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Aye, let them rot and perih. Let her be
damn'd to night; She shall not live ;-my heart is turn'd to stone.
he immediately melts again, and adds,
-Oh! the world has not a sweeter creature; She might lie by an emperor's side, and command
him tasks: Oh! she will sing the savageness out of a bear,“ And then of so gentle a condition. The pity
of it, lago, O! the pity of it!
The poet gloriously contrives to make even the natural tcmper of his heroe aflift in the taking off from the brutality of the action he is to be guilty of.
What can we expect of a wo man, convinc'd of his belov'd wife's pretended adultery, but death as the punishment ?
When we hear the impetuofity of rage burst forth against the supposed adulterer,
that the slave had forty thousand lives; One is too poor, too weak for my revenge.
what are we to expect but the vows of
vengeance against the other criminal, as we find them fol
Now do I fee it's true ; look here, lago,
fond love thus do I blow to heaven. Arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hell! Yield up, oh love, thy crown, and hearted throne Totyrannous bate! swell, bofom, with the fraught, *For 'tis of aspicks' tongues.-O! blood, blood, blood !
When the subtle accuser of the lady works the deluded man up to a resolution of never stoping till he has done the suppos'd justice he intends, by hinting to him that his mind may change, how nobly is the character kept up by the answer, Never, Iago. Like to the Pontick sea, Whose icy current and compulsive force, Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on, To the Propontick and the Hellefpont : Even so my bloody thoughts with violent pace Shall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love, 'Till that a capable and wide revenge Swallow them up.
How natural, nay, how excusable does all this fury appear, under the circumstances in which the author has represented it ; and how artful is his conduct in binding him immediately after by a solemn vow to do what must be done, tho' it was so very improper for the character of a heroe to perform it. We see Shakespear in this noble instance throwing the cruelty of the action that was to be committed, upon the provok'd and artfullyrais'd vengeance of the husband; and this fo judiciously, that we could scarce have accused him of finking into brutality, had Desdemona fallen by his hand at that instant : But this was not enough for Shakespear ; how gloriously has he reconciled us to the heroe's acting it, by making him even tender and affectionate in the instant he is about to do it, representing it to himself as an act of justice, not a brutal revenge,
She must die, else she'll betray more men. Put out the light, and then
Put out the light !--if I quench thee, thou flam
When I have pluck'd the role
O balmy breath, that doft almost persuade
I must weep, --but they are cruel tears ;
Whatever horror and brutality there may be in the act itself of killing an innocent wife, the author has here perfectly reconciled it to the character of a heroe, by his conduct of the circumstances that occasion it, and that lead to it. It is evidently against the inclination of his heart that Othello does it ; and even while we fee him about it, we do not know whether he or Desdemona be most to be pitied,
We have dwelt the longer on this instance, as fingly sufficient to give rules to all future writers in this critical circumstance; and we shall add, that this fort of conduct is necessary in the player as well as in the author, that where the one omits it in his looks, the other has in vain put it into his words, and that where the author has been too negligent in his preparations for, and alleviations of it, it is in the power of such an actor as the man we most admire in this part, to be of infinite assistance to him in supplying all by the help of his deportment. All this. however is not enough for our satisfaction on this subject; we are never content with heroes, unless we can fancy to ourselves that we read it in their faces that they were born to see all their desires, all their inclinations satisfy'd ; and unless the right which we persuade ourselves, from their appearance, they have to be happy, excuses them in the attempting to triumph over every obstacle to their success, whatever means it may be necessary to use in accomplishing it.
Of the real or apparent conformity there ought to
be between the age of the actor, and that of the perfon represented.
Portrait, tho' ever so valuable for the cor
rectness of the design and the strength and beauty of the colouring, will always be cenfur’d, and that with reason, if it represents the person it is done for as older than he really is ; and in the fame manner the player, tho' a perfect master of his profession, will in many cases only give us a half pleasure if he appears too old for the character he assumes for the night, even tho’he represents it ever so accurately. It is not sufficient that the managers of a play-house do not give us a wrinkled Eudofia or a Varanes with grey hairs, we expect that they should represent those characters to us with all the advantages of youth and beauty.
This observation is not however of universal force: the actor who has many years more upon his head than the author has chosen to bestow upon the character he represents, may under some circumstances give us even more pleasure than if he were exactly at the same period of life : this is most happily done in comedy by means of that address which we have seen in some of our modern players (at the same time that they play with great elegance, force, and justice) of sinking the disparity between their
age and that of the character, and giving us the pleasure of what we are sensible is a double elusion. There is scarce a greater merit in a player than this masterly artifice well apply'd; but when any imperfection appears in it, when the countenance of the performer does not throughout keep date, instead of his own time of life, with that of the character he acts, we feel no pleasure in the reprefentation, and the best playing is thrown away upon us.
The English stage has shewn us players who many years before we have had occasion to quarrel with them for remaining upon it, have shock'd our fathers with playing the parts of young princes, and beardless lovers.
Tho' we in general are more willing that men should continue on the stage after the bloom of life than that women should, yet we have met with instances even of persons of the tenderer sex who have had the art of borrowing the graces of their earlier years, even when they grew towards old women, nay and that much beyond what the men have ever been able to do. We have seen an actress of fifty, who, whenever the pleas’d, was to all appearance barely fixteen. The men have but very seldom been known to