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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 costune 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 inan of
Cortegiara Afuori di case
equestrian and senatorial rank, such as the Brabantio of this tragedy. The robe in this dress is of a bright crimson color; the sleeves are lined with rich golden brown; the flap over the shoulder is white, thickly embroidered in gold and crimson ; the little cap is black. The second figure is that of a marine General, or Admiral as he would now be called; and as, at the period when these illuminations were made, the dress of naval and military officers was hardly distinguished, it may be assumed that this figure gives us very nearly, if not exactly, the costume proper to Othello, All the dra. pery of this figure is deep crimson, even to the bonnet; the leadingstaff is also crimson, with a golden spiral. The third figure is a very singular one. It is that of
Venetian courtezan of the period; and on the assumption that Cassio took his lady fair and frail with him from Venice to Cyprus, (for men do sometimes carry their own coals to Newcastle,) it shows the dress proper to Bianca, and illustrates, more forcibly than any description could, the absurdity of attempting to perform this play or the Merchant of Venice in the correct costume of their period. The high cioppini first strike the eye in this figure.*
* See the Note on “by the altitude of a choppine,'' Hamlet, Act II. Sc. 2.
They are colored green; the stockings are dark lilac purple; the garters are green, and apparently silken. The puffed trousers are of white satin trimmed with gold. A golden hilted dagger protrudes from the right-hand pocket. The robe is of scarlet. The thin gauzy material which partly covers, without at all concealing, the breasts and shoulders, is of a very pale yellow; and the fan is black. The woman is a blonde, with hair of the beautiful amber red tint so dearly prized by ladies of her time and country, and which, if their hair had it not naturally, they sought with much pains by bleaching and dyeing. The size of the figures in the illumination has been here preserved.
Preceding the first quarto edition of this play was the following epistle, by way of Preface, from the Publisher to the Reader.
• The Stationer to the Reader. “ To set forth a booke without an Epistle were like to the old English proverbe, A blew coat without a badge, and the author being dead, I thought good to take that piece of worke upon mee: to commend it, I will not, for that which is good, I hope, every man will commend without intreaty; and I am the bolder, because the author's name is sufficient to vent his worke. Thus leaving every one to the liberty of iudgement, I have ventered to print this play, and leave it to the generall censure.
DUKE OF VENICE.
DESDEMONA, Daughter to Brabantio, and Wife to Othello.
Officers, Gentlemen, Messengers, Musicians, Sailors,
SCENE: for the first Act, in Venice ; during the rest of the Play, at a Seaport in Cyprus.