chapter  X
Pages 23

I STUDY these two plays together, for they present such con-trasting themes at a time when Shakespeare's poetic powers were at their height, and, as a consequence, they illustrate the varied ways in which he brought verse supremely to the service of his drama. Othello is the nearest approach to a domestic theme in the tragic period, and the main protagonist stands apart from the others, simple in mind, brave in action, untutored in any subtlety of intellect, and superstitious in his background. Macbeth is a character of a different order, introspective, poetical, selftorturing, ever pre-figuring the evil that he is about to commit, ever assessing his own sin, yet powerless to check his corruption. Intrigue in Iago overcomes the guileless and simple goodness of Othello but the action, though intense and unremitting is aprivate one. In Macbeth the evil let loose is given a cosmic significance, so that the whole of our human destiny seems involved in the fact that such malignity can exist, and that reason is such a feeble prisoner of passion. The verse not only answers all the needs of these two contrasting actions, defining the main protagonists and those with whom they are involved, but by imagery and associative suggestion it gathers the whole of the language by some superadded emotional relevancy into a single symbol defining its wider import.