William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

300.

W.N., on Othello

1791

From ‘Critical Remarks on the Othello of Shakespeare’, in the Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer, vol. i: for 12 January 1791 (pp. 56-62), 19 January (pp. 87-90), 29 January (pp. 132-6), and 2 February (pp. 176-81).

The Bee, a miscellaneous literary journal, appeared between 1790 and 1794, and was edited by James Anderson (1739-1808), the economist and agriculturalist. It described itself as ‘A work calculated to disseminate useful knowledge among all ranks of people at a small expence’.

Of those who possess that superiority of genius which enables them to shine by their own strength, the number has been few….

Among those to whom mankind is most indebted the first place is perhaps due to Homer and to Shakespeare. They both flourished in the infancy of society, and the popular tales of the times were the materials upon which they exerted their genius; they were equally unassisted by the writings of others. The dramatic compositions with which Shakespeare was acquainted were as contemptible as the crude tales which served as the foundation of Homer’s poem. The genius of both poets was then of undoubted originality, and varied, as the scene is with which they were conversant. It cannot perhaps be said that an idea is to be found in their works, imitated from another. To whatever subject they turned their attention a picture of nature, such as was capable of filling their minds alone, arose in full prospect before them. An idea imagined by any other would be inadequate to the grasp of their genius, and uncongenial with their usual mode of conception. Intimately acquainted with the original fountains of human knowledge, accustomed themselves to trace the operations of nature, they disdained to take notice of, or submit to the obscure and imperfect tracts which had been marked out by an inferior

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