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I have done the state some service, and they know it;
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Richer than all his tribe"; of one, whose subdu'd eyes,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicínal gum: Set you down this:
Richer than all his tribe ;] The commentators are at variance on this passage, some considering it as an allusion to the story of Herod and Mariamne, and others to that of a Jew who threw away a pearl of great worth, because he could not get his price for it. We shall subjoin a remark of Mr. Steevens, which vindicates the propriety of an edition like the present.
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.
* The edition of 1803 in 21 volumes.
Lod. O bloody period!
All, that's spoke, is marr❜d.
Oth. I kiss'd thee, ere I kill'd thee;
[Falling upon Desdemona.
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
No way but
Cas. This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon;
For he was great of heart.
8 O Spartan dog,] The dogs of Spartan race were reckoned among those of the most fierce and savage kind.
9 the censure-] i. e. the sentence.
1 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 in 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 Iago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs to inflame 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. Cassio is brave, benevolent, and honest; ruined only by his want of stubbornness to resist an insidious invitation. Roderigo's suspicious credulity, and impatient submission to the cheats which he sees practised upon him, and which by persuasion he suffers to be repeated, exhibit a strong picture of a weak mind betrayed by unlawful desires to a false friend; and the virtue of Emilia is such as we often find, worn loosely, but not cast off, easy to commit small crimes, but quickened and alarmed at atrocious villainies.
The scenes from the beginning to the end are busy, varied by happy interchanges, and regularly promoting the progression of the story; and the narrative in the end, though it tells but what is known already, yet is necessary to produce the death of Othello.
Had the scene opened in Cyprus, and the preceding incidents been occasionally related, there had been little wanting to a drama of the most exact and scrupulous regularity. JOHNSON.