"I am not what I am" Othello

Topics: Othello, Iago, Semantics Pages: 3 (993 words) Published: February 23, 2014
"I am not what I am." An essay on Othello, question No 4. I will discuss this quote in relation to Lacan's ideas about language as the symbolic order. My aim is to show how Othello finds his identity threatened by Desdemona's reaction to his tales. In order to explain Lacan's ideas very briefly I will quote from Pam Morris: Literature and Feminism, (Blackwell, 1993) where she discusses the resolution of the Oedipal crisis. For Freud the outcome of the child's fear of castration is its submission to the reality principle and hence its entry into the social order. For Lacan this must coincide with the child's entry into the language system.....Language is thus the Law of the father; a linguistic system within which our social and gender identity is always already structured. (p. 104) Othello's identity in the Venetian society is his role as "the Moor". Few people use his real name when talking about him. When speaking the given quote, Othello is telling the Venetians how he won Desdemona's heart by telling her the story of his life, and he now retells it to the Venetians. This tale-telling is a way of employing the linguistic system to reshape for himself a new identity with more positive connotations than "the Moor" can offer. "The Moor" is an expression the Venetians connect to other expressions in the linguistic system which all have a negative value. Examples are such expressions as "old black ram, a Barbary horse, lascivious, and a devil." The negative overtone of these words will reflect back on Othello. He can't change his origins but he can try to change the connotations of "the Moor". He can fill the expression with a new content and thereby give himself an identity he can be more comfortable with. This is what Othello is doing when he is retelling his history. Othello is obviously a good narrator; Desdemona can't get enough of his story. Expressions like "seriously incline", "with haste" and "greedy ear" show Desdemona's eagerness for his storytelling....
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