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[Footnote 85: One instance is worth pointing out, because the passage in Othello has, oddly enough, given trouble. Desdemona says of the maid Barbara: 'She was in love, and he she loved proved mad And did forsake her.' Theobald changed 'mad' to 'bad.' Warburton read 'and he she loved forsook her, And she proved mad'! Johnson said 'mad' meant only 'wild, frantic, uncertain.' But what Desdemona says of Barbara is just what Ophelia might have said of herself.]

[Footnote 86: The whole force of the passages referred to can be felt only by a reader. The Othello of our stage can never be Shakespeare's Othello, any more than the Cleopatra of our stage can be his Cleopatra.]

[Footnote 87: See p. 9.]

[Footnote 88: Even here, however, there is a great difference; for although the idea of such a power is not suggested by King Lear as it is by Hamlet and Macbeth, it is repeatedly expressed by persons in the drama. Of such references there are very few in Othello. But for somewhat frequent allusions to hell and the devil the view of the characters is almost strictly secular. Desdemona's sweetness and forgivingness are not based on religion, and her only way of accounting for her undeserved suffering is by an appeal to Fortune: 'It is my wretched fortune' (IV. ii. 128). In like manner Othello can only appeal to Fate (V. ii. 264):

but, oh vain boast!
Who can control his fate?]

[Footnote 89: Ulrici has good remarks, though he exaggerates, on this point and the element of intrigue.]

[Footnote 90: And neither she nor Othello observes what handkerchief it is. Else she would have remembered how she came to lose it, and would have told Othello; and Othello, too, would at once have detected Iago's lie (III. iii. 438) that he had seen Cassio wipe his beard with the handkerchief 'to-day.' For in fact the handkerchief had been lost not an hour before Iago told that lie (line 288 of the same scene), and it was at that moment in his pocket. He lied therefore most rashly, but with his usual luck.]

[Footnote 91: For those who know the end of the story there is a terrible irony in the enthusiasm with which Cassio greets the arrival of Desdemona in Cyprus. Her ship (which is also Iago's) sets out from Venice a week later than the others, but reaches Cyprus on the same day with them:

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

So swiftly does Fate conduct her to her doom.]

[Footnote 92: The dead bodies are not carried out at the end, as they must have been if the bed had been on the main stage (for this had no front curtain). The curtains within which the bed stood were drawn together at the words, 'Let it be hid' (V. ii. 365).]

[Footnote 93: Against which may be set the scene of the blinding of Gloster in King Lear.]

[Footnote 94: The reader who is tempted by it should, however, first ask himself whether Othello does act like a barbarian, or like a man who, though wrought almost to madness, does 'all in honour.']

[Footnote 95: For the actor, then, to represent him as violently angry when he cashiers Cassio is an utter mistake.]

[Footnote 96: I cannot deal fully with this point in the lecture. See Note L.]

[Footnote 97: It is important to observe that, in his attempt to arrive at the facts about Cassio's drunken misdemeanour, Othello had just had an example of Iago's unwillingness to tell the whole truth where it must injure a friend. No wonder he feels in the Temptation-scene that 'this honest creature doubtless Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.']

[Footnote 98: To represent that Venetian women do not regard adultery so seriously as Othello does, and again that Othello would be wise to accept the situation like an Italian husband, is one of Iago's most artful and most maddening devices.]

[Footnote 99: If the reader has ever chanced to see an African violently excited, he may have been startled to observe how completely at a loss he was to interpret those bodily expressions of passion which in a fellow-countryman he understands at once, and in a European foreigner with somewhat less certainty. The effect of difference in blood in increasing Othello's bewilderment regarding his wife is not sufficiently realised. The same effect has to be remembered in regard to Desdemona's mistakes in dealing with Othello in his anger.]

[Footnote 100: See Note M.]

[Footnote 101: Cf. Winter's Tale, I. ii. 137 ff.:

Can thy dam?--may't be?-- Affection! thy intention stabs the centre: Thou dost make possible things not so held, Communicatest with dreams;--how can this be? With what's unreal thou coactive art, And fellow'st nothing: then 'tis very credent Thou may'st cojoin with something; and thou dost, And that beyond commission, and I find it, And that to the infection of my brains And hardening of my brows.]

[Footnote 102: See Note O.]

[Footnote 103: New Illustrations, ii. 281.]

[Footnote 104: Lectures on Shakespeare, ed. Ashe, p. 386.]

[Footnote 105: I will not discuss the further question whether, granted that to Shakespeare Othello was a black, he should be represented as a black in our theatres now. I dare say not. We do not like the real Shakespeare. We like to have his language pruned and his conceptions flattened into something that suits our mouths and minds. And even if we were prepared to make an effort, still, as Lamb observes, to imagine is one thing and to see is another. Perhaps if we saw Othello coal-black with the bodily eye, the aversion of our blood, an aversion which comes as near to being merely physical as anything human can, would overpower our imagination and sink us below not Shakespeare only but the audiences of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

As I have mentioned Lamb, I may observe that he differed from Coleridge as to Othello's colour, but, I am sorry to add, thought Desdemona to stand in need of excuse. 'This noble lady, with a singularity rather to be wondered at than imitated, had chosen for the object of her affections a Moor, a black.... Neither is Desdemona to be altogether condemned for the unsuitableness of the person whom she selected for her lover' (Tales from Shakespeare). Others, of course, have gone much further and have treated all the calamities of the tragedy as a sort of judgment on Desdemona's rashness, wilfulness and undutifulness. There is no arguing with opinions like this; but I cannot believe that even Lamb is true to Shakespeare in implying that Desdemona is in some degree to be condemned. What is there in the play to show that Shakespeare regarded her marriage differently from Imogen's?]

[Footnote 106: When Desdemona spoke her last words, perhaps that line of the ballad which she sang an hour before her death was still busy in her brain,

Let nobody blame him: his scorn I approve.

Nature plays such strange tricks, and Shakespeare almost alone among poets seems to create in somewhat the same manner as Nature. In the same way, as Malone pointed out, Othello's exclamation, 'Goats and monkeys!'

  1. i. 274) is an unconscious reminiscence of Iago's words at III. iii. 403.]

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