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Iago. Demand me nothing: what you know, you
From this time forth I never will speak word.
Oth. Well, thou dost best.
Lod. Sir, you shall understand what hath befall'n, Which, as I think, you know not. Here is a letter, Found in the pocket of the slain Roderigo; And here another: the one of them imports The death of Cassio to be undertook
Oth. O villain!
Torments will ope your lips.
Cas. Most heathenish, and most gross! Lod. Now, here's another discontented paper, Found in his pocket too; and this, it seems, Roderigo meant to have sent this damned villain; But that, belike, Iago, in the interim, Came in and satisfied him.
Oth. O, the pernicious caitiff!How came you, Cassio, by that handkerchief That was my wife's?
Oth. O fool! fool! fool! Cas. There is, besides, in Roderigo's letter, How he upbraids Iago, that he made him Brave me upon the watch; whereon it came That I was cast and even but now he spake, After long seeming dead, — Iago hurt him, Iago set him on.
Lod. You must forsake this room, and go with us : Your power and your command is taken off,
And Cassio rules in Cyprus.
That can torment him much, and hold him long,
For this slave,
Oth. Soft you! a word or two, before you go. I have done the state some service, and they know it; No more of that. I pray you, in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice: then, must you speak Of one that lov'd, not wisely, but too well; Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought, Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand, Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away,27
27 Thus both the quartos: the folio has Judean instead of Indian; and thereby hangs a tale" of critical and editorial comment much too long to be done up in a note. It was formerly thought that Indian was supported only by the quarto of 1622, so that Judean had the better authority; but the balance of authority has since been restored by the quarto of 1630. Theobald preferred Judean, and thought that the allusion was to Herod, "who, in a fit of blind jealousy, threw away such a jewel of a wife as Mariamne was to him." The older editors generally concur in the same reading. Malone was turned in favour of it by the word tribe, which he thought specially applicable to the Jews. In Shakespeare's time, however, tribe was used for kindred, as in this very play Iago says,- -"Good Heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend from jealousy." So that there is no reason why the Poet may not have applied the word to the Indians, either of the East, or of America, as well as to the Jews. Coleridge remarks upon the passage thus: "Othello wishes to excuse himself on the score of ignorance, and yet not excuse himself, to excuse himself by accusing. This struggle of feeling is finely conveyed in the word base, which is applied to the rude Indian, not in his own character, but as the momentary representative of Othello's." Knight, Collier, Verplanck, and Dyce, all agree in preferring Indian. Whether Shakespeare meant an allusion to any particular story of an Indian, or to the Indians as generally described, is not quite clear; probably, the latter. At all events, the old poets fur
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Lod. O, bloody period!
All that's spoke is marr'd. Oth. I kiss'd thee, ere I kill'd thee: -no way but this, [Falling upon DESDEMONA. Killing myself, to die upon a kiss. [Dies. Cas. This did I fear, but thought he had no
For he was great of heart.
Lod. [To IAGO.]
nish several passages in confirmation of the reading. Thus in Drayton's Legend of Matilda: "The wretched Indian spurnes the golden orc." Thus, also, in The Woman's Conquest, by Sir Edward Howard: "Behold my queen, who with no more concern Ile cast away ther Indians do a pearl, that ne'er did know its value." And in Habington's Castara:
"So the unskilfull Indian those bright gems,
29 Thus both quartos; the folio, "medicinable gum." - For some account of the Arabian tree, see The Tempest, Act iii. sc. 3, note 4.
29 It is said to have been immediate death for a Christian to strike a Turk in Aleppo.
30 The dogs of Spartan race were reckoned among those of the most fierce and savage kind.
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
Within a few years, a new view of Othello's character has been maintained by Schlegel, which has found favour with several English critics, who have repeated it in various forms. It is, that in Othello the Poet has painted not general nature, but the half-civilized African Prince. Schlegel recognizes in him "the wild nature of that glowing zone which generates the most furious beasts of prey, and the most deadly poisons, tamed only in appearance by the desire of fame, by foreign laws of honour, and by gentler manners."—"His jealousy," says the German critic, "is not of the heart, which is compatible with the tenderest feeling and adoration of the beloved object; it is of that sensual sort which in torrid climes gives birth to the imprisonment of wives, and other barbarous usages. A drop of this poison flows in the Moor's veins, and all his blood is inflamed. He seems, and is, noble, frank, confiding, grateful, a hero, a worthy general, a faithful servant of the State; but the physical force of passion puts to flight at once all his acquired and accustomed virtues, and gives the savage within him the rule over the moral man. The tyranny of the blood over the will betrays itself in his desire of revenge against Cassio. In his repentant sorrow, a genuine tenderness for his murdered wife bursts forth, with the painful sentiment of annihilated reputation, and he assails himself with the rage which a despot displays in punishing a runaway slave. He suffers as a double man; at once in the higher and in the lower sphere into which his being is divided."
All this is ingenious, original, eloquent; yet to my mind widely different from the Poet's intention, and the actual character he has so vividly portrayed.
So far as the passions of Love and Jealousy are the results of our common nature, their manifestations must be alike in the Moor and the European; differing only as modified by the more quickly excited and inflammable temperament of the children of the sun, or the slower and steadier temperament of the men of the north. But the critic confounds with this difference another one, that resulting from the degraded and enslaved state of woman in the half civilized nations of the East. There the jealous revenge of the master-husband, for real or imagined evil, is but the angry chastisement of an offending slave, not the terrible sacrifice of his own happiness involved in the victim's punishment.
But Othello is portrayed with no single trait in common with the tyrant of the Eastern or the African seraglio. His early love is not one of wild passion, but of esteem for Desdemona's gentle virtue, of gratitude for her unlooked-for interest in himself and his history, and of pride in her strong attachment. The Poet has laboured to show that his is the calm and steady affection of "a constant, noble nature;" it is respectful, confiding, "wrapt up in measureless content," and manifesting a tender and protecting superiority which has something in it almost parental. In his jealousy and revenge, he resembles not the Mahommetan so much as the proud and sensitive Castilian. He is characterized by all the higher qualities of European chivalry, and especially by that quick sense of personal reputation "which feels a stain like a wound," and makes his own life and that of others alike cheap in his eyes, compared with his honour. It is this, together with the other habits and characteristics of one trained in an adventurous military life, by which he is individualized. He is made a Moor, not because that is at all necessary to the story, but because the Poet found it in the tale from which he derived the outline of his plot; and it was adopted as an incident plastic to his purpose, and by its peculiarity giving that air of reality to the story, which accidental and unessential circumstances, such as pure imagination would not have indicated, can alone confer. It is on this account indeed, that the original tale itself, to my mind, has not the appearance of a product of fancy, but seems, like many of our traditionary romantic narratives, founded upon some occurrence in real life.
Othello's Moorish blood is thus, to use a logical phrase, an accident, distinguishing the individual character, and adding to it the effect of life and reality; but it is not in any sense essential to its sentiment or passion. The tone of chivalrous honour and military bearing is much more so, and yet that serves only to modify and colour the exhibition of passions common to civilized man. Were Othello but the spirited portrait of a half-tamed barbarian, we should view him as a bold and happy poetical conception, and, as such, the Poet's work might satisfy our critical judgment; but it is because it depicts a noble mind, wrought by deep passion and dark devices to agonies such as every one might feel, that it awakens our strongest sympathies. We see in this drama a grand and true moral picture; we read in it a profound ethical lesson; for, to borrow the just image of the classical Lowth, while the matchless work is built up to the noblest height of poetry, it rests upon the deepest foundations of true philosophy.—VERPLANCK.
END OF THE PLAYS.