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DUKE of Venice.
Gratiano, Brother to Brabantio.
Lodovico, Kinfman to Brabantio and Gratiano.
Othello, the Moor, General for the Venetians in Cyprus.
Lago, Standard-bearer to Othello.
Rodorigo, a foolish Gentleman, in love with Defdemona.
Desdemona, Daughter to Brabantio, and Wife to Othello.
Bianca, Curtezan, Mistress to Caffio.
Officers, Gentlemen, Meffengers, Muficians,
SCENE, for the First Act, in Venice; during the rest of the Play, in Cyprus.
A C T I.
SCENE, a Street in VENICE.
Enter Rodorigo and lago.
Ever tell me, I take it much unkindly,
Iago. But you'll not hear me.
If ever I did dream of fuch a matter, abhor me.
Rod. Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy hate.
A a 2
(1) Othello.] The Groundwork of this Play is built on a Novel of Cinthio Giraldi, (Dec. 3. Nov. 7.) who feems to have defign'd his Tale a Document to young Ladies against difproportion'd Marriages: di non fe accompagnare con huomo, cui la Natura & il cielo, & il modo della Vita dif giunge da noi: That they fhould not link themfelves to fuch, against whom Nature, Providence, and a different way of Living have interpos'd a Bar. Our Poet inculcates no fuch Moral: but rather, that a Woman may fall in Love with the Virtues and fhining Qualities of a Man; and therein overlook the Difference of Complexion and Colour. Mr. Rymer has run riot against the Conduct, Manners, Sentiments, and Diction, of this Play: but in fuch a Strain, that one is mov'd rather to laugh at the
Tago. Defpife me,
If I do not. Three Great ones of the city,
Non-fuits my mediators.
"I have already chofe my officer." And what was he?
Forfooth, a great arithmetician,
"Certes, fays he,
Freedom and Coarfenefs of his Raillery, than provok'd to be downright angry at his Cenfures. To take a fhort Sample of his Criticism ;"Shakespeare in this Play calls 'em the fuper-fubtle Venetians: yet exa"mine thoroughly the Tragedy, there is nothing in the noble Defdemo
na, that is not below any Country Chamber-maid with us. And the "Account, he gives of their Noblemen and Senate, can only be calcu"lated for the Latitude of Gotham. The Character of the Venetian "State is to employ Strangers in their Wars: but shall a Poet thence fancy, that they will fet a Negro to be their General Peor trust a Meer "to defend them against the Turk? With us a Black-a-moor might rife "to be a Trumpeter; but Shakespeare would not have him less than a "Lieutenant-General. With us a Moor might marry fomé little Drab, "or Smallcoal-Wench; Shakespeare would provide him the Daughter "and Heir of fome great Lord, or Privy-Counfellour: and all the Town "should reckon it a very fuitable Match. Yet the English are not bred
up with that Hatred and Averfion to the Moors, as are the Venetians "who fuffer by a perpetual Hoftility from them. Littora littoribus con"traria. Nothing is more odious in Nature than an improbable Lie:
and certainly never was any Play fraught like this of Othello with Improbabilities." &c.
Thus this Critick goes on; but fuch Reflexions require no ferious Anfwer. This Tragedy will continue to have lasting Charms enough to make us blind to fuch Abfurdities, as the Poet thought were not worth his Care.
(2) Oft capt to him:] Thus the oldeft Quarto, and fome modern Editions; but I have chofe to reftore the Reading of the first and fecond Folio Impreffions, Off-capt; i. e. flood Cap in Hand, foliciting him. So, in Anthony; I have ever held my Cap off to thy Fortune.
And in Timon;
And let his very Breath, whom thoul't obferve,
One Michael Caffio(the Florentine's (3) "A fellow almoft damn'd in a fair wife;") A a 3
(3) For footh, a great Arithmetician,
And, in Conclufion,
Nonfuits my Mediators: " Certes, fays be,
"I have already chofe my Officer
A Fellow almoft damn'd in a fair Wife.] Thus has this Paffage ignorantly been corrupted, (as Mr. Warburton likewife faw with me ;) by falfe 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'll fubjoin the Correction, and then the Reasons for it.
For footh, a great Arithmetician,
"A Fellow almoft damn'd in a fair Wife ;-)
That never, &c.
This Pointing fets Circumftances right, as I fhall immediately explain; and it gives a Variety, in lago reporting the Behaviour of Othello, to start into thefe Breaks; now, to make Othello speak; ----- then, to interrupt what Othello fays with his own private Reflexions ;then, again, to proceed with Othello's Speeches:For this not only marks the Inquietude of Iago's Mind upon the Subject in hand; but likewise fhews the Actor in the Variation of Tone and Gesture, whilft he (in a Breath, as 'twere) perfonates alternately Othello and himself. Befides, to come to the Neceffity of the Change made; Iago, not Caffio, was the Florentine ; 14 Iago, not Caffio, was the married Man; Iago's Wife attends Desdemona to Cyprus Caffio 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 abfurd, if Caffio had been already married at Venice, Befides, our Poet follows the Authority of his Novel in giving the villanous Enfign a fair Wife. "Havea fimilmente menata quefto Malvagio
la fua Moglie in Cipri, la quale era bella & honefta Giovane." And it is very good Reason for rejecting lago, because he was a married Man, and might be thought too much govern'd by his Wife to be capable of this Charge. And this was a natural Objection in an unmarried General, as Othello was when he chofe his Officers. Iago therefore was the Fellow almoft damn'd in a fair Wife: which is an Expreffion obfcure enough to deferve a fhort Explanation. The Poet means, Iago had fo beautiful a Wife, that he was his Heaven on Earth; 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 fenfe, Beauty, when it can fo feduce and ingrofs a Man's Thoughts, may be faid almost to damn him.
That never fet a fquadron in the field,
More than a spinfter; but the bookifh theorick,
Jeffica, fpeaking of Baffanio's Happiness in a Wife, fays fomething most equal to this.
For having fuch a Bleffing in his Lady,
He finds the Joys of Heaven here on Earth;
In Reafon he fhould never come to Heav'n. [Merch. of Venice Beaumont and Fletcher likewife, in their King and no King, make Tgranes fpeak of fuch a Degree of Beauty fufficient to damn Souls. -had She fo tempting Fair,
That She could wish it off for damning Souls.
i. e. either, for that it did damn Souls; or, for Fear it fhould.
(4) Wherein the tongued Confuls.] So the generality of the Impreffions read; but the oldest Quarto has it, toged; (which gave the Hint for my Emendation ;) the Senators, that affifted the Duke in Council, in their proper Gowns.-Iago, a little lower, fays to Brabantio,
Zounds, Sir, you're robb'd: for fhame, put on your Gown; Now I think, 'tis pretty certain, that Iago does not mean, Slip on "your Night-gown, but your Gown of Office, your Senatorial Gown "put on your Authority, and pursue the Thief who has ftole your
Daughter." Befides, there is not that Contraft of Terms betwix: tongued, as there is betwixt toged, and Soldiership. This Reading is pecu liarly proper here; and the fame Oppofition is almoft for ever made by the Roman Writers. For Instance;
Cicero in Offic.
Cedant Arma Toga,
Idem in Pifonem.
Sed quòd Pacis eft Infigne & Otii, Toga: contrà autèm Arma, Tumultus atq; Belli.
Vell. Paterculus de Scipione Emiliano.
--paternifq; Lucii Pauli Virtutibus fimillimus, omnibus Belli ac Togæ dotibus, &c.
- Etenim tua Toga omnium Armis felicior. Ovid. Metamor. lib. xv.
Cæfar in urbe fuâ Deus eft; quem Marte Togâq;
Idem in Epift. ex Ponto, li. 2. Ep. 1.
Jam nunc hæc à me, juvenum bellôq; togâq;
Juvenal. Sar. 10. — nocîtura Togâ, nocitura petuntur ad 90%
And in a great Number of Paffages more, that might be quoted.