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tended the action of this play to be considered as longer than is marked by any note of time.
Since their ar
rival at Cyprus, to which they were hurried on their wedding-night, the fable seems to have been in one continual progress, nor can I see any vacuity into which a year or two, or even a month or two, could be put. On the night of Othello's arrival, a feast was proclaimed; at that feast Cassio was degraded, and immediately applies to Desdemona to get him restored. Iago indeed advises Othello to hold him off a while, but there is no reason to think that he has been held off long. A little longer interval would increase the probability of the story, though it might violate the rules of the drama. See Act 5. sc. 2.
This line has no reference to the duration of the action of this play, or to the length of time that Desdemona had been married. What Emilia says is a sort of proverbial remark, of general application, where a definite time is put for an indefinite. Besides, there is no necessity for fixing the commencement of Emilia's year or two to the time of the marriage, or the opening of the piece. She would with more propriety refer to the beginning of the acquaintance and intimacy between the married couple, which might extend beyond that period.
74 Take me this work out.] The meaning is, copy me out this work, not pick out the marks.
75 Convinced or supplied them,] Convinced is sub
ducd, overcome: supplied is, administered to their wants, gratified their loose desires.
76 Nature would not invest herself in such shadowing passion, without some instruction.] The starts and broken reflections in this speech have something very terrible, and shew the mind of the speaker to be in inexpressible agonies. But the words we are upon, when set right, have a sublime in them that can never be enough admired. The ridiculous blunder of writing instruction for induction (for so it should be read) has indeed sunk it into arrant nonsense. Othello is just going to fall into a swoon; and, as is common for people in that circumstance, feels an unusual mist and darkness, accompanied with horror, coming upon him. This, with vast sublimity of thought, is compared to the season of the sun's eclipse, at which time the earth becomes shadowed by the induction or bringing over of the moon between it and the sun. This being the allusion, the reasoning stands thus: "My nature could "never be thus overshadowed, and falling, as it were, "into dissolution, for no cause. There must be an " induction of something: there must be a real cause. "My jealousy cannot be merely imaginary. Ideas, "words only, could not shake me thus, and raise all "this disorder. My jealousy therefore must be "grounded on matter of fact." Shakspeare uses this word in the same sense in Richard III:
"A dire induction am I witness to." Marston seems to have read it thus in some copy, and to allude to it in these words of his Fame:
"Plots ha' you laid? inductions dangerous!
This is a noble conjecture, and whether right or wrong does honour to its author. Yet I am in doubt whether there is any necessity of emendation. There has always prevailed in the world an opinion, that when any great calamity happens at a distance, notice is given of it to the sufferer by some dejection or perturbation of mind, of which he discovers no external cause. This is ascribed to that general communication of one part of the universe with another, which is called sympathy and antipathy; or to the secret monition, instruction, and influence of a superior Being, which superintends the order of nature and of life. Othello says, Nature could not invest herself in such shadowing passion without instruction. It is not words that shake me thus. This passion, which spreads its clouds over me, is the effect of some agency more than the operation of words; it is one of those notices which men have of unseen calamities. JOHNSON.
Nature could not invest herself in such shadowing passion without some instruction.] However ingenious Dr. Warburton's note may be, it is certainly too forced and far-fetched. Othello alludes only to Cassio's dream, which had been invented and told him by Iago. When many confused and very interesting ideas pour in upon the mind all at once, and with such rapidity that it has not time to shape or digest them, if it does not relieve itself by tears (which we know it often does, whether for joy or grief), it produces stupefaction and fainting.
Othello, in broken sentences and single words, all of which have a reference to the cause of his jealousy, shows, that all the proofs are present at once to his mind, which so overpowers it, that he falls into a trance, the natural consequence.
SIR J. REYNOLDS.
77 a customer!] A common woman, one that invites custom.
78 - such another fitchew!] Fitchew, a polecat.
- for the time of scorn
To point, &c.] The reading of both the eldest quartos and the folio is,
Mr. Rowe reads "hand of scorn;" and succeeding editors have silently followed him.
80 his callet.] Callet is a lewd woman; so called from the French calote, which was a sort of headdress worn by country girls.
This word is of great antiquity in the English language. Chaucer has it in his Remedy of Love:
C, for calet, for of, we have O,
L, for leude, D, for demeanure, &c.
81 Speak within the door.] Talk in such a voice that
it may not be heard without the house.
ε2 I have rubb'd this young quat almost to the sense,
And he grows angry.] This is a passage much conroverted among the editors. Sir T. Hanmer reads quab, a gudgeon; not that a gudgeon can be rubbed to
nuch sense, but that a man grossly deceived is often
called a gudgeon. Mr. Upton reads quail, which he proves, by much learning, to be a very choleric bird. Dr. Warburton retains gnat, which is found in the early quarto. Theobald would introduce knot, a small bird of that name. I have followed the text of the folio, and third and fourth quartos.
A quat in the midland counties is a pimple, which by rubbing is made to smart, or is rubbed to sense. Roderigo is called a quat by the same mode of speech as a low fellow is now termed in low language a scab. To rub to the sense, is to rub to the quick.
83-fordoes-] To fordo is to undo, to ruin.
84 It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,-] The abruptness of this soliloquy makes it obscure. The meaning, I think, is this: "I am here (says Othello "in his mind) overwhelmed with horror. What is "the reason of this perturbation? Is it want of reso"lution to do justice? Is it the dread of shedding "blood? No; it is not the action that shocks me, "but it is the cause, it is the cause, my soul; let me not name it to you, ye chaste stars! it is the cause."
Othello, full of horror at the cruel action which he is about to perpetrate, seems at this instant to be seeking his justification, from representing to himself the cause, i. e. the greatness of the provocation he had received.
85 A murder, which I thought a sacrifice:] This line is difficult. Thou hast hardened my heart, and makest me