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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 66
CONSTRUCTION

struction in Othello were placed, in the shape of a mere outline, before a playwright ignorant of the actual drama, he would certainly, I believe, feel grave misgivings about the first half of the play.

     There is a second difficulty in the scheme. When the middle of the tragedy is reached, the audience is not what it was at the beginning. It has been attending for some time, and has been through a certain amount of agitation. The extreme tension which now arises may therefore easily tire and displease it, all the more if the matter which produces the tension is very painful, if the catastrophe is not less so, and if the limits of the remainder of the play (not to speak of any other consideration) permit of very little relief. It is one thing to watch the scene of Duncan's assassination at the beginning of the Second Act, and another thing to watch the murder of Desdemona at the beginning of the Fifth. If Shakespeare has wholly avoided this difficulty in Othello, it is by treating the first part of the play in such a manner that the sympathies excited are predominantly pleasant and therefore not exhausting. The scene in the Council Chamber, and the scene of the reunion at Cyprus, give almost unmixed happiness to the audience; however repulsive Iago may be, the humour of his gulling of Roderigo is agreeable; even the scene of Cassio's intoxication is not, on the whole, painful. Hence we come to the great temptation-scene, where the conflict emerges into life (III. iii.), with nerves unshaken and feelings much fresher than those with which we greet the banquet-scene in Macbeth (III. iv.), or the first of the storm-scenes in King Lear (III. i.). The same skill may be observed in Antony and Cleopatra, where, as we saw, the second half of the tragedy is the more exciting. But, again, the success due to Shakespeare's skill does not show that the scheme of construction is free from a characteristic danger;

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