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OTHELLO,

THE MOOR OF VENICE

DRAMATIS PERSONE

DUKE OF VENICE.

BRABANTIO, a senator.

Other Senators.

GRATIANO, brother to Brabantio.

LODOVICO, kinsman to Brabantio.

OTHELLO, a noble Moor in the service of the Venetian state. CASSIO, his lieutenant.

IAGO, his ancient.

RODERIGO, a Venetian gentleman.

MONTANO, Othello's predecessor in the government of Cyprus.
Clown, servant to Othello.

DESDEMONA, daughter to Brabantio and wife to Othello.
EMILIA, wife to lago.

BIANCA, mistress to Cassio.

Sailor, Messenger, Herald, Officers, Gentlemen, Musicians,

and Attendants.

SCENE: Venice; a Sea-port in Cyprus.

INTRODUCTION

THE earliest edition of Othello was a Quarto, published in 1622, with the following title-page :

THE Tragedy of Othello | The Moore of Venice. As it hath beene diverse times acted at the | Globe, and at the Black-Friers, by his Maiesties Seruants. | Written by William Shakespeare. | LONDON, | Printed by N. O. for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the Eagle and Child, in Brittans Bursse | 1622. |

To this the publisher prefixed a brief commendatory preface of some interest in the history of Shakespeare's fame:

'THE STATIONER TO THE READER.

'To set forth a booke without an Epistle, were like to the old English proverbe, A blew coat without a badge, and the Author being dead I thought good to take that piece of work upon mee: To commend it I will not, for that which is good I hope euery man will commend, without entreaty: and I am the bolder, because the Authors name is sufficient to vent his worke. Thus leauing euery one to the liberty of iudgement: I haue ventered to print this Play, and leaue it to the generall Yours, THOMAS WALKLEY.'

censure.

This Quarto was apparently printed from an old

copy of the play, as curtailed and otherwise modified for performance. It omits about 150 lines, but retains many oaths and expletives, showing that it dates from the early years of the reign. The Folio

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text, printed in the following year, is more plete, and, save for the omission of the original expletives, more decisively Shakespearean in detail; it is substantially followed by modern editors. A Second Quarto, published by Walkley in 1630, reproduced the first with slight variations derived. from an unknown MS. source closely related to the text of the Folio but not identical with it. Thus Othello's outburst, 'By heaven, he echoes me!' is given in this form in Q1 (here clearly right); Ff have 'Alas, thou echos't me'; Q2 'Why dost thou ecchoe

me?'

2

Direct evidence of the date of Othello is wholly wanting. A matter-of-fact criticism discovered an allusion to the armorial bearings of the new order of baronets, instituted in 1611, in the line

Our new heraldry is hands, not hearts;

and the line doubtless acquired a new zest for the audiences of that year. But the context is fully satisfied by a general meaning, and the date 1611 is altogether rebutted by the internal evidence of metre, style, and conception. These concur in assigning the play to a date between 1600 and 1605. The language is still the plastic speech of Hamlet; less variously inwrought indeed, for the most part, with intellect and imagery, but as exquisitely proportioned to its simpler needs, and becoming easily magnificent when occasion calls, as in Othello's wonderful ‘farewell.' But the pregnant and difficult brevity of Macbeth is still remote. The year 1604 is generally accepted as a probable date. The first recorded

performance took place on November 1 of that year, before the court at Whitehall. The second recorded performance occurred six years later, when Duke Frederick of Wurtemberg, according to his secretary's journal (April 30), witnessed 'l'histoire du More de Venise' at the Globe, 'lieu ordinaire où l'on joue les Comedies.' Three years later it was one of the six Shakespearean dramas chosen for the wedding festivities of the Princess Elizabeth. In later times Othello has had the chief share in bringing Shakespeare home to the artistic sense of the Latin peoples. The logical rigour with which a single situation is worked out step by step, appealed to the mind of France; and the performance of Alfred de Vigny's translation, notwithstanding the disaster provoked by the 'mouchoir' scenes, opened a new epoch in the history of the French stage. In Germany, on the other hand, its very severity and simplicity, its want of symbolic significance and obvious relation to 'ideas,'-of all, in fact, that made Hamlet a revelation to the Germanic world, told against Othello. The German interpretation of Shakespeare's mind has owed little, on the whole, to this most wonderful example of his concentrated, transparent, and harmonious art. The earlier German appreciation of Othello is of little moment, and it is not with Lessing nor with Schlegel, but with Coleridge, that the higher criticism of the play begins.

The plot of Othello was founded upon the twentyseventh of the hundred novels in Cinthio's Hecatommithi (Decad. iii. Nov. 7), which tells how 'a Moorish captain weds a citizen of Venice.' The Moor, who is unnamed, has dazzled the republic by splendid services. Disdemona, allured among the rest, loves

1 This performance is attested by Malone on the authority of

documents then existent, which have since disappeared.

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