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The story is taken from Cynthio's Novels. POPE.
I have not hitherto met with any translation of this novel (the seventh in the third decad) of so early a date as the age of Shakspeare; but undoubtedly many of those little pamphlets have perished between his time and ours.
It is highly probable that our author met with the name of Othello in some tale that has escaped our researches; as I likewise find it in God's Revenge against Adultery, standing in one of his arguments as follows: “ She marries Othello, an old German soldier." This History (the eighth) is professed to be an Italian one. Here also occurs the name of lago.
I have seen a French translation of Cynthio, by Gabriel Chappuys, Par. 1584. This is not a faithful
one; and I suspect, through this medium the work came into Engiish.
FARMER. The beauties of this play impress themselves so strongly upon the attention of the reader, that they can draw no aid from critical illustration. The fiery openness of Othello, magnanimous, artless, and credulous, boundless in his confidence, ardent in his affection, inflexible in his resolution, and obdurate in his revenge; the cool malignity of Iago, silent in his resentment, subtle in his designs, and studious at once of his interest and his vengeance; the soft simplicity of Desdemona, confident of merit, and conscious of innocence, her artless preseverance in her suit, and her slowness to suspect that she can be suspected, such proofs of Shakspeare's skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain to seek in any modern writer. The gradual progress which lago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs 10 enfame him, are so artfully natural, that, though it will perhaps not be said of him as he says of himself, that he is a man not easily jealous, yet we cannot but pity him, when at last we find hiin perplexed in the extreme.
There is always danger, lest wickedness, conjoined with abilities, should steal upon esteem, though it misses of approbation; but the character of Iago is so conducted, that he is from the first scene to the last hated and despised.
Even the inferior characters of this play would be Very conspicuous in any other piece, not only for their
justness, but their strength. Cassio is brave, benevolent, and honest, ruined only by his want of stubbornness to resist an insidious invitation. Roderigo's suspicious credulity, and impatient submission to the cheats which he sees practised upon him, and which by persuasion he suffers to be repeated, exhibit a strong picture of a weak mind betrayed by unlawful desires to a false friend; and the virtue of Emilia is. such as we often find, worn loosely, but not cast off, easy to commit small crimes, but quickened and alarıned at atrocious villainies.
The scenes from the beginning to the end are busy, varied by happy interchanges, and regularly promoting the progression of the story; and the narrative in the end, though it tells but what is known already, yet is necessary to produce the death of Othello.
Had the scene opened in Cyprus, and the preceding incidents been occasionally related, there had been little wanting to a drama of the most exact and scrupulous regularity.