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Should these parallels between pictorial representation and dramatic poetry be admitted, for I have my doubts of their propriety,—this is a far more judicious ascription than that of Steevens, who, in a concluding note to this play, would compare it to a picture from the school of Raphael. Poetry is certainly the pabulum of art; and this drama, as every other of our immortal bard, offers a series of pictures to the imagination of such varied hues, that artists of every school might from hence be furnished with subjects. What Schlegel means to say appears to be, that it abounds in strongly contrasted scenes, but that gloom predominates.
Much has been written on the subject of this drama; and there has been some difference of opinion in regard to the rank in which it deserves to be placed. For my own part I should not hesitate to place it in the first. Perhaps this preference may arise from the circumstance of the domestic nature of its action, which lays a stronger hold upon our sympathy; for overpowering as is the pathos of Lear, or the interest excited by Macbeth, they come less near to the ordinary business of life.
In strong contrast of character, in delineation of the workings of passion in the human breast, in manifestations of profound knowledge of the inmost recesses of the heart, this drama exceeds all that has ever issued from mortal pen. It is indeed true that “no eloquence is capable of painting the overwhelming catastrophe in Othello,—the pressure of feelings which measure out in a moment the abysses of eternity.”
WALKLEY’S PREFACE TO OTHELLO,
ED. 1622, 4TO.
THE STATIONER TO THE READER. To set forth a booke without an Epistle, were like to the old English proverbe, “ A blew coat without a badge;" and the author being dead, I thought good to take that piece of worke upon me: To commend it, I will not; for that which is good, I hope every man will commend without intreaty: and I am the bolder, because the Author's name is sufficient to vent his worke. Thus leaving every one to the liberty of judgment, I have ventured to print this play, and leave it to the generall censure. Yours,
DUKE of VENICE.
DESDEMONA, Daughter to Brabantio, and Wife to Othello.
Officers, Gentlemen, Messengers, Musicians, Sailors,
SCENE, for the first Act, in Venice; during the rest of
the Play, at a Seaport in Cyprus.
Enter RODERIGO and Iago.
That thou, Iago,—who hast had my purse,
know of this.
Three great ones
| The folios read, “ Of-capp'd to him.” To cap is to salute by taking off the cap. It is still in use at the Universities. Torriano thus illustrates it in his “Proverbial Phrases,” 1666.
“ Meritar che gli sia fatto di beretta. To deserve the vayling of the
But he, as loving his own pride and purposes,
bonnet, viz. to deserve to be capt.” Bonnetted was used in the
“ And therefore without circumstance, to the point,
The Picture, by Massinger. 3 Thus the folio. The quarto, which has been generally followed, has :
“Horribly stuff?d with epithets of war;
I have already chose my officer.” Iago merely means to represent Cassio as a man conversant only with military evolutions from books on tactics, in which the movements requisite to change from line to column, &c. are worked out numerically on the base of a tactical unit. See the Military Treatises. He afterwards calls him “this counter-caster."
5 The folio reads, dambd. This passage has given rise to much discussion. It has been said by Steevens to mean, according to Iago's licentious manner of expressing himself, a man“
very near being married.” This seems to have been the case in respect to Cassio Act iv. Sc. 1, lago, speaking to him of Bianca, says, • Why, the cry goes that you shall marry her.” Cassio acknowledges that such a report had been raised, and adds—“ This is the monkey's own giving out: she is persuaded I will marry her, out of her love and self-flattery, not out of my promise.” Iago then, having heard this report before, very naturally alludes to it in his present conversation with Roderigo. Mr. Boswell suspected that there might be some corruption in the text.
• Theorick, i.e. theory. See King Henry V. Act i. Sc. 1, note 8. p 289.
Wherein the toged consuls7 can propose
Rod. By heaven, I rather would have been his hang
Iago. But there's no remedy, 'tis the curse of ser
Preferment goes by letter 10 and affection,
I would not follow him then.
7 i.e. the rulers of the state, or civil governors. The word is used in the same sense in Tamburlaine :
“ Both we will reign the consuls of the earth.” By toged is meant peaceable, in opposition to warlike qualifications, of which he had been speaking. The word may be formed in allusion to the adage, “Cedant arma togæ.” The folio reads, “ tongued consuls.” In Coriolanus, Act ii. Sc. 3, toge has also been misprinted tongue.
8 Thus the quarto. The folio has, christen’d.
9 It was anciently the practice to reckon up sums with counters. To this the poet alludes in Cymbeline, Act v.-" It sums up thousands in a trice: you have no true debitor and creditor, but it; of what's past, is, and to come, the discharge. Your neck, sir, is pen, book, and counters.”
10 i. e. by recommendation.
11 i. e. “Do I stand within any such terms of propinquity to the Moor, as that I am bound to love him.” The first quarto has, assign'd. The word affin'd occurs in Troilus and Cressida, Act i. Sc. 3, and in this play, Act Sc, 3.