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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 181

of confinement to a comparatively narrow world, and of dark fatality, which haunt us in reading Othello. In Macbeth the fate which works itself out alike in the external conflict and in the hero's soul, is obviously hostile to evil; and the imagination is dilated both by the consciousness of its presence and by the appearance of supernatural agencies. These, as we have seen, produce in Hamlet a somewhat similar effect, which is increased by the hero's acceptance of the accidents as a providential shaping of his end. King Lear is undoubtedly the tragedy which comes nearest to Othello in the impression of darkness and fatefulness, and in the absence of direct indications of any guiding power.1 But in King Lear, apart from other differences to be considered later, the conflict assumes proportions so vast that the imagination seems, as in Paradise Lost, to traverse spaces wider than the earth. In reading Othello the mind is not thus distended. It is more bound down to the spectacle of noble beings caught in toils from which there is no escape; while the prominence of the intrigue diminishes the sense of the dependence of the catastrophe on character, and the part played by accident2 in this catastrophe accentuates the feeling of fate. This influence of accident is keenly felt in King Lear only once, and at the very end of the play. In Othello, after the temptation has

   1Even here, however, there is a great difference; for although the idea of such a power is not suggested by King Lear as it is by Hamlet and Macbeth, it is repeatedly expressed by persons in the drama. Of such references there are very few in Othello. But for somewhat frequent allusions to hell and the devil the view of the characters is almost strictly secular. Desdemona's sweetness and forgivingness are not based on religion, and her only way of accounting for her undeserved suffering is by an appeal to Fortune: 'It is my wretched fortune' (IV. ii. 128). In like manner Othello can only appeal to Fate (V. ii. 264):

         but, oh vain boast!
Who can control his fate?

   2Ulrici has good remarks, though he exaggerates, on this point and the element of intrigue.

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