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-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 435

mind expressed by the words they have to repeat. But many readers never think of asking such a question.

     The lines which probably do most to lead hasty or unimaginative readers astray are those at 90, where, on Desdemona's departure, Othello exclaims to himself:

Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.

He is supposed to mean by the last words that his love is now suspended by suspicion, whereas in fact, in his bliss, he has so totally forgotten Iago's 'Ha! I like not that,' that the tempter has to begin all over again. The meaning is, 'If ever I love thee not, Chaos will have come again.' The feeling of insecurity is due to the excess of joy, as in the wonderful words after he rejoins Desdemona at Cyprus (II. i. 191):

              If it were now to die,
'Twere now to be most happy: for, I fear
My soul hath her content so absolute
That not another comfort like to this
Succeeds in unknown fate.

If any reader boggles at the use of the present in 'Chaos is come again,' let him observe 'succeeds' in the lines just quoted, or let him look at the parallel passage in Venus and Adonis, 1019:

For, he being dead, with him is beauty slain;
And, beauty dead, black Chaos comes again.

Venus does not know that Adonis is dead when she speaks thus.




     (1) The first part of the scene is hard to understand, and the commentators give little help. I take the idea to be as follows. Iago sees that he must renew his attack on Othello; for, on the one hand, Othello, in spite of the resolution he had arrived at to put Desdemona to death, has taken the step, without consulting Iago, of testing her in the matter of Iago's

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