« AnteriorContinuar »
attention of the spectators being directed to his means : these furnish endless employment to the understanding. Cool, discontented, and morose, arrogant where he dares be so, but humble and insinuating when it suits his purposes, he is a complete master in the art of dissimulation ; accessible only to selfish emotions, he is thoroughly skilled in rousing the passions of others, and of availing himself of every opening which they give him : he is as excellent an observer of men as any one can be who is unacquainted with higher motives of action from his own experience; there is always some truth in his malicious observations on them. He does not merely pretend an obdurate incredulity as to the virtue of women, he actually entertains it; and this, too, falls in with his whole way of thinking, and makes him the more fit for the execution of his purpose. As in everything he sees merely the hateful side, he dissolves in the rudest manner the charm which the imagination casts over the relation between the two sexes : he does so for the purpose of revolting Othello's senses, whose heart otherwise might easily have convinced him of Desdemona's innocence. Desdemona is a sacrifice without blemish. She is not, it is true, a high ideal representation of sweetness and enthusiastic passion like Juliet ; full of simplicity, softness, and humility, and so innocent, that she can hardly form to herself an idea of the possibility of infidelity, she seems calculated to make the most yielding and tenderest of wives. The female propensity wholly to resign itself to a foreign destiny has led her into the only fault of her life—that of marrying without her father's consent. Her choice seems wrong; and yet she has been gained over to Othello by that which induces the female to honour in man, her protector and guide-admiration of his determined heroism, and compassion for the sufferings he had undergone. With great art it is so contrived that from the very circumstance that the possibility of a suspicion of her own purity of motive never once enters her mind, she is the less reserved in her solicitations for Cassio, and thereby does but heighten more and more the jealousy of Othello. To throw out still more clearly the angelic purity of Desdemo akespea
has, in Emilia, associated with her a companion of doubtful virtue. From the sinful levity of this woman, it is also conceivable that she should not confess the abstraction of the handkerchief when Othello violently demands it back : this would otherwise be the circumstance in the whole piece the most difficult to justify." Cassio is portrayed exactly as he ought to be to excite suspicion without actual guilt-amiable and nobly disposed, but easily seduced. The public events of the first two acts shew us Othello in his most glorious aspect, as the support of Venice and the terror of the Turks; they serve to withdraw the story from the mere domestic circle, just as this is done in Romeo and Juliet by the dissensions between the houses of Montague and Capulet. No eloquence is capable of painting the overwhelming force of the catastrophe in Othello—the pressure of feelings which measure out in a moment the abysses of eternity:'-SCHLEGEL.
1 [In the novel, the lieutenant (Iago) steals the handkerchief. Skottowe says : ‘Had Shakespeare, in this instance, been contented to follow the authority of the novel, his course would have been simple and easy, and the conduct of Emilia natural and consistent; at present, her principles are neither good enough to justify the affection and constancy of Desdemona, nor are they so depraved as to leave us without astonishment at the dishonesty of her actions.']
DUKE OF VENICE.
DESDEMONA, wife to Othello.
Sailor, Messenger, Herald, Officers, Gentlemen, Musicians,
SCENE.—THE FIRST ACT, IN VENICE; DURING THE REST
OF THE PLAY, AT A SEAPORT IN CYPRUS.
SCENE I.-Venice. A Street.
Enter RODERIGO and IAGO.
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
Iago. But you will not hear me.-
Rod. Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy hate.
Iago. Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city, In personal suit to make me his lieutenant, Off-capp'd to him :1 and, by the faith of man, I know my price, I am worth no worse a place : But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, Evades them, with a bombast circumstance Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war; And in conclusion, Nonsuits my mediators ; for, Certes,' says he, 'I have already chose my officer.' And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
Rod. By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman.
Iago. Why, there's no remedy ; 'tis the curse of service ;
I would not follow him then.