of zeal to serve him, he advises the virtuous man to a scheme that will further work his ruin; and by hinting to him the great power which Desdemona had over her husband, he opens a very likely method for regaining his favour through her mediation. The bait is swallowed, and an appearance of intimacy, most favourable to his design, is thereby produced.

The deliberate villain now began to think that he had paved the way sufficiently for communieating the important secret; but as he had to do with a man whose nature's pledge' was not like his, 'to spy into abuse,' he still acts with extreme caution. Othello had indulged a high notion of the honour of Cassio, and the virtue of Desdemona; and it was not by a suspicious appearance, or a slight argument, that his opinions were to be changed. Iago was sensible of all these difficulties, and he encounters them with much ability. He assumes the appearance of one whose mind laboured with the knowledge of some flagrant impropriety, which he could not contain ; and when any circumstance recals the abhorred idea, an involuntary remark escapes, and immediately he affects to recover himself. He kindles the jealousy of Othello by tantalizing him with imperfect accounts and ambiguous arguments; he agitates and distracts his soul by confusedly opening one source of suspicion, and leaving him in the perplexity of doubt; then immediately by displaying the matter in another point of view, gives him a farther glimmering into the affair ; until at last, frantic with rage and jealousy, Othello insists upon satisfactory information ; and by these means, the discoveries which he makes are made to appear more the effect of necessity than inclination.

Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore.

Incomplete knowledge of what concerns us deeply, besides the tortures of suspense into which it throws the mind, has a natural effect to make it appear in the most hideous colours which it is possible to devise. Alarmed with a thousand phantoms, the affrighted imagination is at a loss what to decide, or where to rest; racked with many contending arguments, agitated with the anxiety of hope and fear, and impatient to be relieved from this internal war, it flies into whatever asylum it can find; and solicitous about the danger, it generally choses the worst.

Upon the whole, in this intercourse betwixt Iago and Othello, Shakspeare has shown the most complete knowledge of the human heart. Here he has put forth all the strength of his genius; the faults which he is so prone to fall into are entirely out of sight. We find none of his quibbling, his punning, or bombast; all is seriousness, all is passion. He brings human nature into the most difficult situation that can be conceived, and with matchless skill he supports it. Who can read those admirable scenes without being touched in the most sensible manner for the high grief of Othello? Plunged into a sea of troubles which he did not deserve, we see him torn asunder in the most cruel manner. How feeling are his reflections on his own state of mind!

Perdition catch


If I do not love thee; and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.

-I'd rather be a toad,
And live upon the vapour of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love,
For others' use.

for ever
Farewel the tranquil mind, farewel content.

--Oh now,

And afterwards :

Had it pleased heaven
To try me with affliction; had he rain'd
All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steep'd me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my hopes ;
I should have found in some place of my soul
A drop of patience. But, alas ! to make me
A fixed figure for the hand of scorn
To point his slow and moving finger at-
Yet could I bear that too, well, very well.
But there, where I have garner'd up my heart;
Where either I must live, or bear no life;
The fountain from the which my current runs,
Or else dries up; to be discarded thence,
Or keep it as a cistern for foul toads
To knot and gender in: Turn thy complection there,
Patience, thou young and rose-lipt cherubim ;
Ay, there look grim as hell.

After sustaining a violent conflict betwixt love

and revenge, his high spirit finally resolves into the latter.

W. N.

Bishop Lowth, speaking of Othello, judiciously observes, “ that the passion of jealousy, its causes, circumstances, progress, and effects, are more accurately, more copiously, more satisfactorily described in one drama of Shakspeare than in all the disputations of philosophy.

5 Anderson's Bee, Vol. i, pp. 87 ad 90, p. 132 ad 136.



It has been observed of Shakspeare that he has not often exhibited the delicacy of female character, and this has been sufficiently apologized for, from the uncivilized age in which he lived ; and women never appearing upon the stage in his time, might have made him less studious in this department of the drama. Indeed, when we consider his strength of mind, his imagination, which delighted in whatever was bold and daring, we should almost think it impossible that he could enter into all the softness and refinement of love. But in spite of all these disadvantages, he has shown that, in whatever view he chose to behold human nature, he could perform it superior to any other; for nowhere in the writings of Shakspeare, or any where else, have we found the female character drawn with so much tenderness and beauty as in that of Desde

The gentleness with which she behaves to all with whom she converses, the purity, the modesty, the warmth of her love, her resignation in the deepest distress, together with her personal accomplishments, attract our highest regard ; but that which chiefly distinguishes her, is that ex


« ElőzőTovább »