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kill thee with the rage of a murderer, when I thought to have sacrificed thee to justice with the calmness of a priest striking a victim.
It must not be omitted, that one of the elder quartos reads, thou dost stone thy heart; which I suspect to be genuine. The meaning then will be,-thou forcest me to dismiss thee from the world in the state of the murdered without preparation for death, when I intended that thy punishment should have been a sacrifice atoning for thy crime.
I am glad that I have ended my revisal of this dreadful scene. It is not to be endured.
86 Des. 0, falsely, falsely murder'd!] It cannot be supposed that a person who had been effectually strangled or smothered could speak again; for if the power of breathing returned after the instrument of suffocation was removed, no act of violence had in reality taken place by which the conclusion of life could be brought on. But such is the peculiar fate of Desdemona, that she is supposed to be smothered, revives to acquaint us that she smothered herself, and then dies without any ostensible cause of death. I am of opinion that some theatrical direction has been omitted; and that when Othello says:
Not dead? not yet quite dead?
I, that am cruel, am yet merciful;
I would not have thee linger in thy pain:
He then stabs her, repeating the two last words, as he repeats the blow. Thus Virgil:
sic, sic juvat ire sub umbras.
After the repetition of wounds, Desdemona might speak again, with propriety, and yet very soon expire; as says Cassio of Roderigo :
even but now he spake,
After long seeming dead.
The first resolution of Othello was to poison her, but from this measure he is dissuaded by the policy of Iago. He is next determined to use the poniard; but, his tenderness awaking, he cannot bear to deform those beauties which he had so often approached with other sensations, and for different purposes. Therefore, says he,
I'll not shed her blood,
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster:
And this resolution we are to imagine he would have kept, but that he was averse to employing those means again, which had already appeared to be uncertain in their effect.
If this apparent want of a playhouse direction had occasioned any absurdity in the original representation of the play, probably it is glanced at by Ben Jonson in the Alchemist, Act 5: "Didst hear a cry, said'st thou ? Yes, sir, like unto a man that had been strangled an hour, and could not speak."
87 Are there no stones in heaven,
But what serve for the thunder?] What occasion for other, when those would serve his purpose? For
he wanted a thunderbolt for Iago. Without question, Shakspeare wrote and pointed the line thus:
Are there no stones in heaven?
For what then serves the thunder?—
i. e. Are there no bolts in heaven for this villain? for what purpose then serves the thunder, that instrument of his vengeance?
88 — the ice-brook's temper;] In the first edition it is Isebrooke's temper. Thence corrupted to-Ice-brook's. Ebro's temper: the waters of that river of Spain are particularly famous for tempering of steel. The finest arms in the world are the Catalonian fusees.
I believe the old reading changed to ice-brook is right. Steel is hardened by being put red-hot into very cold water.
The particular name of the ice-brook may be determined by the following passages in Martial. It was undoubtedly the brook or rivulet called Salo (now Xalon), near Bilbilis in Celtiberia. In this the Spaniards plunged all their swords and other weapons while hot from the forge; and to the icy quality of the waters they were indebted for their stubborn temper: Sævo Bilbilin optimam metallo
Et ferro Plateam so sonantem,
Quibus remissum corpus astringes brevi,
Pugio, quem curvis signat brevis orbita venis,
Stridentem gelidis hunc Salo tinxit aquis. Again, in Justin, 1. 44. " Præcipua his quidem ferri materia sed aqua ipsa ferro violentior; quippe temperamento ejus ferrum acrius redditur; nec ullum apud eos telum probatur quod non aut in Bilbili fluvio aut Chalybe tingatur. Unde etiam Chalybes fluvii hujus finitimi appellati, ferroque cæteris præstare di• cuntur." These parts of Spain have been at all times famous for the temper of their arms. STEEVENS. 89 the practice of a cursed slave,] The practice, the snare, the stratagem.
90 of one, whose hand,
Like the base Judian, threw a pearl away,
Richer than all his tribe;] By the Judian is meant Herod, whose usage to Mariamne is so apposite to the speaker's case, that a more proper instance could not be thought of. Besides, he was the subject of a tragedy at that time, as appears from the words in Hamlet, where an ill player is described,
66 to out-herod Herod."
The metaphorical term of a pearl for a fine woman is so common as scarce to need examples. In Troilus and Cressida, a lover says of his mistress,
"There she lies a PEARL."
Why she is a pearl, whose price" &c.