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Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
a mercantile light; and may mean, that "the pearl was richer than all the gems to be found among a set of men generally trading in them." Neither do I recollect that Othello mentions many things, but what he might fairly have been allowed to have had knowledge of in the course of his peregrinations. Of this kind are the similes of the Euxine sea flowing into the Propontick, and the Arabian trees dropping their gums. The rest of his speeches are more free from mythological and historical allusions, than almost any to be found in Shakspeare, for he is never quite clear from them; though in the design of this character he seems to have meant it for one who had spent a greater part of his life in the field, than in the cultivation of any other knowledge than what would be of use to him in his military capacity. It should be observed, that most of the flourishes merely ornamental were added after the first edition; and this is not the only proof to be met with, that the poet in his alterations sometimes forgot his original plan.
The metaphorical term of a pearl for a fine woman, may, for aught I know, be very common; but in the instances Dr. Warburton has brought to prove it so, there are found circumstances that immediately show a woman to have been meant. So, in Troilus and Cressida :
"Her bed is India, there she lies a pearl.
"Why she is a pearl whose price hath launch'd," &c. In Othello's speech we find no such leading expression; and are therefore at liberty, I think, to take the passage in its literal meaning.
Either we are partial to discoveries which we make for ourselves, or the spirit of controversy is contagious; for it usually happens that each possessor of an ancient copy of our author, is led to assert the superiority of all such readings as have not been exhibited in the notes, or received into the text of the last edition. On this account, our present republication (and more especially in the celebrated plays) affords a greater number of these diversities than were ever before obtruded on the publick. A time however may arrive, when a complete body of variations being printed, our readers may luxuriate in an ample feast of thats and whiches; and thenceforward it may be prophesied, that all will unite in a wish that the selection had been made by an editor, rather than submitted to their own labour and sagacity.
To this note should be subjoined (as an apology for many others which may not be thought to bring a conviction with them) that the true sense of a passage has frequently remained undetermined,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
till repeated experiments have been tried on it; when one commentator, making a proper use of the errors of another, has at last explained it to universal satisfaction. When mistakes have such effects, who would regret having been mistaken, or be sorry to prove the means of directing others, by that affinity which a wrong reading or interpretation sometimes has to the right, though he has not been so lucky as to produce at once authorities which could not be questioned, or decisions to which nothing could be added? STEEVENS.
I abide by the old text, "the base Judian." seems to allude to Herod in the play of Mariamne: "I had but one inestimable jewel—
"Yet I in suddaine choler cast it downe,
The words quoted by Dr. Warburton from Hamlet do not prove what they are adduced for. The Herod there alluded to, was a character in one of the ancient Mysteries. [See Candlemasday, or the Killing of the Children of Israel, a Mystery, in Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama, vol. i.]
I once thought that the accent here given to Judean was a strong objection to this reading; and that the word must have been Judean or Judæan, (as a derivative from Judae) which would not suit the metre. But the objection was founded on a mistake; for derivative words of this kind were thus accented in Shakspeare's time. Thus, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, we have in the old copies, an Epicurian rascal," which ascertains the pronunciation of that word to have been different formerly from what it is now. The word is thus spelt by North also, in his translation of Plutarch. Again, in Antony and Cleopatra:
Keep his brains fuming, Epicurean cooks."
Those who would adopt the original reading, Indian, may urge in its support that the pearl naturally brings a people of the East to Shakspeare's mind; the connexion in his time being considered so strong, that a contemporary author has distinguished the inhabitants of India by an epithet founded on the circumstance of their abounding in pearls:
where the bright sun with his neighbour beams "Doth early light the pearled Indians.”
Cornelia, a tragedy, by T. Kyd, 1594. On the other hand, the word tribe is strongly in favour of the reading of the text, and I have now no doubt that it is the true one. Webster, in his Appius and Virginia, appears to have had this passage in his thoughts:
LOD. O bloody period!
All, that's spoke, is marr'd. Oтн. I kiss'd thee, ere I kill'd thee;-No way but this, [Falling upon Desdemona. Killing myself, to die upon a kiss,
Had your lordship yesterday
"Proceeded as 'twas fit, to a just sentence,
I would read, with the quarto, Indian. The word tribe is not, as Mr. Malone seemed to suppose, peculiarly applicable to the Jews. It meant in Shakspeare's time, as we learn from Cockeram, a kindred, and it is constantly used at this day in speaking of the Indians. The Jews are not in general described as willing to throw away what is valuable; and it is not likely that Shakspeare would allude to an anecdote of a single individual, of which perhaps none of his auditors had ever heard; but in our author's time when voyages of discovery to America were common, each putter out of five for one was probably stimulated by a description of the riches he might find there, and of the facility with which the Indians base, on account of their ignorance, would part with them. I will only add that two succeeding poets have given the Indians the same character:
"So the unskilfull Indian those bright gems
Habington's Castara-To Castara weeping. So, also, in The Woman's Conquest, by Sir Edward Howard: Behold my queen"Who with no more concern I'le cast away
"Then Indians do a pearl that ne're did know
"Its value-." BOSWELL.
whose subdu'd eyes,
Albeit UNUSED TO THE MELTING MOOD,] So, in our poet's 30th Sonnet :
"Then can I drown an eye unus'd to flow." MALONE.
7 Their MEDICÍNAL gum:] Thus the quarto 1622. This word is also used by our author in The Winter's Tale; and occurs in the works of two of our greatest poets-Milton and Dryden.
8 Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk-] I am told that it is immediate death for a Christian to strike a Turk in Aleppo. Othello is boasting of his own audacity. STEEVENS.
Cas. This did I fear, but thought he had no
For he was great of heart.
O Spartan dog1, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea! Look on the tragick loading of this bed ; [To IAGO. This is thy work: the object poisons sight;Let it be hid.-Gratiano, keep the house, And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor, For they succeed to you.-To you, lord governor, Remains the censure of this hellish villain 2
9 Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.] So, in The Second Part of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, 1590:
"Yet let me kiss my lord before I dye,
"And let me dye with kissing of my lord." STEEVENS. 1 O Spartan dog,] The dogs of Spartan race were reckoned among those of the most fierce and savage kind. HANMER. They are again mentioned in A Midsummer-Night's Dream "When in a wood of Crete they bay'd the bear "With hounds of Sparta." HENLEY.
To you, lord governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain ;] Rymer, who had neither vigour of imagination to make a poet, nor strength of judgement to make a critick, as appears from his Edgar, and his Remarks on Shakspeare, had yet just enough to play the buffoon and caviller. His criticism on the Poets of the last Age, with only a mixture of trite remarks, transcribed from the French commentators on Aristotle, are one continued heap of ignorance and insolence. Almost the only remark on Shakspeare, which, I think, deserves an answer, is upon Iago's character, which he thus censures: "To entertain the audience (says he) with something new and surprising, against common sense and nature, he would pass upon us a close, dissembling, false, ungrateful rascal, instead of an open-hearted, frank, plain-dealing soldier, a character constantly worn by them for some thousand of years in the world." This hath the appearance of sense, being founded on that rule of Nature and Aristotle, that each character should have manners convenient to the age, sex, and condition. Etatis cujusque notandi sunt tibi mores, &c.
says Horace. But how has our critick applied it? According to this rule it is confessed, that a soldier should be brave, generous, and a man of honour. This is to be his dramatick character. But either one or more of any order may be brought in.
The time, the place, the torture,-O enforce it!
If only one, then the character of the order takes its denomination from the manners of that one.. Had therefore the only soldier in this play been lago, the rule had been transgressed, and Rymer's censure well founded. For then this eternal villain must have given the character of the soldiery; which had been unjust and unnatural. But if a number of the same order be represented, then the character of the order is taken from the manners of the majority; and this according to nature and common sense. Now in this play there are many of the order of the soldiery; and all, excepting Iago, represented as open, generous, and brave. From these the soldier's character is to be taken; and not from Iago, who is brought as an exception to it: unless it be unnatural to suppose there could be an exception; or that a villain ever insinuated himself into that corps. And thus Shakspeare stands clear of this impertinent criticism. Warburton. 66 - the censure—" i. e. the sentence. See vol. iv. p. 19,
n. 7. STEEvens.
See also vol. xiv. p. 277, n. 2. MALONE.
3 The beauties of this play impress themselves so strongly upon the attention of the reader, that they can draw no aid from critical illustration. The fiery openness of Othello, magnanimous, artless, and credulous, boundless in his confidence, ardent in his affection, inflexible in his resolution, and obdurate in his revenge; the cool malignity of Iago, silent in his resentment, subtle in his designs, and studious at once of his interest and his vengeance; the soft simplicity of Desdemona, confident of merit, and conscious of innocence, her artless perseverance on her suit, and her slowness to suspect that she can be suspected, are such proofs of Shakspeare's skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain to seek in any modern writer. The gradual progress which lago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs to enflame him, are so artfully natural, that, though it will perhaps not be said of him as he says of himself, that he is a man not easily jealous, yet we cannot but pity him, when at last we find him perplexed in the extreme.
There is always danger, lest wickedness, conjoined with abilities, should steal upon esteem, though it misses of approbation; but the character of Iago is so conducted, that he is from the first scene to the last hated and despised.
Even the inferior characters of this play would be very conspicuous in any other piece, not only for their justness, but their strength. Čassio is brave, benevolent, and honest, ruined only