In Shakespeare's Othello 3.1.26, the Clown answers Cassio:

She is stirring, sir; if she will stir hither, I shall seem to notify unto her.

where the verb "seem" makes me confused.

The common usage "To be suitable to" (OED IV.I) or "To have a semblance or appearance" (OED IV.II) may not befit the text here.

The New Cambridge Shakespeare (Edited by Norman Sanders) gives an interpretation as "to arrange", citing A Midsummer Night's Dream 3.1.17

let the prologue seem to say.

But this usage is so rare that even OED does not record it.

So if Sanders is right, I may need some more quotations to support the explanation.

2 Answers 2


In addition to the examples from Othello and A Midsummer Night's Dream cited in the question, there is at least one other example of this usage of "seem" in Shakespeare's plays. In The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, scene 4, La(u)ncelot Gobbo also uses it:

An it shall please you to break up
this, it shall seem to signify.

Lancelot Gobbo's role is a clown's, just like the "Clown" in Othello, Act 3, scene 1, and he likes to use affected speech. His use of "seem" is an example of this (see The Merchant of Venice, edited by Jay L. Halio. The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, 1993).

(For what it's worth, M. R. Ridley's edition of Othello for the Arden Shakespeare (Routledge, 1958, 1993) also cites Bottom's words "let the prologue seem to say" from A Midsummer Night's Dream as the other example of this usage.)

  • Thank you, in my translation I will follow Sanders' interpretation and make an annotation in which I will explain the usual usage.
    – J. Wu
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 9:48

The usual interpretation of this line is that “seem” is used in the sense:

seem, v. 9b. To think fit. Obsolete.

Oxford English Dictionary.

See for example the Bantam edition, edited by David Bevington, p. 55, or the Everyman edition, edited by John F, Andrews, p. 118. Among the OED’s citations for this sense is:

Subtle. Beneath your threshold, bury me a load-stone
To draw in gallants, that weare spurres: The rest,
They'll seeme to follow.

Ben Jonson (1616). The Alchemist I.3. In The Works of Benjamin Jondon, p. 616. London: Will Stansby.

  • 2
    I assume this relates to the adjective seemly (and opposite unseemly) which are still in use.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 21:11

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