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SCENE I. A Sea-port Town in Cyprus. A Platform.
Enter MONTANO and Two Gentlemen.
Mon. What from the cape can you discern at sea? 1 Gent. Nothing at all: it is a high-wrought flood; I cannot, 'twixt the heaven and the main, Descry a sail.
Mon. Methinks, the wind hath spoke aloud at land;
What ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them,
1 The principal seaport town of Cyprus is Famagusta; where there was formerly a strong fort and commodious haven, "neare which," says Knolles, "standeth an old castle, with four towers after the ancient manner of building." To this castle we find that Othello presently repairs.
2 In the old copies, this word is spelt maine and mayne; but there can be no doubt that mane is the right word. Of course there is implied a comparison of the "wind-shak'd surge to the war-horse; the Poet probably having in mind the passage of Job: "Hast Thou given the horse strength? Hast Thou clothed his neck with thunder?" Knight remarks upon the place thus: "The horse of Job is the war-horse, who swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage;' and when Shakespeare pictured to himself his mane wildly streaming, when the quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear, and the shield,' he saw an image of the fury of the wind-shak'd surge,' and of its very form; and he painted it with high and monstrous mane.'"
Seems to cast water on the burning bear,3
On the enchafed flood.
If that the Turkish fleet Be not inshelter'd and embay'd, they are drown'd; It is impossible to bear it out.
Enter a Third Gentleman.
3 Gent. News, lads! our wars are done:* The desperate tempest hath so bang'd the Turks, That their designment halts: a noble ship of Venice Hath seen a grievous wreck and sufferance On most part of their fleet.
How! is this true?
3 Gent. The ship is here put in,
Mon. I am glad on't; 'tis a worthy governor.
Touching the Turkish loss, yet he looks sadly,
3 The constellation near the polar star. The next line alludes to the star Arctophylax, which literally signifies the guard of the bear.
4 Thus the folio, and the quarto of 1630: the other quarto has lords instead of lads.
5 So this name is spelt in the quartos; in the folio, Verennessa. Modern editions, generally, change it to Veronese, as referring, not to the ship, but to Cassio. It is true, the same speaker has just called the ship" a noble ship of Venice;" but Verona was tributary to the Venetian State; so that there is no reason why she might not belong to Venice, and still take her name from Verona. The explanation sometimes given is, that the speaker makes a mistake, and calls Cassio a Veronese, who has before been spoken of as a Florentine.
And prays the Moor be safe; for they were parted With foul and violent tempest.
As to throw out our eyes for brave Othello;
Come, let's do so;
For every minute is expectancy
Cas. Thanks, you the valiant of this warlike isle,
That so approve the Moor!-O, let the heavens Give him defence against the elements!
For I have lost him on a dangerous sea.
Mon. Is he well-shipp'd?
Cas. His bark is stoutly timber'd, and his pilot Of very expert and approv'd allowance;" Therefore my hopes, not surfeited to death, Stand in bold cure. [Cry within.]
A sail, a sail, a sail!
6 Observe in how many ways Othello is made, first our acquaintance, then our friend, then the object of our anxiety, before the deeper interest is to be approached. - COLERIDGE.
7 That is, of allowed and approved expertness.
8 Hopes, not surfeited to death," is certainly obscure. Dr. Johnson thought there must be some error in the text, not being able to understand how hope could be increased till it were destroyed. Knight explains it thus: "As hope deferred maketh the heart sick, so hope upon hope, without realization, is a surfeit of hope, and extinguishes hope. Cassio had some reasonable facts to prevent his hope being surfeited to death."
Enter a Messenger.
Cas. What noise ?
Mess. The town is empty; on the brow o'the sea Stand ranks of people, and they cry, "a sail!" Cas. My hopes do shape him for the governor. [Guns heard. 2 Gent. They do discharge their shot of courtesy: Our friends, at least.
2 Gent. I shall.
Mon. But, good lieutenant, is your general wiv'd? Cas. Most fortunately: he hath achiev'd a maid That paragons description and wild fame; One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens, And in th' essential vesture of creation Does bear all excellency."— How now! who has put in?
Re-enter second Gentleman.
2 Gent. "Tis one Iago, ancient to the general. Cas. He's had most favourable and happy speed: Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds, The gutter'd rocks, and congregated sands,
9 This is the reading of both the quartos: the folio has, Does tyre the Ingeniuer. By the essential vesture of creation the Poet means her outward form, which he in another place calls "the muddy vesture of decay." If the reading of the folio be adopted, the meaning would be this: She is one who excels all description, and in real beauty, or outward form, goes beyond the power of the inventive pencil of the artist. - Flecknoe, in his discourse on the English Stage, 1664, speaking of painting, mentions "the stupendous works of your great ingeniers." And Ben Jonson, in his Sejanus, Act i. sc. 1: "No, Silius, we are no good inginers; we want their fine arts." An ingenier or ingeniuer undoubtedly means an artist or painter; and is perhaps only another form of engineer, anciently used for any kind of artist or artificer.
Traitors ensteep'd 10 to clog the guiltless keel, –
What is she?
Cas. She that I speak of, our great captain's captain,
Left in the conduct of the bold Iago;
Enter DESDEMONA, EMILIA, IAGO, RODERIGO, and Attendants.
The riches of the ship is come on shore!
Des. I thank you, valiant Cassio. What tidings can you tell me of my lord? Cas. He is not yet arriv'd; nor know I aught But that's he's well, and will be shortly here.
10 Thus the folio, and the quarto of 1630: the other quarto has enscerp'd, which may be a misprint for enscarp'd. Ensteep'd here means simply hid in the water, submerged; a frequent use of the word. Thus in The Faerie Queene, Book i., can. 11:
"Now gan the golden Phoebus for to steepe
11 Mortal is deadly, destructive.
12 These words, "And bring all Cyprus comfort," are not in the folio. Both quartos have them.