« PreviousContinue »
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
[Stabs himself. Lod. O bloody period !
All that 's spoke is marr’d. Oth. I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee :—no way but this,
[Falling upon DESDEMONA. Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
O Spartan dog,
NOTES TO OTHELLO.
ACT I. 1 Off-capp'd to him ; the quartos have ‘oft-capp'd.'
2 The toged consuls. The consuls or councillors of Venice, each in his toga or official robe. The folio has tongued, which Mr Knight retains.
3 My house is not a grange. The 'grange' was originally the store or farmhouse of the monasteries ; but came in time to signify any solitary dwelling or farmhouse of a superior class. The term 'gennet,' or jennet, in Iago's reply to Brabantio, was the name of a small Spanish horse. This appellation, and the previous expression, ‘Barbary horse,' support Coleridge's theory that Shakespeare did not intend Othello to be a negro, but one of the gallant Moors, 'souls made of fire and children of the sun.'
4 The Sagittary. This, Mr Knight says, was the name of the residence, at the arsenal, of the commanding officers of the Venetian republic. “The figure of an archer with his drawn bow, over the gates, still indicates the place.'
5 From men of royal siege ; and my demerits
May speak, unbonneted, to as proud a fortune. The quartos have ‘men of royal height ;' but 'siege,' as in the foliomeaning royal seat or throne—is unquestionably preferable. 'Demerit' and 'merit' were then synonymous. By ‘unbonneted' Othello must mean without cover or concealment. But Fuseli, the ingenious and scholastic artist, suggested another interpretation. At Venice the cap or bonnet constituted an important distinction, but the merits of Othello might speak for themselves without this or any other extrinsic honcur. Mr Swynfen Jervis would read undaunted.
6 A land carack; a costly vessel of heavy burden.
7 Some nine moons wasted. Othello had been nine months without employment in the tented field.'
8 The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. These fabulous monsters are as old as the time of Pliny, but Shakespeare's
contemporary, Raleigh, had revived them in his Discovery of Guiana, 1596.
9 Intentirely-intently, or continuously. The quartos give intentively, the folio, instinctively.
10 I do agnise. The word “agnise' is a Latinised form of acknowledge or recognise ; it occurs nowhere else in Shakespeare.
11 Storm of fortunes. The quarto of 1622 has 'scorn of fortunes, which Johnson seemed to think was the true reading. But it does not harmonise so well with the preceding 'downright violence.'
12 The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts, shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida. The fruit of the locust-tree of the Levant is described as luscious. The insect locusts in the East are also eaten, but which of the two Shakespeare meant does not appear. Coloquintida' is the colocynth or bitter apple. 13 Erring barbarian; that is, errant, extravagant.
ACT II. ? Does tire the imaginer. The folio has does tire the ingeniuer," which has been read and defined as the ingener, the contriver by ingenuity, the designer. But how could Desdemona continue to tire her designer or maker? Mr Staunton conjectures that by the ingener may be signified a modiste, or deviser of new fashions in female apparel. This is setting down the pegs with a vengeance; but read the previous line
And in the cssential vesture of creation
Does tire,' &c. The printer of the quarto of 1622, unable probably to make out the original word, substituted 'does bear all excellency,' which Steevens describes rightly as 'flat and unpoetical.' We have adopted a reading proposed by Mr Swynfen Jervis, which seems to embody the meaning of the poet. Cassio, in his enthusiasm, describes Desdemona as excelling "the quirks of blazoning pens' and in essential natural beauty, tiring even the imagination. Mr Jervis quotes an illustration from Bacon's Natural History: ‘And still he did it, by first telling the imaginer, and after bidding the actor think.'
2 She is full of most blessed condition. Roderigo, of course, speaks of the mental condition, the disposition and qualities, of Desdemona. We suspect a letter had dropped out here, and that the word should be
conditions,' as 'Our soft conditions and our hearts' in The Taming of the Shrew, and similar instances in other dramas.
3 If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trash
For his quick hunting. To trash,' in hunting, was to restrain the pace of dogs by couples or other means. See The Tempest, Act I. sc. 2. The old copies have crush and trace; but 'trash' is more accordant with the context, and the play upon the word is in Shakespeare's manner.
4 King Stephen was a worthy peer, &c. The ballad of which Iago sings fragments is entitled Take thy Old Cloak about thee, and is published in Percy's Reliques. An ancient Scottish version of the ballad was given by Allan Ramsay in his Tea-table Miscellany, and is still popular.
5 He'll watch the horologe a double set ; he 'll keep awake for twentyfour hours.
6 A twiggen bottle. This is the reading of the folio of 1623; the previous quartos have' wicker bottle.'
? And passion, having my best judgment collied. 'Collied' must here mean blackened, obscured.
8 Probal to thinking ; an arbitrary contraction of probable.
ACT III. 1 Not now, sweet Desdemona. In this and a few other passages we have in the folio the name contracted to Desdemon. This seems to destroy the poetic charm-the melodious sound of the name, and would not be tolerated on the stage. The reader will have no difficulty in adjusting the full pronunciation of the name to the harmony of the verse.
2 Close delations-secret accusations. The quarto of 1622 has denotements ; but the folio and the quarto of 1630 have delations-a more Shakespearean expression.
3 Riches, fineless ; unbounded treasure. - 4 And, happily, repent. The meaning of 'happily' here is haply. The poet uses the two words indifferently in the same sense as suits his verse.
5 If I do prove her haggard, &c. The ‘haggard' was an unreclaimed hawk. 'Jesses' were the straps about the foot of the hawk, and when these were taken off, the bird was 'whistled off,' and 'let down the wind.'
6 I'U have the work ta'en out. A copy of the work made; it will serve as a pattern.
7 Be not acknown on't-be you ignorant of it. The word 'acknown' is found in several of the old writers.
8 Mandragora. The Atropa mandragord was used as a powerful narcotic. It is plentiful in the south of Europe.
9 Crusadoes ; a Portuguese coin, on which a cross was stamped.
ACT iv. 1 Atone them-reconcile them; make them at one.
? The fixed figure of the time for scorn
To point his slow and moving finger at. The first line is the reading of the Rev. J. Hunter, which involves only a slight transposition. The folio has
The fixed figure for the time of scorn.' * Callet ; a low, worthless woman. Heywood and Ben Jonson have *Kit callot' as a term of female reproach.
* The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore-tree. Desdemona's song is part of an old ballad, A Lover's Complaint, printed in Percy's Reliques. But the poet altered it to suit the character of a female : in the original, the forsaken lover is a bachelor
• A poor soul sat sighing under a sycamore-tree;
O willow, willow, willow !
O willow,' &c.
ACT V. i I have rubb'd this young quat almost to the sense ; I have rubb'd this wart or pimple almost to the quick.
? Every way makes my gain. This is the reading of the folio; the quartos have game, which Mr Collier prefers. Either expression suits the character and position of Iago.
3 Your unblest fate hies. So in the folio; the quartos, ‘Your fate hies apace.' Here, again, either copy might be followed; but the folio seems more characteristic of the poet,
4 Put out the light, and then put out the light? This is the punctuation adopted by Warburton, and explained as follows: “The meaning is, I will put out the light, and then proceed to the execution of my purpose. But the expression of putting out the light, bringing to mind the effects of the extinction of life, he breaks short, and questions himself about the effects of this metaphorical extinction, introduced by a repetition of his first words, as much as to say, But hold, let me first weigh the reflections which this expression so naturally excites.' The subsequent expression of Othello, ‘But once put out thy light;' strengthens Warburton's interpretation. In the ordinary way of printing the line,
'Put out the light, and then put out the light,' the repetition seems heavy and spiritless.