'That's She That Was Myself': Not-So-Famous Last Words and Some Ends of Othello
Thomas Clayton, University of Minnesota
To those for whom Shakespeare's plays still have value as works of dramatic and poetic art that move and enlighten the receptive, the last words of his tragic protagonists and other major characters should be of special interest and importance as momentous and definitive, because they evidently were for Shakespeare, whether composing or revising, and beginning quite early on, in Richard III and Richard II, for example; but they seem to take on special resonance and significance in the later tragedies, notably A. C. Bradley's Big Four, and also Antony and Cleopatra and Timon of Athens.1
Shakespeare constructed the ending of Othello in such a way that Desdemona and Othello both expire on the terminal note of a single heroic couplet, each concerned primarily and affectionately with the other. Othello's last lines have been noticed often enough, and Desdemona's, too, especially in recent years; but they have seldom been attended to in any detail and their significant complementarity has apparently gone unnoticed, no doubt partly because 'Soft you, a word or two … And smote him thus'—Othello's 'last great speech', in T. S. Eliot's phrase—has come so to dominate almost every kind of commentary on the endplay.2 But the complementarity was evidently deliberate, not fortuitous, and this seems to be Shakespeare's first dramatic and dialogical expression in extremis of special endplay effects of the kind inchoate in Hamlet and extended further in Othello and further still in King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra, the latter three of which match a dying protagonist with a dead loved one. It is of interest also because in Othello the lines speak for themselves in a way almost independent of variations in performance. In the later plays the same intense yearning is expressed in ways that must be conveyed substantially in action as well as, perhaps as much as, in words: the actor's Lear himself must somehow, somewhere, 'look there, look there'; and Cleopatra must make her way between the world of worms whose kingdoms are clay, and the real or fancied Elysium 'where souls do couch on flowers' and Antony had anticipated that their 'sprightly port [would] make the ghosts gaze' (4.15.51, 52).3
At least since Thomas Rymer, two conflicting Othellos have persisted, the sympathetic Noble Moor that I take to be Shakespeare's, and the other one, 'loving his own pride and purposes' and given to evasions 'with a bombast circumstance', an Othello malformed and perpetuated by racial bigotry beginning in the play itself with these phrases of lago's. In the nineteenth century, when travesties were in high fashion, there was at least one mocking minstrelshow Othello and a lame and lengthy travesty of this popular target. Subsequently liberated from overt racial bias, Othello has more recently been condemned as a militarist and patriarch, occasionally with necrophiliac tendencies.4 Such negative judgements seem gratuitous, sometimes downright ethnocentric; but my purpose here is not to argue the case of character yet once more, as such, but to concentrate on details of the endplay, notably Desdemona's and Othello's last lines, their context, content, and reference. Evidently these were—are—important components of Shakespeare's design, whatever the qualities of Othello the (critic's) man. But if these terminal couplets taken together mean as they appear to mean, then a rereading of Shakespeare's tragedy in modified perspective necessarily follows: of a play in which the tragedy of a sympathetic Moor must be the action intended, and as such is subtly, potently, and movingly concluded. Recognizing intentional design...
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does not compel concurrence, of course, but it reasonably invites reflection and might give pause.
In September 1610, when the King's Men performed Othello in Oxford, Henry Jackson of Corpus Christi College was affected as deeply by a motionless player as by the dialogue and kinetic action. In a letter, he wrote (in Latin) that 'assuredly that rare Desdemona, killed in front of us by her husband, although she consistently pleaded her cause eloquently, nevertheless was more moving dead, when, as she lay still on her bed, her facial expression alone implored the pity of spectators'.5 It is striking, as Julie Hankey has written of Jackson's account, that 'there is no mention of Othello's blackness. He is simply a "husband", and she (though a boy, "she" enough) his victim.'6 It is also shakespearian: Desdemona herself says that the 'saw Othello's visage in his mind' (1.3.252), where colour is as colour does. Only a spectator could respond to the eloquence of silence in quite this way, but even the terminal dialogue of the lovers waited upon time for critical attention. As late as 1957 it could be noted that, though 'the full import of the story is made clear in Othello's last speech' that speech 'is seldom given the attention it merits';7 that is, the 'Soft you, a word or two' speech. By now, that 'last speech' has been much written on, usually with reference to Eliot's famous assessment of 1927: 'I have always felt that I have never read a more terrible exposure of human weakness—of universal human weakness—than the last great speech of Othello … What Othello seems to me to be doing in making this speech is cheering himself up.. I do not believe that any writer has ever exposed this bovarysme, the human will to see things as they are not, more clearly than Shakespeare.'8
'The last great speech' is where critics' contending Othellos rise or fall. In 1984 Norman Sanders wrote in his New Cambridge edition that 'the greatest disagreement' is between those for whom the ''last great speech (5.2.334-52) re-elevates the hero to his former grandeur and nobility' and 'those who consider the Moor merely credulous and foolish', for whom 'T. S. Eliot may speak in his notorious condemnation of the death speech' (p. 24, italics mine). Discussion of Othello's 'last speech' has not seldom been bedevilled by ambiguity, though 'Othello's last great speech' is obviously enough 'Soft you, a word or two'. It is not his 'final lines', however, although at least one recent critic apparently believes they are, because that is what he called them in 1989.9 Othello's entire last utterance is the heroic couplet, 'I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this: / Killing myself, to die upon a kiss', followed in the New Cambridge edition by the stage direction, 'He [falls on the bed and] dies' (5.2.354-5); and in the Oxford edition by 'He kisses Desdemona and dies' (5.2.369). In both, only 'He dies' comes from a substantive text (Q; 'Dyes' F), but the couplet implies Oxford's stage direction, and the reference to 'the tragic loading [F; lodging Q] of this bed' justifies the New Cambridge expansion.10
The usually scant attention paid to these lines by critics who discuss them at all may be due not only to the lightning rod of the preceding 'great speech' but also to the history of performance and the received impression conveyed by earlier reviews and criticism. Writing recently on Othello 5.2 in performance,"11 James R. Siemon notes that during the years 1766-1900 'Othello appears almost never to have been allowed to die upon a kiss', because, in forty-five of fifty-two promptbooks of the period (86.5 per cent), 'the lines about having kissed Desdemona be-fore he killed her are missing, either through cutting or omission' (p. 49). Nearly half (23 of the 52, 44 per cent) 'end the play on some version of his suicide lines—"I took by the throat the circumcised dog, / And smote him thus"—adding sometimes an invented exclamation—"O Desdemona"—to this rather abrupt end.' Although this personal exclamation is an emaciated substitute, it is fair to note that it has at least the right focus, direction, and potential spirit.
Since the Procrustean practice of truncating the play thus is no longer common, that cannot account for critics' scant attention to Othello's last words, so the relative silence may well be due to a pervasive sense that the play is over, or ought to be, when he stabs himself at 'smote him thus'—because (it may be thought) whatever follows is redundant if not anticlimactic. Leslie Fiedler is partly of this turn of mind, writing that Othello's
is a world whose central symbol is the sword, the phallic significance of which Shakespeare takes pains to make clear … [K]nowing himself his own dearest enemy, his potency was magically restored, though only long enough for him to die and, dying, kiss the cold lips of a corpse. 'To die upon a kiss', he says, … evoking the pun, which Shakespeare so much loved, on 'die' meaning 'come' as well as 'go'. What stays in our minds, however, is not Othello's closing erotic couplet, but the longer speech, … a speech whose central images come from politics and war.12
Fiedler could be right, but 'our' minds suggests the confidently supposed unanimity of a collective reader's perspective, not the auditor-spectators' for whom the plays are especially designed; and in performance Othello's last moments and lines are often powerfully moving and therefore memorable, like Desdemona's mute and monumental eloquence for Henry Jackson in 1610; for some, at least as affecting and memorable as the longer speech preceding.
To the sympathetic, Othello's 'last great speech' is a reasoned, self-possessed, and earnestly purposeful as well as ineluctably 'rhetorical' appeal—by a frank and honest, honourable, and responsible man, even a hero, eloquent by custom or even nature—for just judgement of himself that is made no less to the outer audience of the play than to his immediate audience in Cyprus. It is thus doubly a public as well as personal speech, an extemporaneous and thoroughly natural 'oration' very like his first public speech, beginning 'Most potent, grave, and reverend signore', which led to his account of his courtship (1.3.76-94, 127-69). Having appealed for others' justice in 'Soft you', he concludes with his own by executing himself. Surviving the first cut like Antony in the later play, he turns forever from public speech and the world to the private vein of personal intimacy to address his last words, a heroic couplet, to the body of the wife he had loved not wisely but too well, had killed, and loves again. Jealousy is not a 'mature' emotion, but it is a painful fact of amatory life at one time or another for most who live and love.
M. C. Bradbrook has written that 'the ending must be felt as triumphal; the ritual of the kiss is spousal',13 and the late Helen Gardner that 'the close of Othello should leave us at peace', and she quotes The Phoenix and Turtle (1601): 'Death is now the phoenix' nest, / And the turtle's loyal breast / To eternity doth rest' (lines 56-8).14 These readings share a king of 'dramatic optimism', which might well be called for and I should not deplore, but it is a dire strait of mind from Brecht's agitprop-oriented perspective. There remains a tenable position neither alienated nor uplifted, dark, perhaps, but no less sympathetic. In tragedies of this kind a balance is characteristically struck between the irreversible loss and the glory of what might have been, which is known as such for what it has been. What was great and potentially greater, once lost, holds good for what it was and memorially remains.
Donne and Shakespeare—in his extreme vein as metaphysical poet in The Phoenix and Turtle just quoted— afford access to what the playwright has provided formally and emotionally by way of endplay in Othello, where he has first wife, then husband, dying separately yet together not only by the force of thought and feeling for the other, but—beyond character—by form, the heroic couplet of terminal expression that Shakespeare makes them share. In answer to Emilia's 'O, who hath done this deed?' Desdemona's first-line-abbreviated couplet is of course 'Nobody, I myself. Farewell. / Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell!' (5.2.133-4). Each speaks last of the other in his and her own way, the same way.
The terminal heroic couplets are bound together—by prosodic form, by the loving concentration of each speaker on the other, and by the implication of mutual affection not physically reciprocated but restored finally in mortality by the force of like minds and hearts expressing something understood, not strictly comprehensible but apprehensible by the imagination shared by lovers, lunatics, poets, spectators suspending disbelief. If this design goes unnoticed, obviously there will be no such mortal and delicate convergence. Anything may be dismissed or smirked out of court, of course, but once seen in this light, the design will not easily be forgotten. It consists further and especially in the shared use of 'myself' to invoke an ancient, Judeo-Christian, and proverbial idea about the unity of friends and lovers that goes back through Cicero to Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (9.4.5/ 1166a.32), where 'the friend is another self, even to the Iliad in one tradition; and to the Old Testament, where husband and wife are supposed to become one flesh, in another.15
The sharing of 'myself with the other is a key element in the complement of terminal couplets. Both lovers are made to use prominently and emphatically the personal pronoun 'myself'—or possessive pronoun 'my' with noun 'self as it was in the Quarto of 1622 and the Folio of 1623. The identification of friend or lover as a second self, or of two as being a single, compound self, was a commonplace in Shakespeare's day. A dramatic use close in time to Othello is Henry Porter's in Two Angry Women of Abingdon acted by the Lord Admiral's Men in 1598, the year before Porter died: 'O my wife, you are my selfe' (sig. C4, 3.520 f.). And very close in time to the composition of Othello, John Florio's translation of Montaigne's essay 'Of Friendship' (1603) says that
In the amitie I speake of, they [friends] entermixe and confound themselves one in the other, with so universali a commixture, that they weare out, and can no more find the seame that hath conjoyned them together. If a man urged me to tell wherefore I loved him, I feel it cannot be expressed, but by answering; 'Because it was he, because it was my selfe.'16
Mystical vision, philosophical conception, metaphysical conceit are almost as much a matter of degree and direction as of kind. Given these ranging variations on a theme common from antiquity, it is not surprising to find in The Two Gentlemen of Verona a sentiment and expression that, though expanded and explicit instead of condensed and allusive, is very like that in Othello. Valentine in soliloquy, banished on pain of death by Silvia's father, asks,
And why not death, rather than living torment? To die is to be banished from myself, And Silvia is my self. Banished from her Is self from self, a deadly banishment … She is my essence, and I leave to be If I be not by her fair influence Fostered, illumined, cherished, kept alive. I fly not death to fly his deadly doom. Tarry I here I but attend on death, But fly I hence, I fly away from life. (3.1.170-3, 182-7)
The plot of Othello is captured well by its notorious archcritic Thomas Rymer himself:
Othello, a Blackmoor [sic] Captain, by talking of his Prowess and Feats of War, makes Desdemona a Senators Daughter to be in love with him; and to be married to him without her Parents knowledge; and having preferred Cassio, to be his Lieutenant, (a place which his ensign Jago sued for) Jago in revenge, works the Moor into a Jealousy that Cassio Cuckolds him: which he effects by stealing and conveying a certain Handkerchief, which had, at the Wedding, been by the Moor presented to his Bride. Hereupon, Othello and Jago plot the Deaths of Desdemona and Cassio, Othello Murders her, and soon after is convinced of her Innocence. And as he is about to be carried to Prison, in order to be punish'd for the Murder, He kills himself.
What ever rubs or difficulty may stick on the Bark, the Moral, sure, of this Fable is very instructive.
First, This may be a caution to all Maidens of Quality how, without their Parents consent, they run away with Blackamoors.…
Secondly, this may be a warning to all good Wives, that they look well to their Linnen.
Thirdly, This may be a lesson to Husbands, that before their Jealousie be Tragical, the proofs be Mathematical.17
The morals are heavily facetious, but Othello is in its way a casque-to-cushion domestic tragedy, and commonplaces of the kind are indeed present—though they are assumed and more or less marginal, hardly the heart of the matter. The art of the design is that on the one hand it achieves simultaneously the building of a strong foundation in a plausibly intuitive mutual understanding and deep affection both sexual and otherwise personal between an inexperienced but perceptive and forceful young woman, and an older, black military officer of North African royal 'siege' (1.2.22), of high station by both birth and achievement, and of wide experience of wars and diplomacy but not of domestic affairs of the heart. And, on the other hand, it enables their destruction by the agency of a relentlessly machinating malefactor of universally acknowledged 'honesty' who uses the trust he has earned in military service, his observation and understanding of human vulnerability, and the very virtues of his victims the lovers as the leverage to destroy them. Raised to the scale of tragedy, but otherwise just like 'real life': How To Win Friends …
The inclusive tragedy is, then, that lovers extraordinarily well suited to each other and capable of the greatest mutual love, despite appearances to the contrary and obvious but superficial obstacles, are forced into separation—permanent or temporary but mortal—by death almost as soon as they begin to reap the marital harvest of their goodness and compatibility. Goodness revealed proclaims its vulnerability unawares and invites attack—in Othello by the redoubled force of its eternal opposite in a form, a person, least likely to be recognized as such. It is surely a fact not only that if Iago were the Moor, he would not be Iago; but that, if Iago were not Iago, there would be no tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice.
The final moments of the endplay follow hard upon Desdemona's dying. Having cried out that she has been 'falsely, falsely murdered!' (5.2.126) and then assured Emilia who has come to her that 'a guiltless death I die' (132), she replies to Emilia's 'O, who hath done this deed?' in her terminal couplet extemporized immediately though in some confusion to exonerate Othello. His innocence of culpable design would seem to have been somehow on her mind, since in the Willow Song (in F, not in Q) she had sung '"Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve"—', then quickly reflecting, 'Nay, that's not next.' In her terminal couplet, 'Nobody' is an instinctive deflecting of Emilia's question and an impossible answer, though it obviously has a tacit, unintended application to an Othello not himself. Her second answer, 'I myself, is all but impossible, yet the only option open to her without naming Othello, making false accusation, or inventing a suspect even as she dies. It is supremely apt and ironical precisely because, insofar as she is wife, friend, lover, she is Othello as he her; she himself did kill herself, through his corporal agency. Her next 'move' can most reasonably be taken as a natural continuation of her thinking singlemindedly of Othello from the moment she has uttered 'Nobody'. Othello, the nobody for the nonce, presents his demobilized self as no longer the soldier that he was. Desdemona dies true to her word, to herself, to Othello: as she had said, prophetically as is seen in retrospect, 'his unkindness may defeat my life, / But never taint my love' (4.2.164-5).
Othello at bay and near the end, 'Enter Lodovico' (5.2.288+), who asks the generically and thematically epic and tragic as well as contextually practical question, 'Where is this rash and most unfortunate man?' (289). Othello's answer: 'That's he that was Othello. Here I am' (290), I, nobody. There are many ways of explicating this, but even a modest gloss would note that the diminished and isolated Othello feels himself unmanned and sees Desdemona as though bearing his sometime manhood into death, so much in consonance with the independent spirit she displayed in 1.3, the Court Scene, especially in the speech beginning, 'That I did love the Moor to live with him, / My downright violence and storm [F; scorne Q] of fortunes / May trumpet to the world' (1.3.248-50). Such public forthrightness, there, is of a piece with her earlier hinting privately to Othello of her feelings for him when she 'bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, / I should but teach him how to tell my story, / And that would woo her' (1.3.163-5). Thus there was aptness as well as affection in Othello's greeting her on his arrival in Cyprus as 'my fair warrior' (2.1.183), of which we see more when she promises Cassio to cham-pion his cause: 'Assure thee, / If I do vow a friendship I'll perform it / To the last article' (3.3.20-2).
If Desdemona shows—an engagingly—youthful impetuousness in some ways, she shows maturity and even wisdom in others, here also epitomizing on behalf of the playwright, as it were, the tragedy of Othello himself:
Something sure of state, Either from Venice or some unhatched practice Made demonstrable here in Cyprus to him, Hath puddled his clear spirit; and in such cases Men's natures wrangle with inferior things, Though great ones are their object. 'Tis even so; For let our finger ache and it indues Our other, healthful members even to a sense Of pain. Nay, we must think men are not gods, Nor of them look for such observancy As fits the bridal. Beshrew me much, Emilia, I was—unhandsome warrior as I am— Arraigning his unkindness with my soul; But now I find I had suborned the witness, And he's indicated falsely.18 (3.4.138-52 recalling 2.1.183, italics mine)
These lines look forward to Desdemona's first 'falsely murdered' and subsequent revision in defence of Othello; she did not know it, nor did 'we', but in extremis and in retrospect that is seen to be the case.
Disarmed and nearing his end, Othello continues to express his sense of lost manhood: 'I am not valiant neither, / But every puny whipster gets my sword. / But why should honour outlive honesty? / Let it go all' (5.2.250-3). For a moment, he would even have Iago 'live; / For in my sense 'tis happiness to die' (5.2.295-6). Desdemona dead, how could it be otherwise for him, especially to live in knowledge of his guilt? The earlier lines' suggesting a kind of transmigration of soul between lovers who share it informs Othello's last words and his agonized awareness of lovers' union violently sundered by him: 'I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this [of kissing and killing]: / Killing myself [i.e., killing, now, my own self; having killed myself already, the self you were—that's she and he that was Othello—and (here) I am], to die upon a kiss'—as though, having killed the better part of himself in Desdemona, he now justly executes the worse part—Iago's—in himself, in his own way, himself the kisser and the kissed, honour following honesty in death, his life upon her faith. Othello rises by his falling, if his tragic movements are read aright. At least that is how Shakespeare seems to have intended them by their design.
If this reading of complementary terminal couplets in the endplay and the context of the whole is true to the overall dialogue and its significance, and to what may reasonably be taken to be the feelings of the principals as they would be performed by actors in an unforced reading, then on such accounts it may be taken to express in some measure the meanings intended by the play(wright). The design of the earlier part of the play will adjust itself in critical perspective to this conclusion accordingly. Unstrained productions tend to confirm this reading by presenting both Desdemona and Othello sympathetically—as they were presented with great success in Trevor Nunn's 1989 studio production first at The Other Place and then at the Young Vic, with the black opera singer Willard White as Othello, and Imogen Stubbs as a youthful and very forceful Desdemona; and as they were in an effective London fringe production, also with a black Othello (Gary Lawrence, with Louise Butcher as Desdemona), by the Court Theatre Company in mid August 1992.
One must agree with Fiedler that Othello's 'potency' is restored as he kills himself, and there is a sense in which his utterance and sentiment are undoubtedly 'erotic'. But it is doubtful whether his last couplet is fraught with the explicitly sexual sense of 'kill' and 'die' occasionally employed in Jacobethan usage, including Shakespeare's, though it may easily be argued thematically into place in several interpretative dialectics. Whatever the comprehensive particulars of meaning and significance of the terminal couplets, a finally positive resonance seems designed for each, and their correspondency 'unites' Desdemona and Othello—before an audience—in still life and by death forever and absolutely, in their own way like Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra.
The question whether Othello achieves 'adequate' recognition of his guilt and some profound insight into the Meaning of Things—so well understood by post-Victorian critics requiring no less of tragic heroes—is in the play not so much answered unequivocally as benignly begged in the ineluctable irony and pathos of the endplay. The lovers are united in peace only at the violent end of a fleeting married life in which they were able to be together undisturbed virtually for moments only, from the beginning of the action to the end. The irony is made almost unbearable by the survival of the lovers' destroyer, whose shadow cast over the life of the play extends beyond the end of the action in the BBC-TV production (1981), where Bob Hoskins' mocking laughter continues to echo through the screen credits even after he has been led down a corridor and out of sight. The script, so far from translating the horror of the spectacle into terms even of solace, much less of transcendence, frames it before its makermarrer, Iago, a tale tolled once and for all.
And yet, Desdemona and Othello are at last beyond the reach of envious malice, and theirs is implicitly some version of a peace that passeth all understanding, whether heavenly bliss secured or in prospect, or the nitrogen cycle not yet even dreamt of. So much for the irony. The play's plenitude of Christian reference—more in its own day than in ours—may shed prevenient grace upon the endplay and imply a hope of resurrection and reunion. But even if death is seen as final, there is the sweet oblivious antidote of nothingness, the pain of which is only in the spectacle, the eye of the beholder, the present the dead have passed beyond.
The pathos of the persons is simplicity itself. There can hardly be a greater human loss to death than that of spouse by loving, living spouse, a loss beyond enduring when the living spouse has brought about the death. That is the ultimate tragedy of Othello the Man. How indeed could Honour outlive Honesty?
1 I am indebted to R. W. Dent, Jay L. Halio, Jongsook Lee, George Sheets, Kari Steinbach, and Virginia Mason Vaughan for valuable comments and suggestions; and to the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota for a grant in aid of research.
2 'Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca', Selected Es-says, new edn (New York, 1950), p. 110.
3 For discussion of related terminal dialogue and action in King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra, see Thomas Clayton, '"Is this the promis'd end?" Revision in the Role of the King', The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare's Two Versions of 'King Lear', ed. by Gary Taylor and Michael Warren (Oxford, 1983), pp. 121-41; and '"Mysterious by This Love": The Unregenerate Resurrection of Antony and Cleopatra', Jadavpur University Essays and Studies III, Special Issue: Festschrift in Honour of S. C. Sengupta, ed. by Jagannath Chakravorty (Calcutta, 1982), pp. 95-116.
4 For the last, see Stanley Cavell, 'Epistemology and Tragedy: A Reading of Othello', Daedalus 108 (1979), repr. in William Shakespeare's 'Othello': Modern Critical Interpretations, ed. by Harold Bloom (New York, 1987), p. 16; Stephen Greenblatt, 'The Improvisation of Power', Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago, 1980), p. 252; and Janet Stavropoulos, 'Love and Age in Othello', Shakespeare Studies, 19 (1987), 135, which is more emphatic ('a perverted pietà').
5 'At verò Desdemona ilia apud nos a marito occisa, quanquam optimè semper causam egit, interfecta tamen magis movebat; cum in lecto decumbens spectantium misericordiam ipso vultu imploraret.' Corpus Library's Fulman Papers, vol. 10, ff. 83v-84r , printed by Geoffrey Tillotson, together with detailed comments on 'Othello and The Alchemist at Oxford in 1610', in the TLS, 20 July 1933, p. 494, whence the Latin is quoted here.
6Plays in Performance: 'Othello' (Bristol, 1987), p. 18.
7 Albert Gerard, '"Egregiously an Ass": The Dark Side of the Moor. A View of Othello's Mind', Shakespeare Survey 10 (1957), repr. in Aspects of 'Othello': Articles Reprinted from 'Shakespeare Survey ', ed. by Kenneth Muir and Philip Edwards (Cambridge, 1977), p. 19.
8 'Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca', p. 111, italics mine.
9 See James L. Calderwood, 'Signs, Speech, and Self, The Properties of 'Othello' (Amherst, 1989), p. 109.
10 The 1793 (+ 1803, 1813) variorum edition of Shakespeare's Works, vol. 15, contains Stevens's acute citation of antecedent lines by Marlowe's dying Zenocrate that is not in Furness's New Variorum Othello (1886) or in many if any subsequent editions: 'So, in the Second Part of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, 1590: "Yet let me kiss my lord before I dye, / And let me dye with kissing of my lord'" (2.4.69-70).
11 '"Nay, that's not the text": Othello, v.ii in performance, 1766-1900', Shakespeare Quarterly, 37 (1986), 38-51.
12 Leslie Fiedler, 'The Moor as Stranger; or, "Almost Damned in a Fair Wife"', The Stranger in Shakespeare (New York, 1972), p. 194.
13 M. C. Bradbrook, 'Images of Love and War: Othello, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra', The Living Monument: Shakespeare and the Theatre of His Time (Cambridge, 1976), p. 167. Also see her Shakespeare: The Poet in His World (New York, 1978), pp. 176-9.
14 Helen Gardner, 'The Noble Moor' (1955), Interpretations of Shakespeare: British Academy Shakespeare Lectures, ed. by Kenneth Muir (Oxford, 1985), p. 179.
15Iliad 18.89-92 (Achilleus of the dead Patroklos, 'even as mine own self, 'ison erne kephale'); Genesis 2.23-4 (Geneva translation).
16 Florio, Montaigne's Essays, 1632 edn, ed. by J. I. M. Stewart (London, 1931), vol. 1, pp. 190-1.
17The Critical Works of Thomas Rymer, ed. by Curt A. Zimansky (New Haven, 1956), p. 132.
18 These lines and 3.3.193-6 strongly reflect (on) each other, and on the resort of each speaker to notions of justice, trial, and proof: 'No, Iago, / I'll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; / And on the proof, there is no more but this: / Away at once with love or jealousy.' Desdemona is more trusting than Othello, but it is also not she but he who is driven to disbelief and jealousy as 'abused by some most villainous knave, / Some base, notorious knave, some scurvy fellow' (4.2.143-4).
Source: "'That's She That Was Myself :Not-So-Famous Last Words and Some Ends of Othello" in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production, Vol. 46, 1994, pp. 61-68.