Page images

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 my soul
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.

--Oh now, for ever
Farewel the tranquil mind, farewel content.

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.g

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.

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



lived ;

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

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 exquisite sensibility of imagination which interested her so much in the dangers of Othello's youthful adventures; a passion natural enough indeed, though it is not every one who is capable of experiencing it. Othello, as we have seen, was naturally of an heroic and amiable disposition ; but when by his bold undertakings he is exposed to imminent dangers, he would then shine in his brightest colours : all his magnanimity and all his address are brought to view; at that moment all the generous affections of the soul would be drawn towards him,-admiration of his virtues, wishes for his success, and solicitude for his safety. And when the best feelings of the heart are thus lavished on a certain object, it is no wonder it should settle into fixed love and esteem.


Such was the sublimated passion of Desdemona, inspired solely by internal beauty. The person of Othello had every thing to cool desire : possessing not only the black complexion and the swarthy features of the African, he was also declined, as he says, into the vale of years. But his mind was

, every thing to Desdemona; it supplied the place of youth by its ardour, and of every personal accomplishment by its strength, its elevation, and softness. Where, in all the annals of love, do we find so pure and so disinterested a passion, supported with so much dignity and nature ? She loved him for the dangers he had passed ; upon this fleeting and incorporeal idea did she rest her affections, upon abstract feelings and qualities of the mind, which

must require in her all that warmth of imagination, and liveliness of conception, whích distinguish the finest genius.

The character of this exquisite lady is always consistently supported. Her behaviour towards Cassio shows, in a particular manner, her liberal and benevolent heart; and her conversation with Emilia about the heinousness of infidelity is a striking picture of innocent purity: it is artfully introduced, and adds much' to the pathos of the tragedy. The circumstances of ordering her wedding sheets to be put on her bed, and the melancholy song of a willow, are well imagined, and waken the mind to expect some dreadful revolution. Indeed, throughout the whole scene before her death an awful solemnity reigns. The mind of Desdemona seems to be in a most agitated condition : she starts an observation about Lodovico, and immediately falls into her gloomy thoughts, paying no attention to the answer of Emilia, though connected with an anecdote that would have at another time raised her curiosity. This absence of mind shows beyond the power of language her afflicted and tortured state. But what gives a finishing stroke to the terror of this midnight scene, is the rustling of the wind, which the affrighted imagination of Desdemona supposes to be one knocking at the door. This circumstance, which would have been overlooked as trifling by an inferior writer, has a most sublime effect in the hands of Shakspeare ; and till the fatal catastrophe,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »