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«Ice-Brook sword» [weapon:sword] [Shakespeare]

sword of Spaine, the Isebrookes temper [1622 quarto edition],
Sword of Spaine, the Ice brookes temper [1623 folio edition]*1
"a sword of Spain, the ice-brook's temper" (Othello, V, ii) which is the back-up weapon of Othello (moorish general of Venice), after Montano wrested away his other sword.

    The usual explanation is that it is a sword quenched in the water of an icy cold brook when it was tempered.

§ Explanatory theories regarding "Ice Brook"

Brewer's Readers Handbook cleverly explains the supposed Spanish brook to be "the brook Salo" [the present day río Jalón, tributary of the Ebro], quoting as authority the Roman author Martial*2 [Marcus Valerius Martialis, AD 40-104] who was a native of Bilbilis [Roman colony near Calatayud] where the river flowed. However this is a bit of a stretch, since Othello is set in the late 16th century, when Venice was warring with Turkey.

• A contrary explanation is given by Ffoulkes, who notes that in the earlier quarto printing (1622) the word is spelt "Isebrooke," which he maintains is as an anglicization of "Innsbruck,"*3 a place famed for quality steel. As he goes on to explain, it was a common practice to have maker's marks indicating faux origins, so swords tempered in Austria could well be sold as Spanish swords.

— image: EEBO (STC 22305)
Title page of the Tragœdy of Othello, the 1622 edition.

Line that mentions "Isebrooke"in Othello p. 96 of the 1622 edition (99pp. total).
— image, EEBO

§ Plotline of the End of the Play

All of this unravels after Othello wrongfully stifles his wife Desdemona to death, having been tricked by Iago into thinking that she was unfaithfully conducting an affair (with Cassio). Iago's wife Emilia who is griefstricken by the death of her mistress speaks out on behalf Desdemona's innocence and divulges Iago's villanous machinations. The enraged moor then strikes out at Emilia, but his (first) sword is is taken away by Montano and Gratiano who subdue him rather than have him commit the horror of cutting down a woman. But Iago kills his own wife to silence her.

Othello, producing the (second) sword (of Spain) from his chamber, manages to give Iago a bloody wound, but not fatally. Subsequently the guilt-tormented moor stabs himself with the sword and dies.



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