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Iago begged pardon for having moved him; but Othello, assuming an
indifference, while he was really shaken with inward grief at Iago's
words, begged him to go on, which Iago did with many apologies, as if
unwilling to produce anything against Cassio, whom he called his
friend: he then came strongly to the point, and reminded Othello how
Desdemona had refused many suitable matches of her own clime and
complexion, and had married him, a Moor, which showed unnatural in her,
and proved her to have a headstrong will; and when her better judgment
returned, how probable it was she should fall upon comparing Othello
with the fine forms and clear white complexions of the young Italians
her countrymen. He concluded with advising Othello to put off his
reconcilement with Cassio a little longer, and in the meanwhile to note
with what earnestness Desdemona should intercede in his behalf; for
that much would be seen in that. So mischievously did this artful
villain lay his plots to turn the gentle qualities of this innocent
lady into her destruction, and make a net for her out of her own
goodness to entrap her: first setting Cassio on to entreat her
mediation, and then out of that very mediation contriving stratagems
for her ruin.

The conference ended with Iago's begging Othello to account his wife
innocent, until he had more decisive proof; and Othello promised to be
patient; but from that moment the deceived Othello never tasted content
of mind. Poppy, nor the juice of mandragora, nor all the sleeping
potions in the world, could ever again restore to him that sweet rest,
which he had enjoyed but yesterday. His occupation sickened upon him.
He no longer took delight in arms. His heart, that used to be roused at
the sight of troops, and banners, and battle-array, and would stir and
leap at the sound of a drum, or a trumpet, or a neighing war-horse,
seemed to have lost all that pride and ambition which are a soldier's
virtue; and his military ardour and all his old joys forsook him.
Sometimes he thought his wife honest, and at times he thought her not
so; sometimes he thought Iago just, and at times he thought him not so;
then he would wish that he had never known of it; he was not the worse
for her loving Cassio, so long as he knew it not: torn to pieces with
these distracting thoughts, he once laid hold on Iago's throat, and
demanded proof of Desdemona's guilt, or threatened instant death for
his having belied her. Iago, feigning indignation that his honesty
should be taken for a vice, asked Othello, if he had not sometimes seen
a handkerchief spotted with strawberries in his wife's hand. Othello
answered, that he had given her such a one, and that it was his first
gift. 'That same handkerchief,' said Iago, 'did I see Michael Cassio
this day wipe his face with.' 'If it be as you say,' said Othello, 'I
will not rest till a wide revenge swallow them up: and first, for a
token of your fidelity, I expect that Cassio shall be put to death
within three days; and for that fair devil (meaning his lady), I will
withdraw and devise some swift means of death for her.'

Trifles light as air are to the jealous proofs as strong as holy writ.
A handkerchief of his wife's seen in Cassio's hand, was motive enough
to the deluded Othello to pass sentence of death upon them both.
without once inquiring how Cassio came by it. Desdemona had never given
such a present to Cassio, nor would this constant lady have wronged her
lord with doing so naughty a thing as giving his presents to another
man; both Cassio and Desdemona were innocent of any offence against
Othello: but the wicked Iago, whose spirits never slept in contrivance
of villany, had made his wife (a good, but a weak woman) steal this
handkerchief from Desdemona, under presence of getting the work copied,
but in reality to drop it in Cassio's way, where he might find it, and
give a handle to Iago's suggestion that it was Desdemona's present.

Othello, soon after meeting his wife, pretended that he had a headache
(as he might indeed with truth), and desired her to lend him her
handkerchief to hold to his temples. She did so. 'Not this,' said
Othello, 'but that handkerchief I gave you.' Desdemona had it not about
her (for indeed it was stolen, as we have related). 'How?' said
Othello, 'this is a fault indeed. That handkerchief an Egyptian woman
gave to my mother; the woman was a witch and could read people's
thoughts: she told my mother, while she kept it, it would make her
amiable, and my father would love her; but, if she lost it, or gave it
away, my father's fancy would turn, and he would loathe her as much as
he had loved her. She dying gave it to me, and bade me, if I ever
married, to give it to my wife. I did so; take heed of it. Make it a
darling as precious as your eye.' 'It is possible?' said the frighted
lady. 'Tis true,' continued Othello 'it is a magical handkerchief; a
sibyl that had lived in the world two hundred years, in a fit of
prophetic fury worked it; the silkworms that furnished the silk were
hallowed, and it was dyed in a mummy of maidens' hearts conserved.'
Desdemona, hearing the wondrous virtues of the handkerchief, was ready
to die with fear, for she plainly perceived she had lost it, and with
it, she feared, the affections of her husband. Then Othello started,
and looked as if he were going to do some rash thing, and still he
demanded the handkerchief, which when she could not produce, she tried
to divert her husband from too serious thoughts, and cheerfully told
him she saw all his talk about the handkerchief was only to put her off
from her suit about Michael Cassio, whom she went on to praise (as Iago
had foretold), till Othello in perfect distraction burst out of the
room, and then Desdemona, though unwillingly, began to suspect that her
lord was jealous.

What cause she could have ministered to him she knew not, and then she
accused herself for accusing the noble Othello, and thought to be sure
that some untoward news from Venice, or some state troubles had puddled
his spirits, and made his temper not so sweet as formerly. And she
said: 'Men are not gods, and we must not look for that observance from
them when they are married, which they show us on the bridal day.' And
she beshrewed herself for so unkindly judging of his unkindness.

Again Othello and Desdemona met, and he accused her more plainly of
being unfaithful, and of loving another man, but he did not name whom:
and Othello wept, and Desdemona said: 'Alas! the heavy day! why do you
weep?' And Othello told her, he could have borne all sorts of evils
with fortitude - poverty, and disease, and disgrace; but her infidelity
had broken his heart: and he called her a weed, that looked so fair,
and smelled so sweet, that the sense ached at it; and wished she had
never been born. And when he had left her, this innocent lady was so
stupefied with wonder at her lord's untrue suspicion of her, that a
weight-like sleep came over her, and she only desired her attendant to
make her bed, and to lay her wedding-sheets upon it, saying, that when
people teach their babes, they do it by gentle means and easy tasks,
and Othello might have chid her so; for in good faith she was but a
child when she was chidden. And this was all the complaint which this
gentle lady made.

Desdemona being retired to bed expecting her lord would follow her,
soon fell into a slumber, the effect of her troubled spirits, when
Othello entered the chamber, full of the black purpose which he had
meditated of putting his lady to death. But when he saw her asleep, he
thought he would not shed her blood, nor scar that white skin of hers,
more white than alabaster. But he was resolved she should die; else (as
he said) she would live to betray more men, as she had done him. Then
he kissed her for the last time (as he said), and that kiss was so
sweet, that he must needs kiss her again: and he wept, but he said they
were cruel tears.

Desdemona was awakened with his kisses, and she looked upon Othello,
and she saw him gnaw his under lip, and roll his eyes, and she knew he
was always fatal when he looked so: and he bade her prepare for death,
and to say her prayers, for he would not kill her soul. And this
innocent wife, as she lay at his mercy, begged for compassion, and to
know her fault, and then he named Cassio, and the handkerchief which
(he said) she had given him; and as the guiltless lady was proceeding
to clear herself he suddenly would hear no more, but covering her up in
the bed-clothes, stifled her till she died.

In this instant of time was brought into the house Cassio, wounded and
bleeding, whom Iago had set one of his creatures on to assassinate; but
the fellow not succeeding in his attempt to kill Cassio (whom he
wounded, but not mortally), and being himself killed by Iago to prevent
discovery, in his pockets were found certain letters, which made the
guilt of Iago, and the innocence of Cassio, clear beyond all doubt; and
Cassio now came to beg pardon of Othello, and to ask wherein he had
offended him, that he had employed Iago to murder him.

This discovery was as thunderstroke to Othello, who now plainly saw
that he was no better than a murderer, and that his wife (poor innocent
lady) had been ever faithful to him; the extreme anguish of which
discovery making life insupportable, he fell upon his sword, and
throwing himself upon the body of his dear injured lady, expired.

These rash acts raised much passion of horror and amazement in the
bystanders, for Othello had borne a fair reputation, and till he was
wrought upon by the arts of a villain, which his own noble nature never
gave him leave to suspect, he was a loving and a doting husband. He had
loved not wisely, but too well; and his manly eyes (when he learned his
mistake), though not used to weep on every small occasion, dropped
tears as fast as the Arabian trees their gum. And when he was dead all
his former merits and his valiant acts were remembered. Nothing now
remained for his successor but to put the utmost censure of the law in
force against Iago, who was executed with strict tortures; and to send
word to the state of Venice of the lamentable death of their renowned
general.





PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE

Pericles, prince of Tyre, became a voluntary exile from his dominions,
to avert the dreadful calamities which Antiochus, the wicked emperor of
Greece, threatened to bring upon his subjects and city of Tyre, in
revenge for a discovery which the prince had made of a shocking deed
which the emperor had done in secret; as commonly it proves dangerous
to pry into the hidden crimes of great ones. Leaving the government of
his people in the hands of his able and honest minister, Helicanus,
Pericles set sail from Tyre, thinking to absent himself till the wrath
of Antiochus, who was mighty, should be appeased.

The first place which the prince directed his course to was Tarsus, and
hearing that the city of Tarsus was at that time suffering under a
severe famine, he took with him store of provisions for its relief. On
his arrival he found the city reduced to the utmost distress; and, he
coming like a messenger from heaven with his unhoped-for succour,
Cleon, the governor of Tarsus, welcomed him with boundless thanks.
Pericles had not been here many days, before letters came from his
faithful minister, warning him that it was not safe for him to stay at
Tarsus, for Antiochus knew of his abode, and by secret emissaries
despatched for that purpose sought his life. Upon receipt of these
letters Pericles put out to sea again, amidst the blessings and prayers
of a whole people who had been fed by his bounty.

He had not sailed far, when his ship was overtaken by a dreadful storm,
and every man on board perished except Pericles, who was cast by the
sea-waves naked on an unknown shore, where he had not wandered long
before he met with some poor fishermen, who invited him to their homes,
giving him clothes and provisions. The fishermen told Pericles the name
of their country was Pentapolis, and that their king was Simonides,
commonly called the good Simonides, because of his peaceable reign and
good government. From them he also learned that king Simonides had a
fair young daughter, and that the following day was her birthday, when
a grand tournament was to be held at court, many princes and knights
being come from all parts to try their skill in arms for the love of
Thaisa, this fair princess. While the prince was listening to this
account, and secretly lamenting the loss of his good armour, which
disabled him from making one among these valiant knights, another
fisherman brought in a complete suit of armour that he had taken out of
the sea with his fishing-net, which proved to be the very armour he had
lost. When Pericles beheld his own armour, he said: 'Thanks, Fortune;
after all my crosses you give me somewhat to repair myself. This armour
was bequeathed to me by my dead father, for whose dear sake I have so
loved it that whithersoever I went, I still have kept it by me, and the
rough sea that parted it from me, having now become calm, hath given it
back again, for which I thank it for, since I have my father's gift
again, I think my shipwreck no misfortune.'

The next day Pericles clad in his brave father's armour, repaired to
the royal court of Simonides, where he performed wonders at the
tournament, vanquishing with ease all the brave knights and valiant
princes who contended with him in arms for the honour of Thaisa's love.
When brave warriors contended at court tournaments for the love of
king's daughters, if one proved sole victor over all the rest, it was
usual for the great lady for whose sake these deeds of velour were
undertaken, to bestow all her respect upon the conqueror, and Thaisa
did not depart from this custom, for she presently dismissed all the
princes and knights whom Pericles had vanquished, and distinguished him
by her especial favour and regard, crowning him with the wrath of
victory, as king of that day's happiness; and Pericles became a most
passionate lover of this beauteous princess from the first moment he
beheld her.

The good Simonides so well approved of the velour and noble qualities
of Pericles, who was indeed a most accomplished gentleman, and well
learned in all excellent arts, that though he knew not the rank of this
royal stranger (for Pericles for fear of Antiochus gave out that he was
a private gentleman of Tyre), yet did not Simonides disdain to accept
of the valiant unknown for a son-in-law, when he perceived his
daughter's affections were firmly fixed upon him.

Pericles had not been many months married to Thaisa, before he received
intelligence that his enemy Antiochus was dead, and that his subjects
of Tyre, impatient of his long absence, threatened to revolt, and
talked of placing Helicanus upon his vacant throne. This news came from
Helicanus himself, who, being a loyal subject to his royal master,
would not accept of the high dignity offered him, but sent to let
Pericles know their intentions, that he might return home and resume
his lawful right. It was matter of great surprise and joy to Simonides,
to kind that his son-in-law (the obscure knight) was the renowned
prince of Tyre; yet again he regretted that he was not the private
gentleman he supposed him to be, seeing that he must now part both with
his admired son-in-law and his beloved daughter, whom he feared to
trust to the perils of the sea, because Thaisa was with child; and
Pericles himself wished her to remain with her father till after her
confinement, but the poor lady so earnestly desired to go with her
husband, that at last they consented, hoping she would reach Tyre
before she was brought to bed.

The sea was no friendly element to unhappy Pericles, for long before
they reached Tyre another dreadful tempest arose, which so terrified
Thaisa that she was taken ill, and in a short space of time her nurse
Lychorida came to Pericles with a little child in her arms, to tell the
prince the sad tidings that his wife died the moment her little babe
was born. She held the babe towards its father, saying: 'Here is a
thing too young for such a place. This is the child of your dead
queen.' No tongue can tell the dreadful sufferings of Pericles when he
heard his wife was dead. As soon as he could speak, he said: 'O you
gods, why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and then snatch those
gifts away?' 'Patience, good sir,' said Lychorida, 'here is all that is
left alive of our dead queen, a little daughter, and for your child's
sake be more manly. Patience, good sir, even for the sake of this
precious charge.' Pericles took the new-born infant in his arms, and he
said to the little babe: 'Now may your life be mild, for a more
blusterous birth had never babe! May your condition be mild and gentle,
for you have had the rudest welcome that ever prince's child did meet
with! May that which follows be happy, for you have had as chiding a
nativity as fire, air, water, earth, and heaven could make to herald
you from the womb! Even at the first, your loss,' meaning in the death
of her mother, 'is more than all the joys, which you shall find upon
this earth to which you are come a new visitor, shall be able to
recompense.'

The storm still continuing to rage furiously, and the sailors having a
superstition that while a dead body remained in the ship the storm
would never cease, they came to Pericles to demand that his queen
should be thrown overboard; and they said: 'What courage, sir? God save
you!' 'Courage enough,' said the sorrowing prince: 'I do not fear the
storm; it has done to me its worst; yet for the love of this poor
infant, this fresh new seafarer, I wish the storm was over.' 'Sir,'
said the sailors, 'your queen must overboard. The sea works high, the
wind is loud, and the storm will not abate till the ship be cleared of
the dead.' Though Pericles knew how weak and unfounded this
superstition was, yet he patiently submitted, saying: 'As you think
meet. Then she must overboard, most wretched queen!' And now this
unhappy prince went to take a last view of his dear wife, and as he
looked on his Thaisa, he said: 'A terrible childbed hast thou had, my
dear; no light, no fire; the unfriendly elements forget thee utterly,
nor have I time to bring thee hallowed to thy grave, but must cast thee
scarcely coffined into the sea, where for a monument upon thy bones the
humming waters must overwhelm thy corpse, lying with simple shells. O
Lychorida, bid Nestor bring me spices, ink, and paper, my casket and my
jewels, and bid Nicandor bring me the satin coffin. Lay the babe upon
the pillow, and go about this suddenly, Lychorida, while I say a
priestly farewell to my Thaisa.'

They brought Pericles a large chest, in which (wrapped in a satin
shroud) he placed his queen, and sweet-smelling spices he strewed over
her, and beside her he placed rich jewels, and a written paper, telling
who she was, and praying if haply any one should kind the chest which
contained the body of his wife, they would give her burial: and then
with his own hands he cast the chest into the sea. When the storm was
over, Pericles ordered the sailors to make for Tarsus. 'For,' said
Pericles, 'the babe cannot hold out till we come to Tyre. At Tarsus I
will leave it at careful nursing.'

After that tempestuous night when Thaisa was thrown into the sea, and
while it was yet early morning, as Cerimon, a worthy gentleman of
Ephesus, and a most skilful physician, was standing by the sea-side,
his servants brought to him a chest, which they said the sea-waves had
thrown on the land. 'I never saw,' said one of them, 'so huge a billow
as cast it on our shore.' Cerimon ordered the chest to be conveyed to
his own house and when it was opened he beheld with wonder the body of
a young and lovely lady; and the sweet-smelling spices and rich casket
of jewels made him conclude it was some great person who was thus
strangely entombed: searching farther, he discovered a paper, from
which he learned that the corpse which lay as dead before him had been
a queen, and wife to Pericles, prince of Tyre; and much admiring at the
strangeness of that accident, and more pitying the husband who had lost
this sweet lady, he said: 'If you are living, Pericles, you have a
heart that even cracks with woe.' Then observing attentively Thaisa's
face, he saw how fresh and unlike death her looks were, and he said:
'They were too hasty that threw you into the sea': for he did not
believe her to be dead. He ordered a fire to be made, and proper
cordials to be brought, and soft music to be played, which might help
to calm her amazed spirits if she should revive; and he said to those
who crowded round her, wondering at what they saw: 'I pray you,
gentlemen, give her air; this queen will live; she has not been
entranced above five hours; and see, she begins to blow into life
again; she is alive; behold, her eyelids move; this fair creature will
live to make us weep to hear her fate.' Thaisa had never died, but
after the birth of her little baby had fallen into a deep swoon, which
made all that saw her conclude her to be dead; and now by the care of
this kind gentleman she once more revived to light and life; and
opening her eyes, she said: 'Where am I? Where is my lord? What world
is this?' By gentle degrees Cerimon let her understand what had
befallen her; and when he thought she was enough recovered to bear the
sight, he showed her the paper written by her husband, and the jewels;
and she looked on the paper, and said: 'It is my lord's writing. That I
was shipped at sea, I well remember, but whether there delivered of my
babe, by the holy gods I cannot rightly say; but since my wedded lord I
never shall see again, I will put on a vestal livery, and never more
have joy.' 'Madam,' said Cerimon, 'if you purpose as you speak, the
temple of Diana is not far distant from hence; there you may abide as a
vestal. Moreover, if you please, a niece of mine shall there attend
you.' This proposal was accepted with thanks by Thaisa; and when she
was perfectly recovered, Cerimon placed her in the temple of Diana,
where she became a vestal or priestess of that goddess, and passed her
days in sorrowing for her husband's supposed loss, and in the most
devout exercises of those times.

Pericles carried his young daughter (whom he named Marina, because she
was born at sea) to Tarsus, intending to leave her with Cleon, the
governor of that city, and his wife Dionysia, thinking, for the good he
had done to them at the time of their famine, they would be kind to his
little motherless daughter. When Cleon saw prince Pericles, and heard
of the great loss which had befallen him, he said: 'O your sweet queen,
that it had pleased Heaven you could have brought her hither to have
blessed my eyes with the sight of her!' Pericles replied: 'We must obey
the powers above us. Should I rage and roar as the sea does in which my
Thaisa lies, yet the end must be as it is. My gentle babe, Marina here,
I must charge your charity with her. I leave her the infant of your
care, beseeching you to give her princely training.' And then turning
to Cleon's wife, Dionysia, he said: 'Good madam, make me blessed in
your care in bringing up my child': and she answered: 'I have a child
myself who shall not be more dear to my respect than yours, my lord';
and Cleon made the like promise, saying: 'Your noble services, prince
Pericles, in feeding my whole people with your corn (for which in their
prayers they daily remember you) must in your child be thought on. If I
should neglect your child, my whole people that were by you relieved
would force me to my duty; but if to that I need a spur, the gods
revenge it on me and mine to the end of generation.' Pericles being
thus assured that his child would be carefully attended to, left her to
the protection of Cleon and his wife Dionysia, and with her he left the
nurse Lychorida. When he went away, the little Marina knew not her
loss, but Lychorida wept sadly at parting with her royal master. 'O, no
tears, Lychorida,' said Pericles: 'no tears; look to your little
mistress, on whose grace you may depend hereafter.'

Pericles arrived in safety at Tyre, and was once more settled in the
quiet possession of his throne, while his woeful queen, whom he thought
dead, remained at Ephesus. Her little babe Marina, whom this hapless
mother had never seen, was brought up by Cleon in a manner suitable to
her high birth. He gave her the most careful education, so that by the
time Marina attained the age of fourteen years, the most deeply-learned


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Online LibraryCharles LambTales of Shakespeare → online text (page 22 of 23)