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ter consists in having no will of her own, no prompter but her obedience. Her romantic turn is only a consequence of the domestic and practical part of her disposition; and instead of following Othello to the wars, she would gladly have "remained at home a moth of peace," if her husband could have staid with her. Her resignation and angelic sweetness of temper do not desert her at the last. The scenes in which she laments and tries to account for Othello's estrangement from her are exquisitely beautiful. After he has struck her, and called her names, she says,
— "Alas, Iago,
What shall I do to win my lord again?
Good friend, go to him; for by this light of heaven,
I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel;
If e'er my will did trespass 'gainst his love,
Either in discourse, or thought, or actual deed.
Or that mine eyes, mine ears, or any sense
Delighted them on any other form;
Or that I do not, and ever did,
And ever will, though he do shake me off
To beggarly divorcement, love him dearly,
Comfort forswear me. Unkindness may do much,
And his unkindness may defeat my life,
But never taint my love.
logo. I pray you be content: 'tis but his humour. The business of the state does him offence.
Desdemona. If 'twere no other!"—
The scene which follows with ^Emilia and the song of the Willow, are equally beautiful, and shew the author's extreme power of varying the expression of passion, in all its moods and in all circumstances.
/Emilia. Would you had never seen him.
Desdemona. So would not I: my love doth so approve
That even his stubbornness, his checks, his frowns,
Not the unjust suspicions of Othello, not Iago's treachery, place Desdemona in a more amiable or interesting light than the casual conversation (half earnest, half jest) between her and ./Emilia on the common behaviour of women to their husbands. This dialogue takes place just before the last fatal scene. If Othello had overheard it, it would have prevented the whole catastrophe; but then it would have spoiled the play.
The character of Iago is one of the supererogations of Shakespear's genius. Some persons, more nice than wise, have thought this whole character unnatural, because his villainy is without a sufficient motive. Shakespear, who was as good a philosopher as he was a poet, thought otherwise. He knew that the love of power, which is another name for the love of mischief, is natural to man. He would know this as well or better than if it had been demonstrated to him by a logical diagram, merely from
seeing ohildren paddle in the dirt or kill flies for sport. Iago in fact belongs to a class of characters, common to Shakespear and at the same time peculiar to him; whose heads are as acute and active as their hearts are hard and callous. Iago is to be sure an extreme instance of the kind; that is to say, of diseased intellectual activity, with an almost perfect indifference to moral good or evil, or rather with a decided preference of the latter, because it falls more readily in with his favourite propensity, gives greater zest to his thoughts and scope to his actions. He is quite or nearly as indifferent to his own fate as to that of others; he runs all risks for a trifling and doubtful advantage; and is himself the dupe and victim of his ruling passion—an insatiable craving after action of the most difficult and dangerous kind. "Our ancient" is a philosopher, who fancies that a lie that kills has more point in it than an alliteration or an antithesis; who thinks a fatal experiment on the peace of a family a better thing than watching the palpitations in the heart of a flea in a microscope; who plots the ruin of his friends as an exercise for his ingenuity, and stabs men in the dark to prevent ennui. His gaiety, such as it is, arises from the success of his treachery; his ease from the torture he has inflicted on others. He is an amateur of tragedy in real life; and instead of employing his invention on
imaginary characters, or long-forgotten incidents, he takes the bolder and more desperate course of getting up his plot at home, casts the principal parts among his nearest friends and connections, and rehearses it in downright earnest, with steady nerves and unabated resolution. We will just give an illustration or two.
One of his most characteristic speeches is that immediately after the marriage of Othello.
f Roderigo. What a full fortune does, the thick lips owe, If he can carry her thus!
Iago. Call up her father: Rouse him (Othello) make after him, poison his delight, Proclaim him in the streets, incense her kinsmen, And tho' he in a fertile climate dwell, Plague him with flies: Tho' that his joy be joy, Yet throw such changes of vexation on it, As it may lose some colour."
In the next passage, his imagination runs riot in the mischief he is plotting, and breaks out into the wildness and impetuosity of real enthusiasm,
"Roderigo. Here is her father's house: I'll call aloud.
Iago. Do, with like timourous accent and dire yell, As when, by night and negligence, the fire Is spied in populous cities."
One of his most favourite topics, on which he is rich indeed, and in descanting on which his spleen serves him for a Muse, is the dispror portionate match between Desdemona and the Moor. This is a clue to the character of the lady which he is by no means ready to part with. It is brought forward in the first scene, and he recurs to it, when in answer to his insinuations against Desdemona, Roderigo says,
"I cannot believe that in her—she's full of most blest conditions.
Iago. Bless'd fig's end. The wine she drinks is made of grapes. If she had been blest, she would never have married the Moor."
And again with still more spirit and fatal effect afterwards, when he turns this very suggestion arising in Othello's own breast to her prejudice.
"Othello. And yet how nature erring from itself— Iago. Aye, there's the point;—as to be bold with you. Not to affect many proposed matches Of her own clime, complexion, and degree," &c.
This is probing to the quick. Iago here turns the character of poor Desdemona, as it were, inside out. It is certain that nothing but the genius of Shakespear could have preserved the entire interest and delicacy of the part, and have even drawn an additional elegance and dignity from the peculiar circumstances in which she is placed.—The habitual licentiousness of Iago's conversation is not to be traced to the pleasure he takes in gross or lascivious images, but to his desire of finding out the worst side of every