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How do you, Desdemona ?
Well, my good lord.
Oth. This argues fruitfulness, and liberal heart;
Des. You may, indeed, say so;
Oth. A liberal hand: The hearts of old, gave hands; But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts.
llot, hot, and moist;] Ben Jonson seems to have attempted a ridicule on this passage, in Every Man out of his Humour, Act V, sc. ii, where Sogliardo says to Sariolina: “ How does my sweet lady? hot and mo‘st ? beautiful and lusty ?” Steevens.
Ben Jonson was ready enough on all occasions to depreciate and ridicule our author, but in the present instance, I believe, he must be acquitted; for Every Man out of his Humour was printed in 1600, and written probably in the preceding year; at which time we are almost certain that Othello had not been ex. hibited. Malone.
exercise devout;] Erercise was the religious term. Henry the Seventh (says Bacon) “ had the fortune of a true christian as well as of a great king, in living exercised, and dying repentant.” So, Lord Hastings in King Richard III, says to a priest :
“ I am in debt for your last exercise." See Vol. XI, p. 95, 11. 3. Malone.
The hearts of old, gave hands ; But our new heraldry is-hands, not hearts.] It is evident the first line should be read thus :
The hands of old gave hearts; otherwise it would be no reply to the preceding words,
“For 'twas that hand that gave away my heart.” Not so, says her husband: The hands of old indeed gave hearts ; but the custom now is to give hands without hearts. The expres. sion of new heraldry was a satirical allusion to the times. Soon after King James the First came to the crown, he created the new dignity of baronets for money. Amongst their other prerogatives of honour, they had an addition to their paternal arms, of a hand gules in an escutcheon argent. And we are not to dogbt but that this was the new heraldry alluded to by our au
Des. I cannot speak of this. Come now your promise.
thor: by which he insinuates, that some then created had hands indeed, but not heurts; that is, money to pay for the creation, but no virtue to purchase the honour. But the finest part of the poet's address in this allusion, is the compliment he pays to his old mistress Elizabeth. For James's pretence for raising money by this creation, was the reduction of Ulster, and other parts of Ireland ; the memory of which he would perpetuate by that ad. dition to their arms, it being the arms of Ulster. Now the ine. thod used by Elizabeth in the reduction of that kingdom was so different from this, the dignities she conferred being on those who employed their steel, and üot their gold, in his service, that nothing could add more to her glory, than the being compared to her successor in this point of view: nor was it uncommon for the dramatick poets of that time to satirize the ignominy of James's reign. So, Fletcher, in The Fair Muid of the Inn. One says, I will send thee to Amboyna in the East Indies for pepper. The other replies, T. Amboyna? so I might be pepper'd. Again, in the same play, a Sailor says, Despise not this pitch'd canvas, the time was, we have known tnem lined with Spanish ducats.
Warburton. The historical observation is very judicious and acute, but of the emendation there is no need. She says, that her hand gave away her heart. He goes on with his suspicion, and the hand which he had before called frank, he now terms liberal ; then proceeds to remark, that the hand was formerly given by the heart; but now it neither gives it, nor is given by it. Johnson.
I think, with Dr. Warburton, that the new order of baronets is here again alluded to. See The Merry Fives of Windsor, Vol. III, p. 51, and Spelman's epigram there cited :
florentis nomen honoris
“ Hostibus occisis gesserit iste cohors.” Blackstone. The reader will not find the Epigram alluded to by Sir Wil. liam Blackstone, in the page to which he has referred (in my edition], for I have omitted that part of his note, (an omission of which I have there given notice) because it appeared to me extremely improbable that any passage in that play shoảld allude to an event that did not take place till 1611. The omitted words I add here, (distinguishing them by Italick characters) as they may appear to add weight to his opinion and that of Dr. War. burton.
“ I suspect this is an oblique reflection on the prodigality of Jumes the first in bestowing these honours, and erecting a new order of knighthood called buronets ; which few of the ancient gentry would condescend to accept. See Sir Henry Spelman's egoigram on them, Gloss. p. 76, which ends thus :
Oth. I have a salt and sullen rheum? offends me;
dum cauponare recusant
“ Et modo fit dominus, qui modo servus erat. See another stroke at them in Othello." Malone.
My respect for the sentiments of Sir William Blackstone might have induced me to print both them, and the epigram referred to, in both places, even if the preceding remark of Mr. Malone had not, in this second instance, afforded them an apt introduction. Steevens.
- our new heraldry, &c.] I believe this to be only a figurative expression, without the least reference to King James's creation of baronets. The absurdity of making Othello so familiar with British heraldry, the utter want of consistency as well as policy in any sneer of Shakspeare at the badge of honours instituted by a Prince whom on all other occasions he was solicitous to flatter, and at whose court this very piece was acted in 1613, most strongly incline me to question the propriety of Dr. Warburton's historical explanation. Steevens.
To almost every sentence of Dr. Warburton's note, an objection may be taken; but I have preserved it as a specimen of this commentator's manner.
It is not true that King James created the order of baronets soon after he came to the throne. It was created in the year 1611.–The conceit that by the word hearts the poet meant to allude to the gallantry of the reign of Elizabeth, in which men distinguished themselves by their steel, and that by hands those courtiers were pointed at, who served her inglorious successor only by their gold, is too fanciful to deserve an answer.
Thus Dr. Warburton's note stood as it appeared originally in • Theobald's edition; but in his own, by way of confirmation of his notion, we are told, that " it was not uncommon for the satirical poets of that time to satirise the ignominy of James's reign :" and for this assertion we are referred to Fletcher's Fair Maid of the Inn. But, unluckily, it appears from the office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, a MS. of which an account is given in Vol. I, that Fletcher's plays were generally performed at court soon after they were first exhibited at the theatre, and we may be assured that he would not venture to offend his courtly auditors. The Fair Maid of the Inn, indeed, never was performed before King James, being the last play but one that Fletcher wrote, and not produced till the 22d of Jan. 1625-6, after the death both of its author and King James; but when it was written, he must, from the circumstances already mentioned, have had the court before his eyes.
In various parts of our poet's works he has alluded to the custom of plighting troth by the union of hands. So, in Hamlet : VOL. XVI.
Lend me thy handkerchief.
Here, my lord.
I have it not about me.
That is a fault:
“ Since love our hearts, and Hymen did our hands
“ Unite co-mutual in nost sacred bands." Again, in The Tempest, which was probably written at no great distance of time from the play before us :
“ Mir. My husband then?
Fer. Ay, with a heart as willing
“Mir. And mine, with my heart in 't." The hearts of old, says Othello, dictated the union of hands, which formerly were joined with the hearts of the parties in them; but in our modern marriages, hands alone are united, without hearts. Such evidently is the plain meaning of the words. I do not, however, undertake to maintain that the poet, when he used the word heraldry, had not the new order of baronets in his thoughts, without intending any satirical allusion. Malone.
salt and sullen rheum -] Thus the quarto, 1622. The folio, for sullen, has sorry. Malone.
Sullen, that is, a rheum obstinately troublesome. I think this better. Johnson.
8 That handkerchief
Did an Egyptian to my mother give ;] In the account of this tremendous handkerchief, are some particulars, which lead me to think that here is an allusion to a fact, heightened by poetical imagery. It is the practice in the eastern regions, for persons of both sexes to carry handkerchiefs very curiously wrought. In the MS. papers of Sir John Chardin, that great oriental traveller, is a passage which fully describes the custom : “ The mode of wrought handkerchiefs (says this learned enquirer,) is general in Arabia, in Syria, in Palestine, and generally in all the Turkish empire. They are wrought with a needle, and it is the amusement of the fair sex there, as among us the makiog tapestry and lace. The young women make them for their fathers, their brothers, and by way of preparation before hand for their spouses, bestowing them as favours on their lovers. They have them almost constantly in their hands in those warm countries, to wipe off sweat.” But whether this circumstance ever came to Shakspeare's knowledge, and gave rise to the incident, I am not able to determine. Whalley.
Shakspeare found in Cinthio's novel the incident of Desde.
She was a charmer, and could almost read
Is it possible?
mona's losing a handkerchief finely wrought in Morisco work, which had been presented to her by her husband, or rather of its being stolen from her by the villain who afterwards by his machinations robbed her of her life. The eastern custom of brides presenting such gifts to their husbands, certainly did not give rise to the incident on which this tragedy turns, though Shakspeare should seem to have been apprized of it. However the preceding note is retained as illustrative of the passage before us.
Malone. 9 She was a charmer,] In Deut. xviii, 11, there is an injunction: “ Let none be found among you that is a charmer.” In Perkins's Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, 8vo. 1610, it is said that “ Inchantment is the working of wonders by a charme;" and a charm is afterwards defined,“ a spell or verse, consisting of strange words, used as a signe or watchword to the Devil to cause him to worke wonders. In this Discourse is an enumeration of the wonders done by inchanters, as raising storins and tempests, &c. and at the conclusion it is said: “- by witches we ünderstand not those only which kill and torment, but all diviners, charmers, jugglers, all wizards, commonly called wise men and wise women; yea, whosoever do any thing (knowing what they do) which cannot be effected by nature or art.” Reed
1 To lose or giv 't away,] Thus the quarto, 1622. The folio -To lose 't &c.
Steevens. 2 A sibyl, &c.] This circumstance perhaps is imitated by Ben Jonson in The Sad Shepherd:
“ A Gypsan lady, and a right beldame,