CHAPTER Xl
Othello and Antony

WHETHER OUR SUBJECT be the author of Hamlet, The Decline and Fall, Don Juan, La Comédie Humaine or A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, a writer's private and literary selves are very often hard to reconcile. Those two selves are closely allied, yet, at first sight, strangely independent; for, although anything that happens in a writer's life may contribute to the progress of his art, the dignity that he achieves through art is seldom reflected by his private character. While Shakespeare was busily acquiring land, recovering the money his neighbours owed him, frequenting the Mountjoy's middle-class circle, conferring with the tradesman and his wife, or gossiping with Mary Mountjoy as she threaded pearls and twisted gold wire, he was also exploring the dark universe of his most tremendous later tragedies. Hamlet was followed by Othello, originally entitled The Moor of Venice and, under that title, performed in the Banqueting House, Whitehall, on November 1st, 1604. It bears little resemblance to its enigmatic predecessor. The theme is simple, the treatment lucid; it rushes towards its tragic conclusion with steadily increasing power and speed. Perhaps because it raises so few problems, many readers have found it intellectually less stimulating, emotionally far less satisfying, than both earlier and later plays. There is no complication of the main issue, not a digression or a sign of hesitation. Its hero is a unified personage: indeed, the unity and simplicity of his nature help to bring about his total ruin; and present-day critics, therefore, have sometimes denied him true dramatic dignity, alleging that Othello was a bogus great man--

-274-

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Shakespeare: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Chapter I - Childhood and Youth 17
  • Chapter II - London Apprenticeship 41
  • Chapter III - The Climate of the Age 66
  • Chapter IV - Early Poems 95
  • Chapter V - 'His Sugared Sonnets' 120
  • Chapter VI - Romeo and Juliet 141
  • Chapter VII - Romantic Comedies 166
  • Chapter VIII - Historical Drama 196
  • Chapter X - A New Reign 252
  • Chapter XI - Othello and Antony 274
  • Chapter XII - 'Unaccommodated Man' 298
  • Bibliography 335
  • Index 339
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