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I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind,
To prey at fortune.26 Haply, for I am black,
And have not those soft parts of conversation
Than keep a corner in the thing I love,
For others' uses. Yet, 'tis the plague of great ones;
26 Jesses are short straps of leather tied about the foot of a hawk, by which she is held on the fist. -"The falconers always let fly the hawk against the wind; if she flies with the wind behind her, she seldom returns. If therefore a hawk was for any reason to be dismissed, she was let down the wind, and from that time shifted for herself and preyed at fortune." This was told to Dr. Johnson by Mr. Clark. So in Dryden's Annus Mirabilis :
"Have you not seen, when, whistled from the fist,
Straight flies at check, and clips it down the wind?"
27 Men of intrigue. Chambering and wantonness are mentioned together in the Scriptures.
28 One of Sir John Harington's Epigrams will illustrate this:
"Actæon guiltless unawares espying
Naked Diana bathing in her bowre
Was plagued with HORNES; his dogs did him devoure;
29 That is, when we begin to live. In what follows, the folio reads, "Look, where she comes: If she be false, heaven mock'd itself." Both quartos have it as in the text.
Enter DESDEMOna and Emilia.
If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself!
How now, my dear Othello!
Des. Why is your speech so faint ? are you not well?
Oth. I have a pain upon my forehead here.
Des. 'Faith, that's with watching; 'twill away
Let me but bind it hard, within this hour
Your napkin is too little:
[He puts the Napkin from him, and it drops. Let it alone. Come, I'll go in with you. Des. I am very sorry that you are not well. [Exeunt ОTH. and DES. Emil. I am glad I have found this napkin. This was her first remembrance from the Moor: My wayward husband hath a hundred times Woo'd me to steal it; 32 but she so loves the token,
30 Thus both the quartos; the folio, "Why do you speak so faintly?"
31 In the north of England this term for a handkerchief is still used. The word occurs in Macbeth, Julius Cæsar, and other of these plays.
32 Of course hundred is here used for an indefinite number; still it shows that the unity of time is much less observed in this play than some have supposed. The play indeed seldom gives any note of the lapse of time, save by inference, as in the case before us. Thus far, only one night, since that of the marriage, has been expressly accounted for; and this was the night when the nuptials were celebrated, and Cassio cashiered; though several must have passed during the sea-voyage. From Iago's soliloquy at the close of Act i., it is clear he had his plot even then so far
(For he conjur'd her she should ever keep it,)
What he'll do with it, Heaven knows, not I;
Iago. How now! what do you here alone?
Iago. To have a foolish wife.
Emil. O! is that all? What will you give me now For that same handkerchief?
Emil. What handkerchief!
Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona;
Iago. Hast stolen it from her?
Emil. No, 'faith; she let it drop by negligence; And, to th' advantage, I, being here, took't up. Look, here it is.
A good wench; give it me. Emil. What will you do with't, that you have been so earnest
To have me filch it?
matured, that he might often woo his wife to steal the handkerchief while at sea. Moreover, we may well enough suppose a considerable interval of time between the first and third scenes of the present Act; since Cassio may not have had the interview with Desdemona immediately after he engaged Emilia to solicit it for him.
33 That is, copied. Her first thoughts are to have a copy made of it for her husband, and restore the original to Desdemona; but the sudden coming in of Iago, in a surly humour, makes her alter her resolution, to please him.
Why, what's that to you? [Snatching it. Emil. If it be not for some purpose of import, Give't me again: Poor lady! she'll run mad, When she shall lack it.
Iago. Be not acknown on't; I have use for it. Go, leave me.— [Exit EMILIA. I will in Cassio's lodging lose this napkin, And let him find it: trifles, light as air, Are to the jealous confirmations strong As proofs of holy writ. This may do something. The Moor already changes with my poison: Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons, Which at the first are scarce found to distaste; But, with a little act upon the blood, Burn like the mines of sulphur. I did say so;
Look, where he comes ! Not poppy, nor man
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
34 The folio and the quarto of 1630 have acknown; the other quarto reads, "Be not you known on't." The word occurs in Harrington's Life of Ariosto, 1607: "Some say he was married to her privilie, but durst not be acknown of it." Of course the meaning in the text is, "do not acknowledge it." —The seventh line of this speech, The Moor already changes with my poison," is not in the first quarto. Both the other old copies have it. 35 That is, I knew the least touch of such a passion would not permit the Moor a moment of repose:-I have just said that jealousy is a restless commotion of the mind; and look, where Othello approaches, to confirm my observation. - STEEVENS.
36 The mandrake has a soporific quality, and the ancients used it when they wanted an opiate of the most powerful kind. See Antony and Cleopatra, Act i. sc. 5, note 1.-Ow'dst for own'dst; an usage constantly occurring in old writers.
Oth. Ha ha! false to me, to me? 37
Tago. Why, how now, general! no more of that
I swear, 'tis better to be much abus'd,
How now, my lord!
Oth. What sense had I of her stolen hours of lust?
I saw't not, thought it not, it harm'd not me:
I slept the next night well, was free and merry;
He that is robb'd, not wanting what is stolen,
Oth. I had been happy, if the general camp,
37 The repetition of to me is in both quartos, but not in the folio. It more than doubles the sense.
38 Pioneers were generally degraded soldiers. In the third line of Othello's preceding speech, the folio inserts fed well, after the words, "I slept the next night well." The insertion greatly mars both the sense and the metre of the line. Both quartos have it as in the text. The folio has several other slight variations in this part of the scene.
39 There is some resemblance between this speech and the following lines in Peele's "Farewell to the Famous and Fortunate Generals of our English Forces," 1589:
Change love for armes; gyrt to your blades, my boyes;