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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 like. wise 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 Iago.
It may indeed be urged that these names were adopted from the tragedy before us: but I trust that every reader who is corversant 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 Shakspeare.
This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Oct. 6, 1621, by Thomas Walkely. Steevens.
I have seen a French translation of Cynthio, by Gabriel Chap-puys, Par. 1584. This is not a faithful one; and I suspect, through. this medium the work came into English. Farmer.
This tragedy I have ascribed (but on no very sure ground) to the year 1611. Mulone.
The time of this play may be ascertained from the following circumstances: Selymus the Second formed his design against Cyprus in 1569, and took it in 1571. This was the only aitempt. the Turks ever made upon that island after it came into the hands of the Venetians, (which was in the year 1473) wherefore the time must fall in with some part of that interval. We learn from the play that there was a junction of the Turkish ficet at Rhodes, in order for the invasion of Cyprus, that it first came sailing towards Cyprus, then went to Rhodes, there met another squadron, and then resumed its way to Cyprus. These are real historical facts which happened when Mustapha, Selymus's general, attacked Cyprus in May, 1570, which therefore is the true period of this performance. See Knolles's History of the Turks, p. 838, 846, 867. Reed.
Duke of Venice.
Desdemona, daughter to Brabantio, and wife to Othello.
For the first act, in Venice; during the rest of the pilay,
at a sea-port in Cyprus.
Though the rank which Montano held in Cyprus cannot be exactly ascertained, yet from many circumstances, we are sure he had not the powers with which Othello was subsequently invested.
Perhaps we do not receive any one of the Persone Dramatis to Shakspeare's plays, as it was originally drawn up by himself. These appendages are wanting to all the quartos, and are very rarely given in the folio. At the end of this play, however, the following enumeration of persons occurs:
“ The names of the actors. Othello, the Moore.-Brabantio, Father to Desdemona.--Cassio, an Honourable Lieutenant.-Jago, a Villaine.-Rodorigo, a gulld Gentleman.--Duke of Venice.-Senutors.—Montano, Governour of Cyprus - Gentlemen of Cyprus.Lodovico, and Gratiano, two noble Venetians.-Saylors.-Clowne. Desdemona, Wife to Othello.--Amila, Wife to Iago.Bianca, a Carregan." Steevens.
THE MOOR OF VENICE.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
Venice. A Street,
Enter RODERIGO and lago.
Iago. 'Sblood, but you will not hear me:-
Rod. Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy hate.
1 Tush, never tell me,] Thus the quarto, 1622. The folio omits the interjection— Tush. Steevens.
2 'Sblood, but you will not &c.] Thus the quarto: the folio suppresses this oath.
3 Oft capp'd to him ;] Thus the quarto. The folio reads, of capp'd to him. Steevens. In support of the folio, Antony and Cleopatra may be quoted:
“I have ever held my cap off to thy fortunes.” This reading I once thought to be the true one. But a more intimate knowledge of the quarto copies has convinced me that they ought not without very strong reason to be departed from.
Malone, To cap is to salute by taking off the cap. It is still an academick phrase.' M. Mason.
4-a bombast circumstance,] Circumstance signifies circum. locution. So, in Greene's Tu quoque:
“ You put us to a needless labour, sir,
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
Again, in Massinger's Picture:
“ And therefore, without circumstance, to the point,
“ Instruct me what I am." Again, in Knolles's History of the Turks, p. 576:“ — wherefore I will not use many words to persuade you to continue in your fi. delity and loyalty; neither long circumstance to encourage you to play the men.” Reed.
5 Forsooth, a great arithmetician,] So, in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio says: – one that fights by the book of arithmetick.”
Steevens. Iago, however, means to represent Cassio, not as a person whose arithmetick was one, two, and the third in your bosom,” but as a man merely conversant with civil matters, and who knew no. more of a squadron than the number of men it contained. So afterwards he calls him this counter-caster. Malone.
a Florentine,) It appears from many passages of this. play (rightly understood) that Cassio was a Florentine, and lago a Venetian. Hanmer.
7 A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;] Sir Thomas Hanmer supposed that the text must be corrupt, because it appears from a following part of the play that Cassio was an unmarried man. Mr. Steevens has clearly explained the words in a subsequent note: I have therefore no doub: that the text is right; and have not thought it necessary to insert Mr Tyrwhitt's note, in which he proposed to read—"a fellow almost damn’d in a fair life." Shakspeare, he conceived, might allude to the judgment de. nounced in the gospel against those of whom all men speak well.
Malone. Mr. Tyrwhitt's conjecture is ingenious, but cannot be right; for the malicious lago would never have given Cassio the highest commendation that words can convey, at the very time that he wishes to depreciate him to Roderigo: though afterwards, in speaking to himself, [ Act V, sc. i,] he gives him his just charac. ter.
M. Mason That Cassio was married is not sufficiently implied in the words, a fellow almost damn’d in a fair wife, since they mean, according to lago's licentious manner of expressing himself, no more than a man very near being married. This seems to have been the case in respect of Cassio. - Act IV, sc. i, Iago speaking to him of Bi. anca, says,-Why, the cry goes, that you shall marry her. Cassio
That never set a squadron in the field,
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 own love and self-flattery, not out of my promise. Iago then, having heard this report before, very naturally circulates it in his present conversation with Roderigo. If Shakspeare, however, de. signed Bianca for a courtezan of Cyprus, (where Cassio had not yet been, and had therefore never seen her,) Iago cannot be sup. posed to allude to the report concerning his marriage with her, and consequently this part of my argument must fall to the ground.
Had Shakspeare, consistently with lago's character, meant to make him say that Cassio was actually damn'd in being married to a handsome woman, he would have made him say it outright, and not have interposed the palliative almost. Whereas what he says at present amounts to no more than that (however near his marriage) he is not yet completely damned, because he is not absolutely married. The succeeding parts of lago's conversation sufficiently evince, that thc puct thvuzlit nu nude uf conception or expression too brutal for the character. Steevens.
There is no ground whatsoever for supposing that Shakspeare designed Bianca for a courtezan of Cyprus. Cassio, who was a Florentine, and Othello's lieutenant, sailed from Venice in a ship belonging to Verona, at the same time with the Moor; and what difficulty is there in supposing that Bianca, who, Cassio himself informs us, “ haunted him every where,” took her passage in the same vessel with him; or followed him afterwards ? Othello, we may suppose, with some of the Venetian troops, sailed in another vessel; and Desdemona and Iago embarked in a third.
lago, after he has been at Cyprus but one day, speaks of Bianca, (Act IV, sc. i,) as one whom he had long known: he must ere. fore (if the poet be there correct) have known her at Venice:
“Now will I question Cassio of Bianca,
“To beguile many, and be beguild by one.” Malone. Ingenious as Mr. Tyrwhitt's conjecture may appear, it but ill ac. cords with the context. Iago is enumerating the disqualifications of Cassio for his new appointment; but surely his being well spoken of by all men could not be one of them. It is evident from what follows that a report had prevailed at Venice of Cassio's being soon to be married “ to the most fair Bianca.” Now as she was in Shakspeare's language “a customer,” it was with view to such a connexion that Iago called the new lieutenant a fellow almost damned. It may be gathered from various circumstances that an intercourse between Cassio and Bianca had existed before they left Venice; for Bianca is not only well known to lago at Cyprus, but she upbraids Cassio (Act III, sc. iv,) with having been absent a week from her, when he had not been two days on the island. Hence, and from what Cassio himself relates, (Act