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"I HAVE evidence to produce which very clearly shows that this play was written before 1600; for in a Ms. entitled “The Newe Metamorphosis, or a Feaste of Fancie, or Poeticall Legendes, written by J. M. Gent. 1600,' occurs the following passage, evidently imitated from Shakespeare's well-known lines [Othello, act iii. sc. 3] beginning ‘Who steals my purse, steals trash ;'
• The highwayman that robs one of his purse
And in exchange give obloquie and shame.' It should be remarked that some additions were made by the author of this Ms. several years after the date he assigns to its composition ; but there is no reason to suppose that the part in which the above passage occurs was written after the year 1600.” Halliwell's Life of Shakespeare, p. 190, ed. 8vo. —“But,” observes Mr. Staunton, after citing the above four lines of J. M., " the reflection is sufficiently trite, and in both instances, as in many others where it occurs, was probably founded on the following passages ;
'Is not that Treasure, which, before all other, is most regarded of honest persons, the good Fame of Man and Woman, lost through whoredom ?' Homily xi. pt. 2.
Now here consider that St. Paul numbreth a Scolder, Brawler, or a Picker of Quarrels, among Thieves and Idolators, and many Times there cometh less Hurt of a Thiefe than of a railing tongue. For the one taketh away a Mans good name, the other taketh but his Riches, which is of much less Value and Estimation than is his good name. Homily xii. pt. 1.” - According to one of the Ellesmere papers, Othello was acted before Queen Elizabeth at Harefield Place about the beginning of August 1602; but it seems to be now agreed that the paper in question is not genuine : see the Memoir of Shakespeare, p. 77, note.- The earliest authentic notice of the performance of this tragedy is in The Accounts of the Revels, which show that it was played at court Nov. 1st, 1604: see the Memoir of Shakespeare, p. 92.—The story of Othello is to be found in Cinthio's Hecatommithi, Parte Prima, Deca Terza, Novella 7, “Un capitano Moro piglia per mogliera una cittadina Venetiana: un suo alfieri l'accusa di adulterio al marito; cerca che l' alfieri uccida colui ch' egli credea l'adultero: il capitano uccide la moglie, è accusato dall' alfieri, non confessa il Moro, ma essendovi chiari inditii è bandito; e lo scelerato alfieri, credendo nuocere ad altri, procaccia a se la morte miseramente.” The novel, however, not only differs considerably from the play in incident, but Cinthio's characters have no names with the exception of Desdemona. “I have not hitherto met with any translation of this novel of so early a date as the age of Shakespeare; 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 Reynolds's 'God's Revenge against Adultery,' standing in one of his Argu
ments as follows: 'She marries Othello, an old German soldier.' This His. tory (the eighth) is professed to be an Italian one. Here also occurs the name of Iago. It is likewise found, as Dr. Farmer observes, in 'The History of the famous Euordanus Prince of Denmark, with the strange Adventures of Iago Prince of Saxonie ; bl. 1. 4to, London, 1605. It may indeed be urged that these names were adopted from the tragedy before us : but I trust that every reader who is conversant with the peculiar style and method in which the work of honest John Reynolds is composed will acquit him of the slightest familiarity with the scenes of Shakespeare. This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Oct. 6, 1621, by Thomas Walkley (who published it in quarto during the next year]." STEEVENS.—“I have seen a French translation of Cinthio by Gabriel Chappuys, Par. 1584. This is not a faithful one; and I suspect through this medium the work came into English.” FARMER. (An English version of Cinthio's novel by W. Parr is in Collier's Shakespeare's Library, vol. ii.)
THE STATIONER TO THE READER.*
To set forth a book without an epistle were like to the old English proverb, A blue coat without a badge; and the author being dead, I thought good to take that piece of work upon me. To commend it, I will not; for that which is good I hope every man will commend without entreaty; and I am the bolder because the author's name is sufficient to vent his work. Thus leaving every one to the liberty of judgment, I have ventured to print this play, and leave it to the general censure.
* Prefixed to the quarto 1622.
DUKE OF VENICE.
DESDEMONA, daughter to Brabantio and wife to Othello.
Sailor, Messenger, Herald, Officers, Gentlemen, Musicians, and Attendants.
SCENE—The first act in Venice; during the rest of the play, at a
seaport in Cyprus.