Othello Notes

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  • Topic: Iago, Othello, Laurence Olivier
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  • Published : January 15, 2013
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Othello Notes:

Assessment Objectives:

AO1: A consistently fluent, precise writing, using critical terminology to present a coherent and detailed argument in which the question is well understood and answered.

AO2: Well developed, analytical and consistently detailed discussion of effects of language, form and structure and ways in which it affects the audience.

AO3: Well informed and detailed discussion of different readings of the text by various audiences, as well as different critical approaches.

AO4: Well detailed and consistently developed understanding of the significance of context of the text.

Critical Approaches:

A C Bradley (1904):
Othello’s nature is all of one piece. His trust where he trust is absolute. If such passion as jealous seizes him, it will swell into a well night incontrollable flood.

F R Leavis (1952):
Othello has a propensity to jealousy and possess a weak character.

William Hazlitt (1827):
Iago is an example of the typical stage Machiavel who is an amoral artist who seeks to fashion the world in his own interest.

Kenneth Burke:
Desdemona is the an object of possession, while the possessor is himself possessed by his very engrossment

Thorell Tsomondo:
Othello’s initial introduction to the audience takes place in his absence and in the form of gossip. This gossip may be linked to the third person narrative point of view which creates the character it describes.

Kenneth Tyan:
The minute he suspects, or thinks he has the smallest grounds for suspecting, Desdemona, he wishes to think her guilty.

Judgement on the pay as a whole:

Dr Johnson (1765):
The gradual progress which Iago makes in the Moor’s conviction, and the circumstance which he employs to inflame him, are so artfully natural, that we cannot but pity him when at last we find him perplexed in the extreme.

WIlson Knight (1930):
Othello’s poetry hold a rich music of its own, and possesses a unique solidity and precision of picturesque phrase and serenity of thought.

Poetic metaphor:

Othello is structured around a cultural aporia a miscegenation (interbreeding between different racial types of people). Othello’s poetry holds a rich music all of its own, and possesses a unique solidity and precision of picturesque phrase or image, a serenity (calmness) of thought, which can be clearly distinguished from other Shakespearean plays.

Feminist Interpretation:

“In the Elizabethan and Jacobean culture the link between blackness and the devil, the myth of black sexuality, the problem of black subjection to authority, go against the obedience owed to the father and the God”-George Best-Discourse 1578

“Look at her, Moor, have a quick eye to see: She has deceived her father, may do thee” Fathers had the right to dispose their daughters as they see fit, and disobedience against the fathers law is a descent into hell and blackness the play enacts. “Desdemona’s desire threatens the patriarchal privilege of disposing daughters and in the play world signals sexual duplicity (Deceitfulness) and lust.”

The irony of course is that Othello himself is the instrument of punishment. As Wirithrop Jordan points out the meaning of black including ‘deeply stained, having dark or deadly purposes, involving disastrous death and indicating disgrace and punishment.” The play could serve as a warning to young white women from wealthy families not to run off with foreigners, as the consequence will be deadly.

The emphasis in Othello, on Desdemona’s fairness and purity “that whiter skin of hers than snow and smooth as monumental alabaster”, implies the idealization of female beauty and Petrachainism (unattainable love as seen in Romeo and Juliet) is usually said to point out the contrast between Othello and Desdemona.

For her transgression (going beyond the social norms), her desire of difference, she is punished not only in a loss of status, but even of life. The woman’s desire is punished, and...
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