The Properties of Othello

The Properties of Othello

The Properties of Othello

The Properties of Othello

Excerpt

This book examines Othello from the somewhat unlikely standpoint of property -- or rather from the standpoints of property, since the concept is more various than it might seem. Some years ago, for instance, Kenneth Burke argued that in Othello Shakespeare dramatizes love in terms of ownership, and even suggested that he might have been influenced by the enclosure movement when he wrote it. A farfetched notion surely, but like most of Burke's notions one that bears looking into. Certainly the sixteenth century left any playwright interested in property a rich legacy of concepts, if only because in that period England was a nation of radically shifting property lines. It is no accident that the term surveyor, in the sense of one who marks and divides land, came into currency around 1550. During the previous fifteen years, ever since Cromwell began dissolving the great monastic estates around 1535, about one-sixth of all the land of England had been changing hands by sale or lease; and as the century wore on, surveyors were rarely out of work:

From the reign of Henry VIII down to the last days of James I, by far the better part of English landed estate changed owners, and in most cases [this property] went from the old nobility by birth and the clergy into the hands of those who possessed money in the period of the Tudors., i.e. principally the merchants and industrialists or the newly created nobility and gentry. . . .

To some extent, then, England owes to the Reformation and the sale of monastic estates the creation of the concept of land as economic property and hence an important step toward the establishment of the market system. "As late as the fourteenth or fifteenth century," Robert L. Heilbroner observes . . .

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