venetian courtezan of the period; and on the assumption that Cassio took his

lady fair and frail with him from Venice to Cyprus, (for men do sometimes carry their own coals to Newcastle,) it shows the dress proper to Bianca, and illustrates, more forcibly than any description could, the absurdity of attempting to perform this play or the Merchant of Venice in the correct costume of their period. The high cioppini first strike the eye in this figure.*

See the Note on "by the altitude of a choppine," Hamlet, Act II. Sc. 2.

They are colored green; the stockings are dark lilac purple; the garters are green, and apparently silken. The puffed trousers are of white satin trimmed with gold. A golden hilted dagger protrudes from the right-hand pocket. The robe is of scarlet. The thin gauzy material which partly covers, without at all concealing, the breasts and shoulders, is of a very pale yellow; and the fan is black. The woman is a blonde, with hair of the beautiful amber red tint so dearly prized by ladies of her time and country, and which, if their hair had it not naturally, they sought with much pains by bleaching and dyeing. The size of the figures in the illumination has been here preserved.

« AnteriorContinuar »