Othello: A Guide to the Play

By Joan Lord Hall | Go to book overview

often teasingly withholds information, as about the consummation of the marriage. The marriage bed, hinted at but (by implication) "too hideous to be shown," is fully revealed only in the final scene, which includes the warped eroticism of Othello's kissing Desdemona as a prelude to the consummation of killing her. 54 Samuel Johnson found the murder scene so distressing as "not to be endured." 55 What is most disturbing, thinks Neill, is the way that Othello trades on and then satisfies (through the deaths of Desdemona and Othello) the perverse, often racially charged curiosities of the audience. 56 If the play does, by its very dramatic strategies, pander to and even cultivate these monsters of the mind, then it subtly reinforces one of the main dramatic themes. Since none of us is immune to evil suggestions from others (the Iago influence), to fascination with the forbidden, or to destructive jealousy, the real enemy lies within: a predisposition, through our innate sexual, emotional, and psychological makeup, to nurture our own monsters and demons.


NOTES
1
See Derek A. Traversi, An Approach to Shakespeare ( 1938; London: Sands and Co., 1957), p. 127.
2
Pointed out by Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare ( Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 459.
3
Harley Granville Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1947), vol. 2, p. 118. See also Paul A. Cantor, "Othello: The Erring Barbarian among the Supersubtle Venetians", SWR, 75 (Summer 1990): 296-319.
4
David Lucking, "Putting Out the Light: Semantic Indeterminacy and the Deconstitution of Self in Othello", ES, 75.2 ( 1994): 110-122, quote at 113.
5
Edward Berry, "Othello's Alienation", SEL, 30 ( 1990): 315-333, quote at 323.
6
Arthur Sewell, Character and Society in Shakespeare ( 1951; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), thinks that part of the tragedy lies in "the reduction of the large spirit of Othello to the petty dimensions" of Venetian society (p. 92). Nick Potter, "Othello", in Graham Holderness, Nick Potter, and John Turner, Shakespeare: The Play of History ( Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1987), also finds that pragmatic, commercial Venice is "a world in which there is no place for the high Romance values towards which Othello aspires" (p. 202).
7
Quoted by David C. McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice ( Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990), p. 73.
8
Jack D'Amico, The Moor in English Renaissance Drama ( Tampa: University of South Florida Press, 1991), p. 164. James L. Calderwood, The Properties of Othello ( Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989), also finds that "when Venetian property rights are threatened, the borders between civilized Christians and barbaric ex-infidels are all too readily erased" (p. 8).
9
Anthony Hecht, "Othello", in Obbligati: Essays in Criticism ( New York: Atheneum, 1986), discusses the possibility that Othello may have converted to Christianity under duress, as "a Morisco, or New Christian, a breed regarded without much trust in the Christian community at that time" (p. 63).
10
In Alvin Kernan (ed.), Othello, The Signet Classic Shakespeare ( New York: Penguin Books, 1986; 1998), pp. 135, 145.
11
Allan Bloom, "Cosmopolitan Man and the Political Community", in Shakespeare's Politics ( New York and London: Basic Books, 1964), comments on how Othello, relying on his

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Othello: A Guide to the Play
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes x
  • Journal Abbreviations xi
  • 1 - Textual History 1
  • Notes 8
  • 2 - Contexts and Sources 11
  • Notes 22
  • 3 - Dramatic Structure 29
  • Notes 57
  • 4 - The Major Characters 63
  • Notes 94
  • 5 - Themes 103
  • Notes 116
  • 6 - Critical Approaches 121
  • Notes 142
  • 7 - The Play in Performance 151
  • Notes 200
  • Bibliographical Essay 209
  • Index 217
  • About the Author *
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