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primary text of Othello. This latter was the form in which we may assume that it was known to and authenticated by Shakespeare himself. Of the Quarto we have no history except that contained in the title-page, and the following preliminary remarks by the publisher :
“ THE STATIONER TO THE READER.
“ To set forth a booke without an Epistle, were like to the old Englishе prouerbe, A blew coat without a badge,' and the Author being dead, I thought it good to take that piece of worke upon mee. To commend it, I will not, for that which is good, I hope euery man will commend, without intreaty : and I am the bolder, because the Author's name is sufficient to vent his worke. Thus leauing euery one to the liberty of iudge-ment: I haue ventered to print this Play, and leaue it to the generall censure.--Yours,
“ THOMAS WALKLEY."
From the study of the texts referred to, we learn the following facts :
(1) The second Quarto is a great improvement upon Q1;
(2) The Folio is better than either; and
(3) The reason the second Quarto has improved in so many respects upon the first, is from the assistance obtained from the text of the intervening Folio.
Compare N. Breton, Wits Trenchmore, 1597 : “Olde ling without mustard is like a blew coate without a cognisaunce." They were left off soon after the accession of James. "Since Blew Coats were left off, the kissing of the hand is the servingman's badge, you shall know him by't" (Sharpham, The Fleire, Act 11., 1607). The badge or cognisance was the master's arms in silver fastened to the left arm.
This is a peculiarity with regard to Othello. As a rule, the text of the plays in the Folio has been taken from the Quarto, where one previously existed. The texts in
. the case of Othello must have been from independent MSS., as indeed might have been almost expected from their nearly simultaneous appearance. Why the Quarto appeared at all may be a question, but the obvious answer is that Walkley knew of the intended publication of the Folio, and, being the possessor of an Othello MS., snatched the opportunity of putting a little money in his purse.
The superiority of the Folio is easily proved. In the first place, it contains about 160 lines, undoubtedly genuine, omitted in the first Quarto. In most cases these omissions are set right by the second Quarto. Again, there are very many errors or misprints in the first Quarto which are correctly rendered by the Folio. There are, indeed, a certain number of important exceptions, where the readings of the 1622 Quarto are better than the Folio. These are, usually, common to the second Quarto, with the exception of a few readings, as Mr. Evans points out in his valuable Introduction to the reprint. Examples may be found at the words in the present text "toged consuls,” I. i. 25; “officers of night," 1. i. 183; "list to sleepe," II. i. 104; ,
,. ; againe to inflame it," II. i. 230; "supervisor," III. iii. 395 ; "good faith," iv. iii. 23. To refer to the numerous passages where the Folio gives the correct reading, would be merely to anticipate the collation set forth in the following pages. For this collation I am considerably indebted to the Cambridge Shakespeare and to Furness' Variorum edition of this play. I have, however, gone through the whole carefully with regard to the three principal texts, and made
constant use of several of the more important later editions. I had, indeed, extended the collation altogether beyond the prescribed limits, that is to say beyond what is here produced; but the condensation was simple, and the labour expended was all to the good for an intimate knowledge of the text.
The question arises, How came these omissions to be made in the first Quarto ? Or, on the other hand, were the 160 odd lines subsequent additions to the original text? To arrive at any guess consonant with probability we must consider the more important omissions. In the first place, it is generally held that Shakespeare did not revise his work, and it is therefore more unlikely that the passages are additions due to afterthoughts, or improvements, than that they are either excisions or careless omissions in the first Quarto. Internal evidence connected with the date argument is of no weight here, since all we know of the date of the MS. of the first Quarto is its publication; and that its original version probably was prior to 1605 or 1606, but whatever treatment the MS. received in the way of alterations from that time. to 1622 may belong to any portion of that period.
In many cases the omitted lines or passages are clearly due to carelessness. This applies especially to dropt words or short paragraphs, sometimes to the palpable injury of the sense or of the metre. But in other cases the difference seems to arise from a set purpose; either of addition to the one text or omission from the other. Take, for example, to refer to the last Act first, the lines from “My mistress here lies murdered in her bed,” v. ii. 183-191. These must have been cut out merely to shorten the play. They are of great importance with regard to Emilia's demeanour. And it is hardly possible to imagine their being additions. The same remark applies, only not quite so forcibly, to the preceding lines 149–152, in the "iteration” passage; and to several others. On the other hand, it is hard to conceive any reason, even that gross one of abridgment, which would induce any hand to omit purposely such a passage as the lines beginning "Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd,” v. ii. 264-270; and these lines are not incapable of being subsequent additions. Nor are they capable of being by any hand but Shakespeare's. This applies to the beautiful protest of Desdemona beginning “ Here I kneel," iv. ii. 152–165, with equal force; and to the magnificent passage beginning “Never, Iago. Like to the Pontic sea,” 111. iii. 454–461. There never could have been an Indian base enough to throw such pearls away intentionally ; and their accidental omission seems equally unlikely. It is a simple solution to imagine such passages as being possibly later insertions; and if this can be the case, possibly it may assist us with regard to one or two passages, such as the new heraldry” metaphor (III. iv. 47), suggestive of a later date.
The text of Othello, as given to us by the Folio, is, on the whole, an excellent text. There is no reason to assert in any place that the reading is either certainly corrupt, or undoubtedly spurious, as there is in many of Shakespeare's other plays. There are assuredly several passages which are of exceeding difficulty, and where we can be by no means satisfied that we have arrived at the author's meaning, or in some cases at any certain sense at all. This may be because we have still to learn the force of language used at that time in a growing state—words whose budding meaning it is almost impossible to be certain of. They may have rendered an obvious sense to Shakespeare, and even if he did on any occasion revise his work, it does not seem to have ever occurred to him to illuminate passages to us obscure—since to the writer no doubt they presented no such obscurity. This observation is made only with reference to the abstruse passages in the present play.
There are a few places where certain commentators would appear to vote for excision of a few lines. Some of these (they are duly noticed in the notes) are of a revolting nature, but I do not agree in the freely expressed opinion of these editors that they are not by Shakespeare. Such an assertion is entirely unwarrantable. Reference may be made to v. i. 33–36; V. ii. 313 et seq.
In the scene between Desdemona and lago (II. i.), an inferior hand seems to me possibly to have lent unwelcome assistance, but this is the merest conjecture, and based partly on parallels referred to in the notes, which may be accepted by others in an opposite direction.
The later Folios, and in a minor degree the later Quartos, are useful when the premier editions afford misprints. They often lend us assistance in orthography, or in grammatical constructions; but in bare punctuation they usually make confusion worse confounded, But it is in the gradual modernisation of archaic spelling and certain idiomatic forms of speech that the later Folios are of most interest. Here they occasionally confirm expressions to which some doubt attached. For this reason I have in many cases preserved their collation in my notes. This is not the place