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* OTHELLO.] The story is taken from Cynthio's Novels.
POPE. I have not hitherto met with any translation of this novel (the seventh in the third decad) of so early a date as the age of Shakspeare; but undoubtedly many of those little pamphlets have perished between his time and ours.
It is highly probable that our author met with the name of Othello in some tale that has escaped our researches; as I likewise find it in Reynolds's God's Revenge against Adultery, standing in one of his Arguments as follows: “ She marries Othello, an old German soldier.” This History (the eighth) is professed to be an Italian one. Here also occurs the name of Tago.
It is likewise found, as Dr. Farmer observes, in “The History of the famous Euordanus Prince of Denmark, with the strange Adventures of Iago Prince of Saxonie; bl. 1. 4to. London, 1605."
It may indeed be urged that these names were adopted from the tragedy before us: but I trust that every reader who is conversant with the peculiar style and method in which the work of honest John Reynolds is composed, will acquit him of the slightest familiarity with the scenes of Shakspeare.
This play was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Oct. 6, 1621, by Thomas Walkely. STEEVENS.
I have seen a French translation of Cynthio, by Gabriel Chappuys, Par. 1584. This is not a faithful one; and I suspect, through this medium the work came into English. FARMER.
This tragedy I have ascribed (but on no very sure ground) to the year 1611. MALONE.
The time of this play may be ascertained from the following circumstances : Selymus the Second formed his design against Cyprus in 1569, and took it in 1571. This was the only attempt the Turks ever made upon that island after it came into the hands of the Venetians, (which was in the year 1473,) wherefore the time must fall in with some part of that interval. We learn from the play that there was a junction of the Turkish Aleet at Rhodes, in order for the invasion of Cyprus, that it first came sailing towards Cyprus, then went to Rhodes, there met another squadron, and then resumed its way to Cyprus. These are real historical facts which happened when Mustapha, Selymus's general, attacked Cyprus in May, 1570, which therefore is the true period of this performance. See Knolles's History of the Turks, p. 838, 846, 867. REED.
Duke of Venice.
of the Play, at a Sea-Port in Cyprus.
Perhaps we do not receive any one of the Personce Dramatis to Shakspeare's plays, as it was originally drawn up by himself. These appendages are wanting to all the quartos, and are very rarely given in the folio. At the end of this play, however, the following enumeration of persons occurs:
“ The names of the actors.-Othello, the Moore.—Brabantio, Father to Desdemona.-Cassio, an Honourable Lieutenant.--Iago, a Villaine.—Rodorigo, a gulid Gentleman.-Duke of Venice. Senators.-Montano, Governour of Cyprus.—Gentlemen of Cyprus. -Lodovico, and Gratiano, two noble Venetians.-Saylors. -Clowne.
-Desdemona, Wife to Othello.- Æmilia, Wife to Iago.—Bianca, a Curtezan." STEEVENS.
THE MOOR OF VENICE.
SCENE 1. Venice. A Street.
Enter RODERIGO and Iago. Rod. Tush, never tell me, I take it much un
kindly, That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse, As if the strings were thine,-should'st know of this.
lago. 'Sblood, but you will not hear me:If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me. Rod. Thou told'st me, thou didst hold him in thy
hate. Iago. Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones
of the city,
Oft capp'd to him ;] To cap is to salute by taking off the cap. It is still an academick phrase. M. Mason.
a bombast circumstance,] Circumstance signifies circumlocution.
Horribly stuff?d with epithets of war;
s-certes,] i.e. certainly, in truth. Obsolete.
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;] This passage has been much contested. We adopt Nr. Steevens' explanation. That Cassio was married is not sufficiently implied in the words, a fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife, since they mean, according to Iago's licentious manner of expressing himself, no more than a man very near being married. This seems to have been the case in respect of Cassio.
theorick,] Theorick, for theory. 6 Wherein the toged consuls - ] The rulers of the state, or civil governours. By toged perhaps is meant peaceable, in opposition to the warlike qualifications of which he had been speaking. He might have formed the word in allusion to the Latin adage,Cedant arma toga.
must be be-lee'd and calm'd-] Terms of navigation.
this counter-caster;] It was anciently the practice to reckon up sums with counters.
bless the mark!) Kelly, in his comments on Scots proverbs, observes, that the Scots, when they compare person to person, use this exclamation.