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“In the course of the notes on this performance, I have pointed out a passage or two which, in my opinion, sufficiently prove it to have been the work of one who was acquainted both with Greek and Roman literature. It is likewise deficient in such internal marks as distinguish the tragedies of Shakspeare from those of other writers; I mean, that it presents no struggles to introduce the vein of humour so constantly interwoven with the business of his serious dramas. It can neither boast of his striking excellencies, nor his acknowledged defects; for it offers not a single interesting situation, a natural character, or a string of quibbles from first to last. That Shakspeare should have written without commanding our attention, moving our passions, or sporting with words, appears to me as improbable, as that he should have studiously avoided dissyllable and trisyllable terminations in this play, and in no other.
“Let it likewise be remembered that this piece was not published with the name of Shakspeare till after his death. The quarto in 1611 is anonymous.
“Could the use of particular terms employed in no other of his pieces be admitted as an argument that he was not its author, more than one of these might be found ; among which is palliament for role, a Latinism which I have not met with elsewhere in any English writer, whether ancient or modern; though it must have originated from the mint of a scholar. I may add, that “Titus Andronicus' will be found on examination to contain a greater number of classical allusions, &c. than are scattered over all the rest of the performances on which the seal of Shakspeare is indubitably fixed.—Not to write any more about and about this suspected thing, let me observe that the glitter of a few passages in it has perhaps misled the judgment of those who ought to have known, that both sentiment and description are more easily produced than the interesting fabrick of a tragedy. Without these advantages many plays have succeeded ; and many have failed, in which they have been dealt about with the most lavish profusion. It does not follow, that he who can carve a frieze with minuteness, elegance, and ease, has a
conception equal to the extent, propriety, and grandeur of a temple.”—STEEvens.
OTH E L L 0.
In the Registers of the Stationers, under the date, October 6th, 1621, is the following memorandum :" Tho. Walkely] Entered for his, to wit, under the bandes of Sir George Buck and of the
Wardens : The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice."
This entry was made by Walkley, preparatory to the publication of his quarto edition of the play which appeared some time in the next year, and was entitled :-" The Tragedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. As it hath beene diverse times acted at the Globe, and at the BlackFriers, by his Maiesties Servants. Written by William Shakespeare. 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.” The next quarto copy appeared in 1630, seven years after the publication of the first folio: the title-page varies from that of the quarto of 1622 only in the imprint, which reads :-“ by A. M. for Richard Hawkins,” &c. Upon the supposition that a passage in Act III. Sc. 4,
" — the hearts of old gave hands ;
But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts," — was a satirical allusion to the creation of the new order of Baronets by James I. in 1611, Malone at first assigned the composition of “ Othello” to that year ; he subsequently attributed it to 1604, because, as he remarks, “ we know it to have been acted in that year ;” but he has given no evidence in support of his assertion. Modern research, however, has supplied this evidence. In the “ Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court,” edited by Mr. P. Cunningham for the Shakespeare Society, there is an entry, beginning November 1st, 1604, and terminating October 31st, 1605, from which it appears that the King's Players performed the play of The Moor of Venis at the Banqueting-house at Whitehall on the 1st of November (Hallamas Day), 1604. Mr. Collier, indeed, cites an extract from “ The Egerton Papers,” to show that “Othello" was acted for the entertainment of Queen Elizabeth, at the residence of Lord Ellesmere (then Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal), at Harefield, on the 6th of August, 1602; but the suspicion long entertained that the Shakespearian documents in that collection are modern fabrications having now deepened almost into certainty, the extract in question is of no historical value. The earliest authentic record of the performance of “ Othello,” tlien, is that in the Accounts of the Revels. Six years later, we
know from an interesting diary first pointed out by Sir Frederic Madden (see Note (4), p. 689, Vol. I.), that the play was acted at the Globe on the 30th of April, 1610. And upon the authority of Vertue's MS. we find that it retained its popularity in 1613, early in which year it was acted at the Court.
The story upon which this tragedy is founded is a novel in Cinthio's Hecatommithi, Parte Prima, Deca Terza, Novella 7, bearing the following explanatory title:“ Un capitano Mor piglia per mogliera una cittadina Venetiana : un suo alfieri l'accusa ili adulterio al marita ; cerca che l'alfieri uccida colui ch'egli credea l'adultero : il capitano uccide la moglie, è accusato dall alfieri, non confessa il Moro, ma essendovi chiari inditii è bandito ; e lo scelerato alferi, credendo nuocere ad altri, procaccia a se la morte miseramente.” There is a French translation of Cinthio's novels by Gabriel Chappuys, Paris, 1584 ; but no English one of a date as early as the age of Shakespeare has come down to us.
"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 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 Selymus's general attacked Cyprus in May, 1570, which therefore is the true period of this performance. See Knolles's llistory of the Turks, p. 838, 846, 867.”—REED.
Sailor, Messengers, Herald, Officers, Gentlemen, Musicians, and Attendants.
SCENE,--The first Act in Venice; during the rest of the play, at a Sea-port in CYPRUS.