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how. Some one has suggested a polite Have we lost anything? Then we should ceremonial on the part of Hamlet, by which not have had the Hamlet who is “ the darling the foils might be exchanged with perfect of every country in which the literature of consistency. We would rather not know how England has been fostered;"* then they were exchanged. “The catastrophe,” should not have had the Hamlet who is a says Johnson, “is not very happily produced; concentration of all the interests that belong the exchange of weapons is rather an ex to humanity; in whom there is a more intense pedient of necessity than a stroke of art. conception of individual human life than A scheme might easily be formed to kill perhaps in any other human composition: Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with that is, a being with springs of thought, and the bowl." No doubt. A tragedy terminated feeling, and action, deeper than we can by chance appears to be a capital thing for search ;”+ then we should not have had the the rule-and-line men to lay hold of. But Hamlet, of whom it has been said, “ Hamlet they forget the poet's purpose. Had Hamlet is a pame; his speeches and sayings but the been otherwise, his will would have been the idle coinage of the poet's brain. What, then, predominant agent in the catastrophe. The are they not real? They are as real as our empire of chance would have been over-ruled; own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's the guilty would have been punished; the mind. It is we who are Hamlet." I innocent perhaps would have been spared. * Coleridge. + Blackwood, vol. ii. * Hazlitt.
On the 6th of October, 1621, Thomas Walk- it to the general censure. Yours, Thomas ley entered at Stationers' Hall · The Tragedie Walkley." of Othello, the Moore of Venice.' In 1622, • The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Walkley published the edition for which he Venice, commences on page 310 of the Trahad thus claimed the copy. It is, as was gedies in the first folio collection. It extends usual with the separate plays, a small quarto, to page 339 ; and after it follow, ' Antony and it bears the following title :— The Tra- and Cleopatra,' and 'Cymbeline.' It is not gedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice. As entered at Stationers' Hall by the proprieit hath beene diverse times acted at the tors of the folio edition, which affords some Globe, and at the Black-Friars, by his Majes- presumption that Walkley was legally enties Servants. Written by William Shake-titled to his copy. But it is by no means speare.' It contains, also, a prefatory ad certain to our minds that Walkley's edition dress, which is curious :-“ The Stationer to was published before the folio. The usual the Reader. To set forth a book without an date of that edition is, as our readers know, Epistle were like to the old English proverb, 1623 ; but there is a copy in existence beara blue coat without a badge; and the au- ing the date of 1622. We have, however, thor being dead, I thought good to take that no doubt, that the copy of 'Othello' in the piece of work upon me: to commend it I folio was printed from a manuscript copy, will not: for that which is good, I hope without reference to the quarto ; for there every man will commend, without entreaty: are typographical errors in the folio, arising: and I am the bolder, because the author's no doubt, from illegibility in the manuscript, name is sufficient to vent his work. Thus which would certainly have been avoided leaving every one to the liberty of judgment, had the copy been compared with an edition I have ventured to print this play, and leave printed from another manuscript. The fair
inference, therefore, is, that the 'Othello' of | presume that the dramas represented on the folio was printed off before the quarto these joyous occasions for the amusement of of 1622 appeared. Had it been the last Elizabeth were usually new and popular play in the book, we should have retained performances. “Othello' was unquestionably the same opinion, from internal evidence. popular, and most likely new, in 1602."* As two plays succeed it in the volume, we are strengthened in the belief that the original When Shakspere first became acquainted quarto and folio editions were printing at with the Moor of Venice' of Giraldi Cinthi one and the same time. The folio edition is (whether in the original Italian, or the regularly divided into acts and scenes ; the French translation, or in one of the little quarto edition has not a single indication of story-books that familiarized the people any subdivision in the acts, and omits the with the romance and the poetry of the division between Acts II. and III. The south), he saw in that novel the scaffolding folio edition contains 163 lines which are of Othello.' There was formerly in Venice not found in the quarto, and these some of a valiant Moor, says the story. It came to the most striking in the play: the number | pass that a virtuous lady of wonderful of lines found in the quarto which are not beauty, named Desdemona, became enain the folio do not amount to 10.
moured of his great qualities and noble The date of the first production of Othello' virtues. The Moor loved her in return, and is settled as near as we can desire it to be. they were married in spite of the opposition The play certainly belongs to the most of the lady's friends. It happened too (says vigorous period of Shakspere’s intellect, the story) that the senate of Venice ap“ at its very point of culmination." Chal pointed the Moor to the command of Cyprus, mers, upon the very questionable belief that and that his lady determined to accompany the expression new heraldry refers to the him thither. Amongst the officers who atcreation by James I. of the order of baronets, tended upon the General was an ensign, of gave it to 1614 ; Malone, in the early edi- the most agreeable person, but of the most tions of his “Essay,' to 1611; Drake, to depraved nature. The wife of this man was 1612. In the later edition of Malone's the friend of Desdemona, and they spent “Essay,' published by Boswell, in 1821, much of their time together. The wicked Malone says, without any explanation,“ we ensign became violently enamoured of Desknow it was acted in 1604, and I have there- demona ; but she, whose thoughts were fore placed it in that year.” Mr. Collier, wholly engrossed by the Moor, was utterly however, has been able most satisfactorily to regardless of the ensign's attentions. His place it two years earlier. There are de- love then became terrible hate, and he retailed accounts preserved at Bridgewater solved to accuse Desdemona to her husband House, in the handwriting of Sir Arthur of infidelity, and to connect with the accusaMainwaring, of the expenses incurred by tion a captain of Cyprus. That officer, having Sir Thomas Egerton, afterwards Lord Elles struck a sentinel, was discharged from his mere, in entertaining Queen Elizabeth and command by the Moor ; and Desdemona, her court three days at Harefield. Amongst interested in his favour, endeavoured to rethe entries in these accounts is the follow- instate him in her husband's good opinion. ing :
The Moor said one day to the ensign, that “6 Aug. 1602. Rewardes to the
his wife was so importunate for the restoraVaulters, Players, and
tion of the officer, that he must take him Dauncers. Of this £10
back. “If you would open your eyes, you to Burbidge's players of
would see plainer,” said the ensign. The Othello
64 18 10." romance-writer continues to display the perBurbidge's players were those of the Black- fidious intrigues of the ensign against Desfriars and Globe-Shakspere's company. Vr. demona. He steals a handkerchief which Collier adds, "Perhaps it is not too much to
* • New Particulars,' &c.
the Moor had given her, employing the too easily abused, of confederacy with the agency of his own child. He contrives with abuser, of most brutal and guilty violence, the Moor to murder the captain of Cyprus, of equally base falsehood and concealment. after he has made the credulous husband This is a story in which we see nothing out listen to a conversation to which he gives a of the common course of wickedness; nofalse colour and direction ; and, finally, the thing which licentious craft might not Moor and the guilty officer destroy Desde- prompt, and frenzied passion adopt. The mona together, under circumstances of great Iago of the tragedy, it is said, has not suffibrutality. The crime is, however, concealed, cient motives for his crimes. Mr. Skottowe and the Moor is finally betrayed by his tells us that in the novel, except as a means accomplice.
of vengeance on Desdemona, the infliction Mr. Dunlop, in his ‘History of Fiction,' of pain upon the Moor forms no part of the has pointed out the material differences betreacherous officer's design. But, with retween the novel and the tragedy. He adds, gard to the play, he informs us, that it is “In all these important variations, Shak- surely straining the matter beyond the limits spere has improved on his original. In a of probability to attribute Iago's detestation few other particulars he has deviated from of Othello to causes so inadequate and vague it with less judgment ; in most respects he as the dramatist has assigned*. We have has adhered with close imitation. The cha- here the two principles upon which the racters of Iago, Desdemona, and Cassio are novelist and the dramatist worked thoroughly taken from Cinthio with scarcely a shade of at issue ; and the one is to be called natural, difference. The obscure hints and various and the other unnatural. The one would artifices of the villain to raise suspicion in have produced such an 'Othello' as is the Moor are the same in the novel and the cleverly described in the introduction to a drama.” M. Guizot, with the eye of real French translation of the play recently pubcriticism, has seen somewhat further than lished + : in which the nature of jealousy Mr. Dunlop. “There was wanting in the and all its cruel effects would have been exnarrative of Cinthio the poetical genius plained, with great pomp of language, by a which furnished the actors—which created confidante in an introductory monologue ; the individuals—which imposed upon each a and the same subject would have served for figure and a character—which made us see a continued theme, until the fatal conclusion, their actions, and listen to their words, which was long foreseen, of an amiable wife which presented their thoughts and pene- becoming the victim of a cruel oppressor. trated their sentiments :--- that vivifying This is the Zaire of Voltaire. Upon the power which summons events to arise, to other principle, we have no explanations, no progress, to expand, to be completed :—that regular progress of what is most palpable in creative breath which, breathing over the human action. We have the "motiveless past, calls it again into being, and fills it malignity" of Jago," a being next to devil, with a present and imperishable life :—this and only not quite devil, and yet a character was the power which Shakspere alone pos- which Shakspeare has attempted and exsessed, and by which, out of a forgotten ecuted without scandal," I as the main novel, he has made Othello.'"
spring of all the fearful events which issue Before we can be said to understand the out of the unequal contest between the idea of Shakspere in the composition of powers of grossness and purity, of falsehood “Othello,' we must disabuse ourselves of and truth. This is the Othello of Shaksome of the commonplace principles upon spere. which he has been interpreted. The novel, If it had been within the compass of be it observed, is a very intelligible and consistent story, of wedded happiness, of unlaw * The Life of Shakspeare.' By Augustine Skottove.
Vol. ii. p. 76. ful and unrequited attachment, of revenge
+Chefs-d'Euvre de Shakspeare. Tomeii. Paris, 1839. growing out of disappointment, of jealousy Coleridge.
Shakspere's great scheme of the exposition mon, also, that they each seek to destroy of human actions and the springs of action, their victims through their affections, and to have made Iago a supernatural incarna- each is successful in the attempt. If Shaktion of the principle of evil, he would not spere had made Iago actually exhibit the have drawn him very differently from what vulgar attributes of the fiend, when Othello he is. In all essentials he is “only not exclaims quite devil.” He is very much less “ than
“I look down towards his feet”archangel ruined.” Milton, when he paints his Satan as about to plunge our first parents would the character have been a particle in irretrievable misery, makes him exhibit
more real ? Fiends painted by men are but
reflections of the baser principles of hu“signs of remorse :"
manity. Shakspere embodied those prin“Should I at your harmless innociples in Iago ; and, it being granted that
great talent combined with an utter destituMelt, as I do, yet public reason just,
tion of principle, and a complete denudation Honour and empire with revenge enlarged,
of sympathy, has produced the monsters By conquering this new world, compels me
which history has described, who shall say
that the character is exaggerated ? To do what else, though damnd, I should
The list of “persons represented," affixed abhor. So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
to the folio edition of Othello, and called The tyrant's plea, excused his devilish deeds.” “ the names of the actors,” is as little
wanted for the information of the reader of When Iago beholds a picture of happiness, this tragedy as any preparatory scenic denot much inferior to that upon which the scription of the characters. In this list we Satan of Milton looked, he has no compunc- have “ Iago, a villain,”-“ Roderigo, a gullid tious visitings at the prospect of destroying gentleman.” But Shakspere has given us
very clear indications by which to know the Oh, you are well tuned now! gull from the rogue. We have not read a But I'll set down the pegs that make this dozen sentences before we feel the intelmusic,
lectual vigour of Iago, and the utter want As honest as I am."
of honour, which he is not ashamed to avow. But there is another great poetical creation
He parries in an instant the complaint of to which Iago bears more resemblance—the Roderigo,Mephistophiles of Goethe. Take away the “ That thou, lago, who hast had my purse,” supernatural power in Mephistophiles, and and commands a sympathy with his own the sense of the supernatural power in Faust, complaints against the Moor. He is not and the actions of the human fiend and of nice in the arowal of his principles of acthe real fiend are reduced to pretty much the same standard. It could not be other
" In following him I follow but myself.” wise. Goethe, to make the incarnation of the evil principle intelligible in its dealing He lays bare, without the slightest apprewith human affairs, could only paint what hension, the selfish motives upon which he Shakspere has painted—a being passionless, habitually acts. And is not this nature ? self-possessed, unsympathizing, sceptical of Roderigo, blinded by his passion and vanity, all truth and purity, intellectually gross and overlooks, as all men do under similar cirsensual,—of a will uncontrolled by fear for cumstances, the risk which he himself runs himself or respect for others,--the abstract from such a confederate ; and Iago knows of the reasoning power in the highest state that he will overlook it. He never makes a of activity, but without love, without vene similar exposition of himself directly to ration, without hope, unspiritualized, earthy. persons of nice honour and sensitive morality. Mephistophiles and lago have this in com- To Othello he is the hypocrite :
“I lack iniquity,
and the passionless sensualist tainted with Sometime to do me service.”
impurity to the extremest depth of his will And therefore, in Othello's opinion,
and his understanding. We have seen, too, "A man he is of honesty and trust.” at the very commencement of the play, his And even to the “gulld gentleman,” while hatred to Othello exhibited in the rousing he is counselling the most abominable wicked up of Desdemona's father. We have learned ness, he is a sort of moralist, up to the point something, also, of the motive of this hatred of securing attention and belief :-“our
-the preferment of Cassio :bodies are our gardens.” When he is alone,
“Now, sir, be judge yourself, he revels in the pride of his intellect :-
Whether I in any just term am affined
To love the Moor.” “ Thus do I ever make my fool my purse : For I mine own gain'd knowledge should
But it remained for Iago himself, thinking
aloud, or, as we call it, soliloquizing, to disIf I would time expend with such a snipe,
close the entire scope of his villainy. He is But for my sport and profit.”
to get Cassio's place, and “to abuse Othello's To Desdemona, in the first scene at Cyprus, ear.” To justify even to himself this second he is “ nothing if not critical,” according fiendish determination, he shows us, as Coleto his own account, but retailing “old ridge has beautifully expressed it, “the fond paradoxes,” to conceal his real opinions. motive hunting of a motiveless malignity.” When he tasks his understanding to meet
We may well add with Coleridge, “how Desdemona's demand
awful it is !" To understand the confidence
of “ What praise couldst thou bestow on a deserving wo
with which lago exclaims, "I have it, it is man indeed ?” he exhibits the very per- engender’d,” we must examine the elements fection of satirical verse, – the precise
of Othello's character. model of the poetry of smartness and
Iago paints the Moor with bitter satire, antithesis, - the light without warmth of
as one " loving his own pride and purposes.” cleverness without feeling. To Cassio, a
He exhibits him lofty and magniloquent, frank and generous soldier, somewhat easily using “a bombast circumstance.” This is tempted to folly, and with morals loose the mode in which a cold, calculating man enough, but not so loose as to destroy his
of the world looks upon the imaginative native love of truth and purity, he ventures
The practical men, as they are called, to exhibit himself more openly. The dia- regard with dislike those who habitually logue in the third scene of the second act, bring high thoughts and forcible expressions where they discourse of Desdemona, is a key into the commerce of life. And yet Iago is to the habitual grossness of his imagination. compelled to do justice to the Moor's high llis sarcasm to Cassio after the anger of talent :Othello, “As I am an honest man, I had
“Another of his fathom they have none, thought you had received some bodily wound;
To lead their business." there is more sense in that than in reputa- The frankness and generosity of the Moor, tion,"-discloses the utter absence from his
on the contrary, is a subject for his utter mind of the principle of honour. And then,
Here he has no sympathy with again, he can accommodate himself to all the him :demands of the frankest joviality :
“ The Moor is of a free and open nature, “And let me the canakin clink, clink." That thinks men honest that but seem to Other dramatists would have made him gloomy and morose, but Shakspere knew
And will as tenderly be led by the nose,
As asses are." that the boon companion, and the cheat and traitor, are not essentially distinct characters. Again,In these lighter demonstrations of his real “ The Moor--howbeit that I endure him not nature we have seen the clever scoundrel Is of a constant, loving, noble nature."