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By ISRAEL GOLLANCZ, M.A.
THE EARLY EDITIONS
The First Edition of Othello was a Quarto, published in 1622, with the following title-page:
"THE Tragedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. I As it hath beene diuerse times acted at the Globe, and at the Black-Friers, by | his Maiesties Seruants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | [Vignette] | LONDON, | Printed by N. O. for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the Eagle and Child, in Brittans Bursse. 1622." i
In 1623 appeared the First Folio, containing Othello among the "Tragedies" (pp. 310-339); the text, however, was not derived from the same source as the First Quarto; an independent MS. must have been obtained. In addition to many improved readings, the play as printed in the Folio contained over one hundred and fifty verses omitted in the earlier edition, while, on the other hand, ten or fifteen lines in the Quarto were not represented in the folio version. Thomas Walkley had not resigned his interest in the play; it is clear from the Stationers' Register that it
1 Prefixed to this First Quarto were the following lines:
"The Stationer to the Reader.
"To set forth a booke without an Epistle, were like to the old English prouerbe, A blew coat without a badge, & the Author being dead, I thought good to take that piece of worke upon mee: To commend it, I will not, for that which is good, I hope euery man will commend, without intreaty: and I am the bolder, because the author's name is sufficient to vent his worke. Thus leauing euery one to the liberty of iudgement; I haue ventered to print this play, and leave it to the generall censure. Yours, Thomas Walkley.”
remained his property until March 1, 1627 (i. e. 1628) when he assigned “ORTHELLO the More of Venice" unto Richard Hawkins, who issued the Second Quarto in 1630. A Third Quarto appeared in 1655; and later Quartos in 1681, 1687, 1695.
The text of modern editions of the play is based on that of the First Folio, though it is not denied that we have in the First Quarto a genuine play-house copy; a notable difference, pointing to the Quarto text as the older, is its retention of oaths and asseverations, which are omitted or toned down in the Folio version.
DATE OF COMPOSITION
This last point has an important bearing on the date of the play, for it proves that Othello was written before the Act of Parliament was issued in 1606 against the abuse of the name of God in plays. External and internal evidence seem in favor of 1604, as the birth-year of the tragedy, and this date has been generally accepted since the publication of the Variorum Shakespeare of 1821, wherein Malone's views in favor of that year were set forth (Malone had died nine years before the work appeared). After putting forward various theories, he added: "We know it was acted in 1604, and I have therefore placed it in that year." For twenty years scholars sought in vain to discover upon what evidence he knew this important fact, until at last about the year 1840 Peter Cunningham announced his discovery of certain Accounts of the Revels at Court, containing the following item:—
"By the King's 'Hallamas Day, being the first of Nov, Matis Plaiers. A play at the bankettinge House att Whitehall, called the Moor of Venis .'" 1
We now know that this manuscript was a forgery, but strange to say there is every reason to believe that though "the book" itself is spurious, the information which it iv. Shakespeare Society Publications, 1842.