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“ Dick Burbage, that most famous man,
That actor without peer,
And kept it many a year.
That such an actor had :
For one I should be glad.” The writer spuke at random, when he asserted that Burbage began his career with Othello, for we have evidence to show that he was an actor of high celebrity, many years before Shakespeare's “Othello" was written, and we have no proof that there was any older play upon the same subject.
There are two quarto editions of “Othello,” one bearing date in 1622, the year before the first folio of “Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies" appeared, and the other printed in 1630. An exact copy of the title-page of the quarto of 1622, will be found in the usual place, and that published in 1630 differs only in the imprint, which is “by A. M. for Richard Hawkins," &c. We have had frequent occasion in our notes to refer to this impression, which has, indeed, been mentioned by the commentators, but nothing like sufficient attention has been paid to it. Malone summarily dismissed it as “an edition of no authority,” but it is very clear that he had never sufficiently examined it. It was unquestionably printed from a manuscript different from that used for the quarto of 1622, or for the folio of 1623; and it presents a number of various readings, some of which singularly illustrate the original text of “Othello." Of this fact it may be fit here to supply some proof.
In Act ü. sc. 3, a passage occurs in the folio of 1623, which is not contained in the quarto of 1622, and which runs thus imperfectly in the folio:
-“ Like to the Pontick sea, Whose icy current and compulsive course Ne'er keeps retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontick and the Hellespont,” &c. It will not be disputed that “Ne'er keeps retiring ebb" must be wrong, the compositor of the folio having caught "keeps" from the later portion of the same line. In Pope's edition, “feels” was substituted for keeps, and the word has since usually continued in the text, with Malone's note, “the correction was made by Mr. Pope." The truth is, that Pope was right in his conjecture as to the misprinted word, for in the quarto of 1630, which Malone could not have consulted, but which he nevertheless pronounced "of no autho. rity," the passage stands thus :
_ “ Like to the Pontick sea, Whose icy current, and compulsive course Ne'er feels retiring ebb,” &c.
If Malone had looked at the quarto of 1630, he would have seen that Pope had been anticipated in his proposed emendation about a hundred years; and that in the manuscript from which the quarto of 1630 was printed, the true word was “feels,” and not keeps, as it was misprinted in the folio of 1623. We will take an instance, only six lines earlier in the same scene, to show the value of the quarto of 1630, in supporting the quarto of 1622, and in correcting the folio of 1623. Othello exclaims, as we find the words in the folio,
“ Arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hel.” a line which has been generally thus printed, adopting the text of the quarto of 1622 :
“Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell ;” and these are exactly the words in the quarto of 1630, although it can be established that it was printed, not from the quarto of 1622, nor from the folio of 1623, but from a manuscript which in many places differed materially from both, and in some few supplied a text inferior to both. It is not necessary to pursue this point farther, especially as our brief notes abundantly establish that the quarto of 1630, instead of being " of no authority," is of great value, with reference to the true reading of some important passages.
Walkley, the publisher of the quarto of 1622, thus entered that edition on the Stationers' Registers, shortly previous to its appearance:
“ 6 Oct. 1621.
Sir George Buck and of the Wardens: The Tragedie of
Othello, the Moore of Venice.” It is perhaps not too much to presume, that this impression, though dated 1622, had come out at the close of 1621; and that it preceded the folio of 1623 is very obvious from the fact, that “Othello" was not included in their list by Blunt and Jaggard, the publishers of the folio of 1623, because they were aware that it had already been printed, and that it had been entered as the property of another bookseller. The quarto of 1622 was preceded by the following address.
“The Stationer to the Reader. “To set forth a book without an epistle were like to the old English proverb, “A blue coat without a badge ;' and the author being dead, I thought good to take that piece of work upon me. To commend it I will not, for that which is good, I hope, every man will commend without entreaty; and I am the bolder, because the author's name is sufficient to vent his work. Thus leaving every one to the liberty of judgment, I have ventured to print this play, and leave it to the general censure. Yours, ThomAS WALKLEY."
The publishers of the folio of 1623, perhaps, purchased Walkley's interest in “Othello.”
Duke of Venice.
DESDEMONA, Daughter to Brabantio, and Wife to Othello.
Officers, Gentlemen, Messengers, Musicians, Sailors,
SCENE, for the first Act, in Venice ; during the rest of the
Play, at a Sea-Port in Cyprus.
Enter RODERIGO and Iago. Rod. Tush! never tell me', I take it much unkindly, That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse, As if the strings were thine, should'st know of this.
Iago. '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
1 Tush! never tell me,] The folio, 1623, omits the interjection, “ Tush,” as well as “ 'Sblood” three lines lower down. If the Master of the Revels expunged the latter, he did not erase the former; and as both were probably written by Shakespeare, we cannot make up our minds to leave-out any word, however trifling, that may have come from his pen.
Oft capp'd to him ;] So the quartos : the folio, “ Off capp'd to him.”
And, in conclusion,
man. 3 And, in conclusion,] These words, which no doubt were Shakespeare's, are omitted in the folio, 1623. We regulate the lines as in the quarto, 1622 : the quarto, 1630, is like the folio in this respect.
4 A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;] It appears by a subsequent part of the play (A. iv, sc. I) that the belief was that Cassio was about to be married to Bianca. This line has occasioned a good deal of controversy, and various conjectures have been hazarded. Tyrwhitt would read life for "wife;" and Mr. Petrie of Edinburgh suggests to me, that “wife" may have been misprinted for guise, which, I must own, is not a very probable conjecture. The text is most likely right.
- unless the bookish THEORIC, Wherein the TOGED consuls) “ Theoric” is the same as theory, and the word was not uncommonly so used. The folio misprints “ toged" of the quarto, 1622, tongued, as in “ Coriolanus," Vol. vi. p. 190, it had misprinted " toga," tongue. “ Toged," of course, refers to the toga, or robe, which the consuls, or councillors, of Venice wore.
6 CHRISTIAN and heathen,] So the quarto, 1622 : the folio, Christen'd, in which error it is followed by the quarto, 1630. Both the latter are as evidently right in reading be be-lee'd," instead of “be led."
7 And I, (God bless the mark !) his Moor-ship's ancient.] The Master of the Revels having perhaps objected to the exclamation, “ God bless the mark !" the line was left imperfect in the folio, where it stands. “And I (bless the mark) has Moorship’s ancient.” The quarto, 1630, interpolated “Sir," to complete the measure. The quarto, 1622, has “(God bless the mark !)" but misprints “ Moor-ship’s,” Worship’s.