took the story from Cinthio, he tried to realize it without bringing in his own personality: hence arises a conflict between his art and his passion.

At first sight “ Othello ” reminds one of a picture by Titian or Veronese; it is a romantic conception; the personages are all in gala dress; the struggle between Iago and the Moor is melodramatic; the whole picture aglow with a superb richness of colour. It is Shakespeare's finest play, his supreme achievement as a playwright. It is impossible to read “Othello ” without admiring the art of it. The beginning is so easy: the introduction of the chief characters so measured and impressive that when the action really begins, it develops and increases in speed as by its own weight to the inevitable end; inevitable for the end in this case is merely the resultant of the shock of these various personalities. But if the action itself is superbly ordered, the painting of character leaves much to be desired, as we shall see. There is one notable difference between “Othello” and those dramas, “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “ Cymbeline,” wherein Shakespeare has depicted himself as the protagonist. In the self-revealing dramas not only does Shakespeare give his hero licence to talk, in and out of season, and thus hinder the development of the story, but he also allows him to occupy the whole stage without a competitor. The explanation is obvious enough. Dramatic art is to be congratulated on the fact that now and then Shakespeare left himself for a little out of the play, for then not only does the construction of the play improve but the play grows in interest through the encounter of evenly-matched antagonists. The first thing we notice in “Othello " is that Iago is at least as important a character as the hero himself. “Ham


let,” on the other hand, is almost a lyric; there is no counterpoise to the student-prince.

Now let us get to the play itself. Othello's first appearance in converse with Iago in the second scene of the first act does not seem to me to deserve the praise that has been lavished on it. Though Othello knows that “boasting is (not) an honour," he nevertheless boasts himself of royal blood. We have noticed already Shakespeare's love of good blood, and belief in its wondrous efficacy; it is one of his permanent and most characteristic traits. The passage about royal descent might be left out with advantage; if these three lines are omitted, Othello's pride in his own nature-his “parts and perfect soul”-is far more strongly felt. But such trivial flaws are forgotten when Brabantio enters and swords are drawn.

* Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust


is excellent in its contemptuous irony. A little later, however, Othello finds an expression which is intensely characteristic of a great man of action :

“Hold your hands, Both you of my inclining, and the rest; Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it Without a prompter.

This last line and a half is addressed especially to Iago who is bent on provoking a fight, and is, I think, the best piece of character-painting in all “ Othello”; the born general knows instinctively the moment to attack just as the trained boxer's hand strikes before he consciously sees the opening. When Othello speaks before the Duke, too, he

are his

reveals himself with admirable clearness and truth to nature. His pride is so deep-rooted, his selfrespect so great, that he respects all other dignitaries:, the Senators

very noble and approved good masters.” Every word weighed and effectual. Admirable, too, is the expression “round unvarnished tale."

But pride and respect for others' greatness are not qualities peculiar to the man of action; they belong to all men of ability. As soon as Othello begins to tell how he won Desdemona, he falls out of his character. Feeling certain that he has placed his hero before us in strong outlines, Shakespeare lets himself go, and at once we catch him speaking and not Othello. In “ antres vast and deserts idle " I hear the poet, and when the verse swings to

men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders,"

it is plain that Othello, the lord and lover of realities, has deserted the firm ground of fact. But Shakespeare pulls himself in almost before he has yielded to the charm of his own words, and again Othello speaks :

This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline,
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence,”

and so forth.

The temptation, however, was overpowering, and again Shakespeare yields to it:

“And often did beguile her of her tears
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffered."

It is a characteristic of the man of action that he thinks lightly of reverses; he loves hard buffets as a swimmer high waves, and when he tells his life-story he does not talk of his " distress.” This “ distressful stroke that my youth suffered” is manifestly pure Shakespeare-tender-hearted Shakespeare, who pitied himself and the distressful strokes his youth suffered very profoundly. The characterization of Othello in the rest of this scene is anything but happy. He talks too much; I miss the short sharp words which would show the man used to command, and not only does he talk too much, but he talks in images like a poet, and exaggerates:

“The tyrant Custom, most grave senators,

Hath made the flinty and steel couch of war
My thrice-driven bed of down."

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Even the matter here is insincere; this is the poet's explanation of the Captain's preference for a hard bed and hard living: “ he has been accustomed to it,” says Shakespeare, not understanding that there are born hunter and soldier natures who absolutely prefer hardships ta effeminate luxury. Othello's next speech is just as bad; he talks too much of things particular and private, and the farther he goes, the worse he gets, till we again hear the poet speaking, or rather mouthing:

“No, when light-winged toys
Of feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness
My speculative and officed instruments,
That my disports corrupt and taint my business
Let housewives make a skillet of my helm,
And all indign and base adversities
Make head against my estimation.”

Again when he says

Come, Desdemona: I have but an hour
Of love, of worldly matters and direction
To spend with thee; we must obey the time,”

I find no sharp impatience to get to work such as Hotspur felt, but a certain reluctance to leave his lovema natural touch which indicates that the poet was thinking of himself and not of his puppet.

The first scene of the second act shows us how Shakespeare, the dramatist, worked. Cassio is plainly Shakespeare the poet; any of his speeches taken at haphazard proves it. When he hears that Iago has arrived he breaks out:

“He has had most favourable and happy speed;

Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds,
The guttered rocks and congregated sands-
Traitors ensteeped to clog the guiltless keel-
As having sense of beauty, do omit
Their mortal natures, letting go safely by
The divine Desdemona.”

And when Desdemona lands, Cassio's first exclamation is sufficient to establish the fact that he is merely the poet's mask:

“O, behold, The riches of the ship is come on shore!”

And just as clearly as Cassio is Shakespeare, the lyric poet, so is Iago, at first, the embodiment of Shakespeare's intelligence. Iago has been described as immoral; he does not seem to me to be immoral, but amoral, as the intellect always is. He says to the women:

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