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"One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens,
Does bear all excellency." The plot of OTHELLO is invested by the dramatist with a melancholy interest. In DESDEMONA, we see a lovely and constant woman, the victim of the treachery and wiles of an artful wretch, who, by exciting the jealousy of her husband, makes him her murderer.
OTHELLO, a Moor, is a suitor for the hand of DESDEMONA; and the play opens by representing RODERIGO, another suitor, and Iago, a servant of OTHELLO, poisoning the mind of her father, BRABANTIO, by maligning her character. At their instigation, her father seeks OTHELLO, who is at the moment engaged on state business with the DUKE OF VENICE, and he charges him with having stolen his daughter. DESDEMONA appears, and at once owns herself the wife of OTHELLO, whom she declares to have married for “his honour and his valiant parts.” He is compelled to quit Venice on important affairs; and leaves DESDEMONA in the hands of, as he thinks, “honest Iago.” This man at once agrees with RODERIGO to place DESDEMONA in his power, and, with deep malice, he schemes to put his purpose into practice.
Cassio, the lieutenant of OTHELLO, brings to DESDEMONA the news of his return. Witnessing, with hatred, their happiness at again meeting, Iago and RODERIGO determine to employ Cassio as a tool to carry out their vile plans against OTHELLO. For this purpose Iago makes Cassio drunk, and causes him to quarrel with RODERIGO, which ends in a mélée between all present. OTHELLO rushes in, and finding Cassio to be the cause, dismisses him from his service. Cassio determines on asking DESDEMONA to sue pardon for him; and Iago resolves to employ this incident in sowing jealousy between OTHELLO and his wife. DESDEMONA pleads, in all the innocency and simplicity of her nature, for Cassio; and the artful Iago persuades OTHELLO that she does so out of love to his lieutenant. OTHELLO refuses to believe anything against her until he has proof; but so completely does Lago succeed in rousing the jealousy of the Moor, and convincing him of the honesty of his own intentions, that when Othello again meets his wife, he does so but coolly. She anxiously inquires the cause, and, on his complaining of illness, would bind a handkerchief round his bead. He refuses this, and it drops down, when Emilia, the wife of Iago, picks it up, and afterwards gives it to her husband as a present.
This accident affords Iago means to carry out his villanous scheme. The handkerchief is dropped in the chamber of Cassio, where it is found by Bianca, his mistress. She charges him with having received it from some other fair hand; but OTHELLO seeing it, at once recognises it as one he had given to his wife. He instantly resolves on her death, having got the supposed proof of her guilt.
In the fifth act the dreadful tragedy is complete. In vain does DESDEMONA urge her innocence; the jealous Moor cannot be moved from his purpose. He produces before her the handkerchief, as evidence of her deceit, and at last smothers her. When too late, he discovers her fidelity; and in despair, cursing the fate which had impelled her death, stabs himself, and dies by her side.
These things to hear, Would Desdemona seriously incline: But still the house affairs would draw her thence; Which ever as she could with haste despatch, She'd come again, and with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse: Which I observing, Took once a pliant hour; and found good means To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart, That I would all my pilgrimage dilate, Whereof by parcels she had something heard, But not intentively: I did consent; And often did beguile her of her tears, When I did speak of some distressful stroke, That my youth suffer'd. My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of sighs : She swore,—In faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange; 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful : She wish'd she had not heard it; yet she wish'd That heaven had made her such a man; she thanked me; And bade me, if I had a friend that lov’d her, I should but teach him how to tell my story, And that would woo her. Upon this hint, I spake: She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd; And I lov’d her, that she did pity them.
OTHELLO.- Aci I. Scene III,
Othello. Desdémona prêtait une oreille attentive à ces récits: de temps à autre, néanmoins, les affaires de la maison l'obligeaient à s'éloigner; après les avoir expédiées à la hâte, elle revenait aussitôt prêter une oreille avide à mes discours. Je m'en aperçus, et profitant d'une occasion propice, je trouvai moyen de l'amener à me prier instamment de vouloir bien recommencer toute l'histoire de mes aventures, dont elle n'avait entendu que des fragments sans suite. J'y consentis et fis plus d'une fois couler ses larmes au récit de quelque événement douloureux qu'avait enduré ma jeunesse. Ma narration terminée, elle me donna pour ma peine force soupirs, elle jura qu'en vérité cela était étrange, plus qu'étrange; que c'était attendrissant, singulièrement attendrissant: elle souhaita de n'avoir point entendu mon récit, et toutefois elle eût désiré que
le ciel eût fait d'elle un pareil homme! elle me remercia, ajoutant que si je connaissais quelqu'un qui fût amoureux d'elle, je n'avais qu'à lui apprendre à conter mon histoire, que cela suffirait pour obtenir son cæur. Là-dessus, je parlai : elle m'a aimé pour les périls que j'ai traversés; je l'ai aimée pour la sympathie qu'elle accordait à mes malheurs.
OTHELLO.-Acte 1. Scène III.