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Shakespeare: Othello -

Bradley on Othello


From Shakespearean Tragedy (1904), by A. C. Bradley.


... Othello is, in one sense of the word, by far the most romantic figure among Shakespeare's heroes; and he is so partly from the strange life of war and adventure which he has lived from childhood. He does not belong to our world, and he seems to enter it we know not whence -- almost as if from wonderland. There is something mysterious in his descent from men of royal siege; in his wanderings in vast deserts and among marvellous peoples; in his tales of magic handkerchiefs and prophetic Sibyls; in the sudden vague glimpses we get of numberless battles and sieges in which he has played the hero and has borne a charmed life; even in chance references to his baptism, his being sold to slavery, his sojourn in Aleppo.

And he is not a merely romantic figure; his own nature is romantic.

He has not, indeed, the meditative or speculative imagination of Hamlet; but in the strictest sense of the word he is more poetic than Hamlet. Indeed, if one recalls Othello's most famous speeches -- those that begin, "Her father loved me", "O now for ever", "Never, Iago", "Had it pleased Heaven", "It is the cause", "Behold, I have a weapon", "Soft you, a word or two before you go" -- and if one places side by side with these speeches an equal number by any other hero, one will not doubt that Othello is the greatest poet of them all. There is the same poetry in his casual phrases -- like "These nine moons wasted", "Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them", "You chaste stars", "It is a sword of Spain, the...