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Why do you speak so startingly and rash ?
Is't lost,—Is't gone? Speak, is it out of the way ?
Heavens bless us!
Say you ?
It is not lost-but what an' if it were?
I say it is not lost.
Fetch it, let me see it.
Why so I can, sir, but I will not now, &c.
Desdemona, whose soft credulity, whose turn for the marvellous, whose susceptible imagination had first directed her thoughts and affections to Othello,
is precisely the woman to be frightened out of her senses by such a tale as this, and betrayed by her fears into a momentary tergiversation. It is most natural in such a being, and shows us that even in the sweetest natures there can be no completeness and consistency without moral energy.*
With the most perfect artlessness, she has something of the instinctive, unconscious address of her sex; as when she appeals to her father –
So much duty as my mother show'd
* There is an incident in the original tale, « Il Moro di Venezia," which could not well be transferred to the drama, but which is very effective, and adds, I think, to the circumstantial horrors of the story. Desdemona does not accidentally drop the handkerchief; it is stolen from her by Iago's little child, an infant of three years old, whom he trains or bribes to the theft. The love of Desdemona for this child, her little playfellow—the pretty description of her taking it in her arms and caressing it, while it profits by its situation to steal the handkerchief from her bosom, are well imagined, and beautifully told; and the circumstance of Iago employing his own innocent child as the instrument of his infernal villany, adds a deeper, and, in truth, an unnecessary touch of the fiend, to his fiendish character.
So much I challenge, that I may profess
And when she is pleading for Cassio
What! Michael Cassio !
That came a wooing with you ; and many a time,
In persons who unite great sensibility and lively fancy, I have often observed this particular species of address, which is always unconscious of itself, and consists in the power of placing ourselves in the position of another, and imagining, rather than perceiving, what is in their hearts. We women have this address (if so it can be called) naturally, but I have seldom met with it in men. It is not inconsistent with extreme simplicity of character, and quite distinct from that kind of art which is the result of natural acuteness and habits of observation---quick to perceive the foibles of others, and as quick to turn them to its own purposes ; which is always conscious of itself, and if united with strong intellect, seldom perceptible to others. In the mention of her mother, and the appeal to Othello's self-love, Desdemona has no design formed on conclusions previously drawn; but her intuitive quickness of feeling, added to her imagination, lead her more safely to the same results, and the distinction is as truly as it is delicately drawn. When Othello first outrages her in a manner
។ which appears inexplicable, she seeks and finds excuses for him. She is so innocent that not only she cannot believe herself suspected, but she cannot conceive the existence of guilt in others.
Something, sure, of state,
'Tis even so
Nay, we must think, men are not gods,
As fit the bridal.
And when the direct accusation of crime is flung on her in the vilest terms, it does not anger but stun her, as if it transfixed her whole being; she
attempts no reply, no defence; and reproach or resistance never enters her thought.
Good friend, go to him—for by this light of heaven
If e'er my will did trespass 'gainst his love,
And there is one stroke of consummate delicacy, surprising, when we remember the latitude of expression prevailing in Shakspeare's time, and which he allowed to his other women generally; she says, on recovering from her stupefaction
Am I that name, Iago ?
What name, sweet lady?
That, which she says my lord did say I was.