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THE best text we have of Othello is that of the Folio of 1623. On this text the following edition is mainly founded; and it is that of the Globe, Cambridge, and other modern and reliable versions.
We have to consider the following editions of the play. The first appearance in print was in Quarto, of the date 1622, with the following title :
THE Tragedy of Othello, The Moore of Venice. As it hath beene diuerse times acted at the Globe, and at the Black Friers, by his Maiesties Seruants. Written by William Shakespeare. LONDON, Printed by N. 0. for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the Eagle and Child, in Brittans Burffe. 1622.1
This is the first Quarto, Q 1.
The next appearance of Othello was in the well-known first Folio, F1, November 1623.
In 1630 Richard Hawkins issued a second Quarto of Othello, with the same title-page, differing only in the vignette, the date, and the words “Printed by A. M. for Richard Hawkins, and are to be sold at his shoppe in Chancery Lane, neere Sergeants Inne."
? There is a vignette of clasped hands grasping a caduceus, flanked by cornucopiæ, and surmounted by a Pegasus, which does duty again on the title of Lear, Quarto 1. It appears to be the device of Nicholas Okes.
This is the second Quarto, Q 2.
In 1655 another Quarto (Q 3) was “ Printed for William Leak at the Crown in Fleet Street between the two Temple Gates.” And in 1681, a Player's Quarto appeared, reprinted in 1687 and 1695.
The second, third, and fourth Folios were printed in 1632, 1663, and 1685.
We may dismiss the texts of the Quartos after the second, except as curiosities; and practically speaking the four Folios may be regarded as one text. The third Quarto is a worthless reprint of the second.
The first Quarto appears to have been printed from an independent MS., which had been an early acting copy. This circumstance is rendered probable by the fact that it contains many oaths, expletives, and adjurations which are either omitted altogether, or much modified in all the later editions. These alterations were probably made in accordance with the “ Act against Swearing” (1606); and would tend to prove that the first Quarto was printed from a copy of a date prior to 1605 or 1606. Further mention of this evidence will be found in the notes at 1. i. 4.
In the interval between the printing of the first and second Quartos the Folio appeared, for which Shakespeare's friends and fellow-actors John Heming and Henry Condell were responsible. The title-page states that the plays therein are printed “according to the true originall copies" ; and there is a similar statement in their Dedication.
We are to believe, then, that the play as printed in the Folio came from Shakespeare's authorised version, a transcript belonging to the theatre; and unless the Quarto can establish a prior claim, the Folio must be accepted as the