Imágenes de páginas

Where a malignant and a turban'a Turk
Beat a Venetian, and traduc'd the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him—thus.

[Stabs himself. Lod. O bloody period! Gra.

All, that 's spoke, is marr’d. Oth. I kiss'd thee, ere I kill'd thee;- No way but this

[Falling upon DES. Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.5


So, in Hamlet, we have the Némean lion (which is written in the old copy Nemian).

Those who would 'adopt the original reading, Indian, may urge in its support that the pearl naturally brings a people of the East to Shakspeare's mind; the connexion in his time being considered so strong, that a contemporary author has distinguished the inhabitants of India by an epithet founded on the circumstance of their abounding in pearls :

“ — where the bright sun with his neighbour beams “ Doth early light the pearled Indians."

Cornelia, a tragedy, by T. Kyd, 1594. On the other hand, the word tribe is strongly in favour of the reading of the text, and I have now no doubt that it is the true one.

Webster, in his Apprius and Virginia, appears to have had this passage in his thoughts:

" —Had your lordship yesterday
“ Proceeded as 'twas fit, to a just sentence,
“ The apparel and the jewels that she wore,
More worth than all her tribe, had then been due
“ Unto our client.” Malone.

whose subdu'd eyes, Albeit unused to the melting mood,] So, in our poet's 30th Sonnet:

“ Then can I drown an eye unus'd to flow." Malone. Their medicinal gum:] Thus the quarto, 1622. This word is also used by our author in The Winter's Tale; and occurs in the works of two of our greatest poets-Milton and Dryden.

Steevens. I have preferred the reading of the folio [medicinable] be. cause the word occurs again in Much Ado about Nothing : any impediment will be medicinable to me." i. e. salutary.

Malone. 4 Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk - ] I am told that it is immediate death for a Christian to strike a Turk in Aleppo. Othello is boasting of his own audacity. Steevens.

Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.] So, in the Second Part of Marlowe's Tumburlaine, 1590:

“ Yet let me kiss my lord before I dye,
“ And let me dye with kissing of my lord.” Steevens.





Cas. This did I fear, but thought he had no weapon; For he was great of heart. Lod.

O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea! Look on the tragick loading of this bed; [To Iago. This is thy work: the object poisons sight ;Let it be hid.—Gratiano, keep the house, And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor, For they succeed to you.—To you, lord governor, Remains the censure of this hellish villain ;)


0 0 Spartan dog,] The dogs of Spartan race were reckoned among those of the most fierce and savage kind. Hanmer. They are again mentioned in A Midsummer Night's Dream:

" When in a wood of Crete they bay'd the bear

“ With hounds of Sparta.Henley. The Spartan dogs in our poet's contemplation, were bloodhounds. See Vol. I, p. 344. Mulone.

To you, lord governor, Remains the censure of this hellish villain ;] Rymer, who had neither vigour of imagination to make a poet, nor strength of judgment to make a critick, as appears from his Edgar, and his Remarks on Shakspeare, had yet just enough to play the buffoon and caviller. His criticism on the Poets of the last Age, with only a mixture of trite remarks, transcribed from the French commentators on Aristotle, are one continued heap of ignorance and insolence. Almost the only remark on Shakspeare, which, I think, deserves an answer, is upon lago's character, which he thus censures: To entertain the audience (says he) with something new and surprising, against common sense anıl nature, he would pass upon us a close, dissembling, false, ungratefiil rascal, instead of an open-hearted, frank, plain-ilealing soldier, a character con. stantly worn by them for some thousand of years in the world. This hath the appearance of sense, being founded on that rule of Vature and Aristotle, that each character should have manners convenient to the age, sex, and condition.

Ætatis cujusque notandi sunt tibi mores, &c. says Horace. But how has our critick applied it? According to this rule it is confessed, that a soldier should be brave, generous, and a man of honour. This is to be his dramatick cha

But either one or more of any order may be brought in. If only one, then the character of the order takes its denomination from the manners of that one. Had therefore the only soldier in this play been lag), the rule had been transgressed, and Rymer's ceisure well founded. For then this eternal villain must have given the character of the soldiery; which had been unjust an.l umnatural. But if a number of the same order be represented, then the character of the order is taken from the manners of the majority; and this according to nature and com


The time, the place, the torture,_0 enforce it!
Myself will straight aboard ; and, to the state,
This heavy act with heavy heart relate. [Exeunt.

mon sense. Now in this play there are many of the order of the soldiery; and all, excepting lago, represented as open, generous, and brave. From these the soldier's character is to be taken; and not from lago, who is brought as an exception to it: unless it be unnatural to suppose there could be an exception; or that a villain ever insinuated himself into that corps. And thus Shakspeare stands clear of this impertinent criticism.

Warburton. the censure -] i. e. the sentence. See Vol. II, p. 151, n. 2. Steevens.

See also Vol. VI, p. 197, n. 2. Malone.

8 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 in vain to seek in any modern writer. The gradual progress which lago makes in the Moor's conviction, and the circumstances which he employs to enfiame 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 abili. ties, should steal upon esteem, though it misses of approbation; but the character of lago 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. Ro. derigo'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 tlie 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.

To Dr. Johnson's admirable and nicely discriminative character of Othello, it may seem unnecessary to make any addition ; yet I cannot forbear to conclude our commentaries on this transcendant poet with the fine eulogy which the judicious and learned Lowth has pronounced on him, with a particular refe. rence to this tragedy, perhaps the most perfect of all his works:

“ In his viris (tragediæ Græcæ scilicet scriptoribus] accessio quædam Philosophiæ erat Poetica facultas: neque sane quis. quam adhuc Posin ad fastigium suum ac culmen evexit, nisi qui prius in intima Philosophia artis suæ fundamenta jecerit.

“Quod si quis objiciat, nonnullos in hoc ipso poeseos genere excelluisse, qui nunquam habiti sunt Philosophi, ac ne literis quidern præter cæteros imbuti; sciat is, me rem ipsam quærere, non de vulgari opinione, aut de verbo laborare: qui autem tantuim ingenio consecutus est, ut naturas hominum, vimque omnem humunitutis, causasque eas, quibus aut incitatur mentis impetus aut retunditur, penitus perspectus habeat, ejusque omnes motus oratione 119?? modo explicet, sed eflingut, planeque oculis subjiciat; sed excitet, regit, commoveat, moderetiir; eum, etsi disciplinarum instri. mento minus cdjutum, eximie tamen esse Philosophum arbitrari. Quo in genere affectum Zelotypiæ, ejusque causas, adjuncta, progressiones, effectus, in una SHAKSPEARI nostri fabula, copiosius, subtilius, accuratius etiam veriusque pertractari existimo, quam ab omnibus omnium Philosophorum scholis in simili argumento est unquam disputatum.” [Prælectio prima. edit. 1763, p. 8.] Malone.

If by “the most perfect” is meant the most regular of the foregoing plays, I subscribe to Mr. Malone's opinion; but if his words were designed to convey a more exalted praise, without a moment's hesitation I should transfer it to MACBETH.

It is true, that the domestick tragedy of Othello affords room for a various and forcible display of character. The less familiar groundwork of Macbeth (as Dr. Johnson has observed) excludes the infuence of peculiar dispositions. That exclusion, however, is recompensed by a loftier strain of poetry, and by events of higher rank; by a supernatural agency, by the solemnities of incantation, by shades of guilt and horror deepening in their progress, and by visions of futurity solicited in aid of hope, but eventually the ministers of despair.

Were it necessary to weigh the pathetick effusions of these dramas against each other, it is generally allowed that the sorrows of Desdemona would be more than counterbalanced by those of Macduff.

Yet if our author's rival pieces (the distinct property of their subjects considered) are written with equal force, it must still be adınitted that the latter has more of originality. A novel of



considerable length (perhaps amplified and embellished by the English translator of it) supplied a regular and circumstantial outline for Othello; while a few slight hints collected from separate narratives of Holinshed, were expanded into the sublime and awful tragedy of Mucbeth.

Should readers, who are alike conversant with the appropriate excellencies of poetry and painting, pronounce on the reciproca! merits of these great productions, I must suppose they would describe them as of different pedigrees. They would add, that one was of the school of Raphael, the other from that of Michail Angelo ; and that if the steady Sophocles and Virgil should have decided in favour of Othello, the remonstrances of the daring Æschylus and Homer would have claimed the laurel for Macbeth.

To the sentiments of Dr. Lowth respecting the tragedy of Othello, a general eulogium on the dramatick works of Shakspeare, imputed by a judicious and amiable critick to Milton, may be not improperly subjoined:

• There is good reason to suppose, (says my late friend the Rev. Thomas Wart in a noie on L'Allegro,) that Milton threw many additions and corrections into the THEATRUM POETARUM, a book published by his nephew Edward Philips, in 1675. It contains criticisms far above the taste of that period. Among these is the following judgment on Shakspeare, which was not then, I believe, the general opinion.”—“ In tragedy, never any expressed a more lotiy and tragick heighth, never any represented nature more purely to the life: and where the polishments of art are most wanting, as probably bis learning was not extraordinary, he pleases with a certain wild and NATIVE elegance.” P. 194.

What greater praise can any poet have received, than that of the author of Paradise Lust? Steevens.


« AnteriorContinuar »