Bradley vs Leavis, Notes on Othello

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Othello The Bradley view (& Coleridge)

Othello’s description of himself as, “one not easily jealous, but, being wrought, / Perplexed in extreme,” is perfectly just. His tragedy lies in this – that his whole nature was indisposed to jealousy, and yet was such that he was unusually open to deception, and, if once wrought to passion, likely to act with little reflection, with no delay, and in the most decisive manner conceivable. •But up to this point, where Iago is dismissed (III,iii,238) Othello, I must maintain, does not show jealousy. His confidence is shaken, he is confused and deeply troubled, he feels even horror; but he is not yet jealous in the proper sense of the word. •Iago's soliloquy—the motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity—how awful it is! Yea, whilst he is still allowed to bear the divine image, it is too fiendish for his own steady view,—for the lonely gaze of a being next to devil, and only not quite devil,—and yet a character which Shakespeare has attempted and executed, without disgust and without scandal! (S.T.C) •Finally, let me repeat that Othello does not kill Desdemona in jealousy, but in a conviction forced upon him by the almost superhuman art of Iago, such a conviction as any man would and must have entertained who had believed Iago's honesty as Othello did. (S.T.C) •To compare Iago with Satan of Paradise Lost seems almost absurd, so immensely does Shakespeare’s man exceed Milton’s fiend in evil. •The Othello who enters the bed-chamber with the words, “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,” is not the man of the Fourth Act. The deed he is bound to do is not a murder, but a sacrifice. He is to save Desdemona from herself, not in hate but in honour; in honour and in love…there is almost nothing here to diminish the admiration and love which heighten pity. •As he speaks those final words in which all the glory and agony of his life seem to pass before us, like the pictures that flash before the eyes of a drowning man, a...
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