Page images

To say--my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company,
Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well;
Where virtue is, these are more virtuous:9
Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw
The smallest fear, or doubt of her revolt;
For she had eyes, and chose me: No, Iago ;
I 'll see, before I doubt; when I doubt, prove;
And, on the proof, there is no more but this,
Away at once with love or jealousy.

Iago. I am glad of this; for now I shall have reason
To show the love and duty that I bear you
With franker spirit: therefore, as I am bound,
Receive it from me: I speak not yet of proof.
Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio;
Wear your eye-thus, not jealous, nor secure:
I would not have your free and noble nature,
Out of self-bounty, be abus'd;look to 't:
I know our country disposition well;
In Venice? they do let heaven see the pranks
They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience
Is not to leave undone, but keep unknown.3

tioned in describing the torments of jealousy. The part of lago’s speech particularly alluded to, is that where he says :

« But 0, what damned minutes tells he o'er,
“ Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strongly loves!"

M. Mason. 9 Where virtue is, these are more virtuous :) An action in itself indifferent, grows virtuous by its end and application. Johnson.

I know not why the modern editors, in opposition to the first quarto and folio, read most instead of more.

A passage in All's Well that End: Well, is perhaps the best comment on the sentiment of Othello :“I have those good hopes of her, education promises : his disposition she inherits ; which makes fair gifts fuirer.Gratior e pulchro veniens et corpore vir

Most is the reading of the second folio. Ritson.

Out of self-bounty be abus'd ;] Self-bounty for inherent ge. nerosity. Warburton.

our country disposition In Venice -] Here Iago seems to be a Venetian. "Johnson. There is nothing in any other part of the play, properly un. derstood, to imply otherwise. Henley.

Various other passages, as well as the present, prove him to have been a Venetian, nor is there any ground for doubting the poet's intention on this head. See p. 299, n. 6. Malone.

3 Ism-not to leave undone, but keep unknown.] The folio perhaps more clearly reads :




Oth. Dost thou say so?

Iago. She did deceive her father, marrying you; And, when she seem’dt to shake, and fear your looks, She lov'd them most. Oth.

And so she did. lago.

Why, go to, then; She that, so young, could give out such a seeming, To seel her father's eyes up, close as oak,5He thought 'twas witchcraft:- But I am much to blame; I humbly do beseech you of your pardon, For too much loving you. Oth,

I am bound to thee for ever, Iago. I see, this hath a little dash'd your spirits. Oth. Not a jot, not a jot. Iago.

Trust me, I fear it has. I hope, you will consider, what is spoke

Is not to leav 't undone, but keep 't unknown. Steevens. The folio, by an evident error of the press, reads-kept unknown. Malone.

4 And, when she seen'd --] This and the following argument of Iago ought to be deeply impressed on every reader. Deceit and falsehood, whatever conveniences they may for a time pro. mise or produce, are in the sum of life, obstacles to happiness. Those, who profit by the cheat, distrust the deceiver, and the act by which kindness is sought, puts an end to confidence.

The same objection may be made with a lower degree of strength against the imprudent generosity of disproportionate marriages. When the first heat of passion is over, it is easily succeeded by suspicion, that the same violence of inclination, which caused one irregularity, may stimulate to another; and those who have shewn, that their passions are too powerful for their prudence, will, with very slight appearances against them, be censured, as not very likely to restrain them by their virtue.

Johnson. 5 To seel her father's eyes up, close as oak,] The oak is (I believe) the most close-grained wood of general use in England. Close as oak, means, close as the grain of oak.

To seel is an expression from falconry. So, in Ben Jonson's
Catiline :

would have kept
“ Both eyes and beak seeld up, for six sesterces.”

Steevens. To seel a hawk is to sew up his eye-lids. See Vol. XIII, p. 392, .: In The Winter's Tale, Paulina says:

“ The root of his opinion, which is rotten
“ As ever ock, r stone, was sound." Malone.

n. 2.

Comes from my love ;-But, I do see you are movidio
I am to pray you, not to strain my speech
To grosser issues, nor to larger reach,
Than to suspicion.

Oth. I will not.

Should you do so, my lord,
My speech should fall into such vile success?
As my thoughts aim not at. Cassio 's my worthy friend:-
My lord, I see you are mov'd.

No, not much moy'd :I do not think, but Desdemona 's honest.

Iago. Long live she so! and long live you to think so!
Oth. And yet, how nature erring from itself,
Iago. Ay, there 's the point:-As-to be bold with

Not to affect many proposed matches,
Of her own clime, complexion, and degree;
Whereto, we see, in all things nature tends:
Foh! one may smell, in such, a will most rank,
Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural.--
But pardon me; I do not, in position,
Distinctly speak of her: though I may fear,



To grosser issues,] Issues, for conclusions. Warburton.

My speech should fall into such vile success-] Success, for succession, i. e. conclusion; not prosperous issue. Warburton. I rather think there is a depravation, and would read :

My speech will fall into such vile excess. If success be the right word, it seems to mean consequence or event, as successo is used in Italian. Johnson.

I think success may, in this instance, bear its common interpretation. What Iago means seems to be this ; “ Should you do so, my lord, my words would be attended by such an infamous degree of success, as my thoughts do not even aim at. Iago, who counterfeits the feelings of virtue, might have said fall into success, and vile success, because he would appear to Othello, to wish that the enquiry into Desdemona's guilt, might prove fruitless and unsuccessful. See Hamlet, Vol. XV. Steevens.

The following passages will perhaps be considered as proofs of Dr. Johnson's explanation :

“ Then the poor desolate women, fearing least their case would sorte to some pitiful successe.Palace of Pleasure, bl. 1. “ God forbyd all hys hope should turne to such successe.

Promos and Cassandra, 1578. Henderson. - a will most rank,] Will, is for wilfulness. It is so used by Ascham. A rank will, is self-will overgrown and exuberant.


Her will, recoiling to her better judgment,
May fall to match you with her country forms,
And (hapily) repent.

Farewel, farewel :
If more thou dost perceive, let me know more;
Set on thy wife to observe: Leave me, lago.
Iago. My lord, I take my leave.

[Going Oth. Why did I marry!--This honest creature, doubt.

less, Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.

Iago. My lord, I would, I might entreat your honour
To scan this thing no further; leave it to time:
And though it be fit that Cassio have his place,
(For, sure, he fills it up with great ability,)
Yet, if you please to hold him off a while,
You shall by that perceive him and his means:'
Note, if your lady strain his entertainment?
With any strong or vehement importunity;
Much will be seen in that. In the mean time,
Let me be thought too busy in my fears,
(As worthy cause I have, to fear--I am,)
And hold her free, I do beseech your honour.

Oth. Fear not my government.?
Iago. I once more take my leave.

Oth. This fellow 's of exceeding honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,3
Of human dealings: If I do prove her haggard,


9 You shall by that perceive him and his means :] You shall dis. cover whether he thinks his best means, his most powerful interest, is by the solicitation of your lady. Johnson.

strain his entertainment -] Press hard his re-admission to his pay and office. Entertainment was the military term for admission of soldiers. Johnson.

So, in Coriolanus : the centurions, and their charges, distinctly billeted, and already in the entertainment.Steevens.

2 Fear not my government.] Do not distrust my ability to con. tain my passion. Johnson. with a learned spirit,] Learned, for experienced.

Warburton. The construction is, He knows with a learned spirit all qualities of human dealings. Johnson.

If I do prove her haggard,] A haggard hawk, is a wild hawk, a hawk unreclaimed, or irreclaimable. Johnson. VOL. XVI.




Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings,
I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind,
To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black;

A haggard is a particular species of hawk. It is difficult to be reclaimed, but not irreclaimable.

From a passage in The Whitc Devil, or Vittoria Corombona, 1612, it appears that haggard was a term of reproach sometimes applied to a wanton: “ Is this your perch, you haggard ? fly to the stews.”

Turberville says, that “ haggart falcons are the most excel. lent birds of all other falcons.” Latham gives to the haggart only the second place in the valued file. In Holland's Leaguer, a comedy, by Shakerly Marmyon, 1633, is the following illustrative passage :

“ Before these courtiers lick their lips at her,

“I'll trust a wanton haggard in the wind.” Again:

“ For she is ticklish as any haggard,

“ And quickly lost.” Again, in Two Wise Men, and all the rest Fools, 1619: “ - the admirable conquest the faulconer maketh in a hawk's nature; bringing the wild haggard, having all the earth and seas to scour over uncontroulably, to attend and obey,” &c. Haggard, however, had a popular sense, and was used for wild by those who thought not on the language of falconers. Steevens.

Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings,] Jesses are short straps of leather tied about the foot of a hawk, by which she is held on the fist. Hanmer.

In Heywood's comedy, called, A Woman killed with Kindness, 1617, a number of these terms relative to hawking occur together :

“Now she hath seiz'd the fowl, and 'gins to plume her ; “ Rebeck her not; rather stand still and check her.

“So: seize her gets, her zesses, and her bells.” Steevens. 6 I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind,

To prey at fortune.] The falconers always let fly the hawk against the wind; if she flies with the wind behind her, she seldom returns. If therefore a hawk was for any reason to be dis. missed, she was let down the wind, and from that time shifted for herself, and preyed at fortune. This was told me by the late Mr. Clark. Johnson.

This passage may possibly receive illustration from a similar one in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 2, sect.

mem. 3: As a long-winged hawke, when he is first whistled off the fist, mounts aloft, and for his pleasure fetcheth many a circuit in the ayre, still soaring higher and higher, till he comes to his full pitch, and in the end, when the game is sprung, comes down amaine, and stoupes upon a sudden.” Percy.


« PreviousContinue »