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THE MOOR OF VENICE;
IN FIVE ACTS;
BY WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES-ROYAL,
DRURY-LANE AND COVENT GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY MRS INCHBALD
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, AND BROWN,
To the honour of a profession long held in contempt by the wise-and still contemned by the weakShakspeare, the pride of Britain, was a player. For the comfort of the illiterate, he was unlearned; and, to the shame of the vain and petulant author, he was meek and humble.
This is one of Shakspeare's dramas, in which all criticism has been absorbed in the tribute of praise.
There is in the love of Othello and Desdemona such a rational apology, such a description of gradua passion taking possession of her heart, through pity and admiration; rooted in his, from gratitude and tenderness; that no sooner has he delivered that speech of natural eloquence to the senate, in the first act, than every auditor feels himself agitated with interest for the fate of the enamoured and newly-wedded pair.
So vast is the power of the author's skill in delineating the rise and progress of sensations in the human breast, that a young and elegant female is here represented, by his magic pen, as deeply in love with a Moor, a man different in complexion and features from her and her whole race,-and yet without the
slightest imputation of indelicacy resting upon her taste:- -whilst the Moor, in his turn, dotes on her with all the transport of the most impassioned lover, yet without the smallest abatement of the rough and rigid cast of his nature. The mutual affection of these two characters seems most forcibly to be inspired by the very opposite qualities which they each possess.
There is a second contrast in this play more impressive than the foregoing. The consummate art and malignant spirit of lago are so reverse from the generous mind and candid manners of Othello, that it appears like the highest point, the very zenith, of the poet's genius, to have conceived two such personages, not only for the same drama, but to have brought them on the stage together in almost every scene.
To render the work complete, some of the inferior characters are important parts; and combine, with its admirable fable, incidents, and poetry, to rank the composition among the very best of Shakspeare's plays.
The theatre of Covent Garden has had the encomium, for a few years past, of representing this tragedy better than it was ever performed in the memory of the oldest critic.-Yet, how far a spectator can be secure in speaking of the abilities of any performer in any one particular character, so as the next who sees him shall conform to that exact opinion, the following anecdote, showing the influence of chance upon the actor's powers, may serve to prove.
“ Booth, the admired tragedian, was, like others of the profession, often both cold and negligent on the stage. In playing Othello once to a very thin house, he was so languid in some scenes of the part (said to be the masterpiece of his art) that no one could discern their favourite performer. But in the third act, as if roused from his lethargy to the most animating vigour, he displayed such uncommon fire and force, that players and audience were electrified. Colley Cibber, who acted the part of lago, exclaimed, on their return to the Green Room,“ Priythee, Booth, what was the charm which inspired you so on a sudden?”_" Why, Colley, I saw, by accident, an Oxford man in the pit, whose judgment I revere more than that of a whole audience."