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earlier printed or authentic manuscript record of the time that has yet been discovered, except its entry for publication upon the Stationers' Register in October, 1621. Its style is that of Shakespeare's full maturity and indicates a period later than the date of Hamlet as that of its production. Of internal evidence upon the question there is but a single point — the unmistakable allusion, in Act III. Sc. 4, to the creation of the order of Baronets, in 1611.* Efforts have been made to show that this passage does not necessarily refer to the introduction of the bloody hand into the armorial bearings of those who received the new title; but in face of the record itself they do not appear to be worthy of particular mention. It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that this passage was written after the creation of the first baronets. If it were a part of the play as originally written, of course we must place Othello among the very latest of its author's works; and although it is possible that the play was written before the creation, and that the allusion was introduced immediately afterwards, it is not probable. For it will be found that the speech in question is the culminating point of several, which, by gradually accumulating allusion, lead directly up to it; and from it Desdemona at once breaks away with, “I cannot speak of this.”
But upon the authority of two manuscript records, the composition of Othello has been referred to 1604 and 1602. The latter date is assigned to it by Mr. Collier, on the authority of the following passage, in a professed memorandum of entertainments presented to Queen Elizabeth, at the residence of Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, (afterwards Lord Ellesmere,) at Harefield, in August, 1602. “6 Aug 1602 Rewardes ; to the vaulters players & dauncers lxiiijl xviii. xd."
Of this xi to Burbidges players for Othello This document, which will be found reprinted in full at p. 342 of The Egerton Papers, edited by Mr. Collier, and published by the Camden Society, is one of those, his discovery of which ar Bridgewater House, Mr. Collier announced in 1835, and all of which, with one exception, been pronounced forgeries by various competent authorities. But should this account prove genuine, the performance of a play called Othello, by “* Burbidges players," in 1602, cannot, for reasons to be presently given, be accepted as conclusive evidence that Shakespeare's tragedy was then written. As to the genuineness of the other record above referred to, there can be no doubt. It is found in the official Accounts of the Revels at Court, extracts from which have been edited by Mr. Peter Cunningham, and published by the Shakespeare Society, and is in the following words:
* " A liberal band : the hearts of old gave hands;
But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts."
By the Kings Hallamas day being
A play in the Banketinge
Venise The year is 1604 ; and this record makes it certain that on the first of November in that year a play called The Moor of Venice was played before King James, hy his own “ Servants," of which company Shakespeare was then a member. The probability seems strong, then, that the play in question was Shakespeare's Othello. But is it certain : Not quite, in my opinion. It mar have been a play founded upon Giraldi Cinthio's story, and called The Moor of Venice, which was written by another playwri_ht, and which, it being the property of his company, Shakespeare afterwards entirely re-wrote, taking the names of Othello and lago from the History of the Prince of Denmark, published in 1605, as above mentioned. This supposition is so much in accordance with Shakespeare's practice, and the heraldic aliu. sion before mentioned is entitled to such weight in the decision of this question, that, although there seems no sufficient ground for a fixed opinion upon the subject, I am inclined to place the date of the composition of this tragedy rather after 1611 than before that year. There is yet another fact which leads towards this conclusion, and which may be more conveniently considered in connection with our notice of the editions and the text.
The first edition of Othello is the latest quarto impression of any of Shakespeare's plays that appeared before the publication of the folio of 1623. Troilus and Cressida, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre, were published in 1609; and after a lapse of thirteen years without the appearance of one of Shakespeare's dramas from the press, this tragedy was published, although there were then nineteen of no inferior rank aniong his works which were known to the public only upon the stage. Why this long interval passed thus unimproved by the dealers in dramatic literature, and why this play was chosen from among so many, to be published only a year before the appearance of the collected edition, (the intentions in regard to which could hardly have been unknown to the trade, or even to the public,) can only be a matter of very vague conjecture. We know that it was high in general favor ; but I am inclined to the opinion that in addition to this claim upon a publisher's notice, it had also that of being one of its author's very latest productions. It certainly seems strange that after thirteen years had passed without the publication of one of Shakespeare's plays, during the first half of which period he produced works which were as well adapted for the press as any that had previously been issued, a publisher should go back at least eighteen years for one, which was the case if the “ Moor of Venise" performed before King James, in 1604, was Shakespeare's Othello, in the only form in which it is known to us.
The text of the edition of 1622 is tolerably well printed for a dramatic publication of its period. But its pages are still plentifully sprinkled with printers' and transcribers’ errors, of which it has more, according to my observation, than the folio copy of the same play. It also differs from the folio in the omission of many important passages, some of which are absolutely essential to the continuity of the dialogue ; and the variation of the two texts, as regards phrases and single words, is unusually noticeable. It is very rarely indeed, however, that the readings of the folio in the last respect are not better — and they are often much better — than those of the quarto. But the folio is not without its share of those typographical errors and omissions which are so common in the printed plays of the Elizabethan period ; and although the errors are of inferior importance and the omissions trifling in comparison with those of the quarto copy, still the latter affords invaluable aid in the formation of the text, to the approximate perfection of which conjecture has frequently to be called in. That the reader may see the grounds of this opinion, and compare the texts himself, the readings of the quarto are given, and its variations noticed, more frequently in the Notes on this play than in those on most of the others of which there are quarto copies ; unless, as in the case of Richard the Third, or Romeo and Juliet, or King Lear, the earlier edition exhibits a text which was subjected to revision before the issue of the later. There is a quarto edition of Othello which was published in 1630, and which differs in some cases from the folio, in others from the preceding quarto, but (if I may trust the collations of Steevens, Capell, and Mr. Collier,) only with the extremest rarity, and upon the most insignificant points, from both. After a careful consideration of its readings, I have come to the conclusion that it is only a reprint of the quarto of 1622 corrected by the text of the folio, having some typographical errors peculiar to itself, and a very few unimportant corrections and sophistications, such as crept into almost every dramatic reprint of the period. I therefore regard it as of no authority, and make no mention of its readings. In at least two passages the text of this tragedy appears to be hopelessly corrupted.
The period of the action of Othello, says Reed, "may be ascer. tained from the following circumstances :
un Caualiero, e Senatore, Solymus the Second formed his design against Cyprus in 1569, and took it in 1571. This was the only attempt 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 fleet 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, Solymus's general, attacked Cyprus, in May, 1570, which, therefore, is the true period of this performance." See Knolles's History of the Turks, pp. 838, 846, 867.
For the costume of the play, Vecelli's Habiti Antichi e Moderni affords ample and excellent contemporary authority; but upon this point the reader is referred to the Introduction to The Merchant of Venice. He will there find mention of a small book of Italian costume, illuminated about the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a description of some of the Venetian dresses, representations of which still exist in that mutilated volume. The costume of the Doge of Venice is very generally known, but that of other Venetian ranks, not so well; and it seemed worth while to give here representations of three of the illuminated figures just mentioned. The first is that of a man of