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The Moor of VENICE.
SCENE, a Street in VENICE .
Enter Rodorigo and Iago...
That thou, lago, who haft had my purse, .
of this a
Iago. But you'll not hear me. If ever I did dream of such a matter,:.
Rod. (1) Othello.] The groundwork of this play is built on a novel of Cintbio Giraldi, (Dec. 3. Nov. 7.) who seems to have design d bis tale a document to young ladies against disproportion'd marriage : di non se accompagnare con buomo, cui la natu @ il cielo, o il modo dellavita disgiunge da noi ; That they should not link themselves to fuch,
Roa. Thou told'ft me, thou didft hold him in thy hate,
lago. Despise me,
against whom nature, providence, and a different way of living have interpos'd a bar. Our Poet inculcares no such moral : but rather, that a woman may fall in love with the virtues and shining qualities of a man; and therein overlook the difference of complexion and colour. Mr. Rymer has run riot against the conduct, manners, sentiments, and di&tion, of this play: but in such a strain, that one is mov'd rather to laugh at the freedom and coarseness of his raillery, than provok'd to be downright angry at his censures. To take a fhort lample of his criticism;"Sbakespeare in this play calls 'em “ the super-fuptle Venetians : yet examine thoroughly the tragedy, “ there is nothing in the noble Desdemona, that is not below any
country chamber-maid with us. And the account, he gives of as their noblemen and senate, can only be calculated for the lati.. « tude of Gotham. The character of the Venetian state is to em. “ ploy strangers in their wars: but shall a poet thence fancy, that “ they will set a negra to be their general ? or trust a Moor to de“ fend them against the Turk? With us a Black-a-moor might rise “ to be a trumpeter ; but Sbakespeare would not have him less than
a lieutenant-general. With us a Moor might marry some little “ drab, or smallcoal-wench; Sbakespeare would provide him the “ daughter and heir of some great lord, or privy-counsellor : and « all the town hould reckon it a very suitable match. Yet the “ English are not bred up with that hatred and averfion to the Moors, « as are the Venetians; who suitcr by a perpetual hostility from them. “ Littora littoribus contraria. Nothing is more cdious in nature “ than an improbable lie: and certainly never was any play fraught “ like this of Othello with improbabilities,” & co
Thus this critick goes on; but such reflexions require no serious answer. This tragedy will continue to have lafting charms enough 10 make us blind to luch absurdities, as the Poet thougat were not worth his care.
(2) Oft capt 10 bim :) Thus the oldeft quarto, and fome modern editions ; but I have chose to restore tbe reading of the first and fecond folio impressions, off-capt; i. e. ftcod cap in hand, foliciting him. So, in Antony ;
-l have ever held my cap off to thy fortunes. And in Timor a
And let his very breath, whom thoul't observe,
Evade them with a bombast circumstance,
That (3) Forfootb, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife.] Thus has this passage ignorantly been corrup:ed, (as Mr. Warburton likewise saw with me;) by false pointing, and an inadvertence to matter of fact, thro' the whole course of the editions. By the bye, this play was not publish'd even fingly, that I can find, till fix years after the Author's death : and by that interval became more liable to errors.
I'il sub join the correction, and then the reasons for it.
And, in conclusion,
That never, &c. This pointing sets circumstances right, as I shall immediately ex. plain; and it gives a variety, in lago reporting the behaviour of Oibello, to start into these breaks; now, to make Orbello speak ; then, to interrupt what O: bello says, with his own private refcctions ; then, again, to proceed with Othello's speeches :—for this not only marks the inqui-tude of lago's mind upon the subject in hand; but likewise thews the actor in the variation of tone and gesture, whilst he (in a breath, as 'twere) personates alternately Othello and himself. Berides, to come to the necessity of the change made ; lago, not Casio, was the Florentine; lago, not Caffio, was the married man; Iugo's wife attends Desdemona to Cyprus ; Casio has a mistress there, a common strumpet; and Iago tells him in the fourth act,
She gives it out, that you shall marry her, Which would be very absurd, if Callio had been already married at Venice. Besides, our Poet follows the authorit! of his novel in giving the villainous ensign a fair wife. “ Havea fimilmente menata questo “ Malvagio la sua Moglie in Cipri, la quale era bella & honesta gio
vane "And it is very good realyn for rejecting lago, because he was a married man, and might be thought too much govern'd by his wife
That never fet a squadron in the field,
to be capable of this charge. An this was a natural objection in an unmarried general, as Q!bello was when he chose his officers. Iago Therefore was the fellow almoft damn'd in a fair wife : which is an expression obscure enough to deserve a short explanation. The Poet means, lago had so beautiful a wife, that she was his beaven on eareb; that he idoliz'd her; and forgot to think of happiness in an after ftate, as placing all his views of bliss in the fingle enjoyment of her. In this sense, beauty, when it can lo seduce and ingross a man's though:s, may be said almost to camn him. Felica, speaking of Basfanio's happiness in a wife, says something aimoft equal to this,
For having such a blessing in his lady,
Mercb. of Venice. Beaumont and Fletcher likewise, in their King and no Kirg, make Tigranes speak of such a degree of beauty fufficient to damn louls.
-had the fu tempting fair, That she could wish it off for damning frouls. i,e either, for that it did damn souls; or, for fear it should:
(4) Wherein the tongued consuls.) So he generality of the imprelfons read ; but the oldest quarto-has it, toged; (which gave the hint for my emendation;) the lenators, that ained the duke in council, in their proper gowns, lago, a little lower, says to Brabantio.
Zounds, Sir, you're rotbid : for. shame, put on your gown; Now, I think, 'is pretty certain, that lago does not mean,
your nigbe-gown, but your gorun of office, your senatorial gown; put on your authority, and pursue the thief who has stole your
daughter." Besides, there is not that contrast of terms betwixt tongued, as there is betwixt toged, and soldiership. This reading is peculiarly proper here ; and the same opposition is almost for ever made by the Roman writers. For instance ; Cicero in Offic.
Cedant Arma Togae,-
-Sed quòd Pacis est. Infigne & Otii, Toga: contrà aurèm-
paternisque Lucii Pauli Virruribus fimillimuss.omnibus Belli Ai Togæ dotibus, &c. Caffius Ciceroni, Etenim ius Toga cmnium Armis felicior,
Is all his soldiership - he had th' election ;
Rod. By Heav'n, Irather would have been his hangman.
lago. But there's no remedy, 'tis the curse of service; Preferment goes by letter and affection, And not by old gradation, where each: fecond
Ovid. Metamor. lib. xv.
Cæsar in urbe sua Deus eft ; quem Marte Togâque,
Jam nunc bac à me, juvenum bellôque togâque
Juvenal, Sat, 1o. -nocitura Togâ, nocitura petuntur Militiâ. And in a great number of passages more, that might be quoted. But now let me proceed to explain, why I have ventured to substitute coun ellors in the room of consuls: and then, I hope, the alteration will not appear arbitrary. The Venerian nobility, 'tis well known, conftituie the great council of the Senate, and are a part of the ado miniftration ; and summon'd to affist and counsel the Doge, who is prince of the senate; and, in that regard, has only precedency before the other magistrates. So that, in this respect, they may very properly be call'd counsellors. Again, when the officer comes from ihe duke to Brabantio, in a subsequent scene of this act, he says,
The Duke's in council, and your noble self,
I'm sure, is sent for. And when Brabantio comes into the senate, the duke fays to him
3 We lack'd your counsel, and your help to-night. Now Brabontio was a senator, but no consul. Besides, tho' the government of Venice was democratic at first, under consuls and tribunis; that form of power has been totally abrogated, since Doges have been elected: and whatever confuls of other fates may be resident there, yet they have so more a voice, or place, in the publick councils,, or in what concerns peace or war, than foreign ambafiadors can have in OUT parliament.
(5) Must be led and calm’d.] There is no consonance of metaphor in these two terms. I have chose to read with the first folio, and feveral other of the old editions. Belee'd is a lea-term as well as caim'd; and a ship is said to be belee'd, when the lies close under the winds the lee short; makes no fail.