The ear in Othello and Hamlet

The ear in Othello and Hamlet - Conor Cook December 13,...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Conor Cook December 13, 2007 ENGL 210 – Schwarz Carrier of Corruption: The Ear in Othello and Hamlet The spoken word is the vehicle by which Shakespeare’s dramatic worlds are able to exist. It is not enough for audiences to merely watch the action being played out on stage. Rather, the effectiveness of Shakespeare’s plays relies on the audience’s ability to hear and act, by imagination, on the words provided by the playwright in order to create theatrical illusions. The Prologue of Henry V explicitly points this out by asking the audience to: Think when we talk of horses, that you see them Printing their proud hoofs I’ th’ receiving earth: For tis your thoughts that now must deck out kings, Carry Them here and there, jumping o’er times, Turning th’ accomplishment of many hears Into an hourglass (Prologue, 26-31) Given hearing’s paramount importance to the functionality of his work, Shakespeare cleverly implores the act of hearing and its physical agent, the ear, as a motif in many of his plays. Renaissance psychology declared hearing the “least fallen of the senses, and the most reliable” because, unlike sight, hearing was supposedly less likely to be seduced by the vanity of the world (Wall 359). In typical fashion, Shakespeare upends this view by depicting the ear as the original source of radiating corruption that creates the harmful effects of too little or too much knowledge. Othello and Hamlet are particularly obsessed with the layered image of “the ear,” which serves to drive the plots and carry many of the metaphors of both tragedies. As John Hunt observes, “The physical undoing [by the ear]
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
accounts ultimately—in terms of both structures of imagery and those of plot—for the physical, psychological, moral, and political undoing suffered by the play’s living characters” (Hunt 32). In both Hamlet and Othello, the ear is the gateway to the endemics that fuel the initial conflicts . This is quite literal in the case of Hamlet’s father, whose ghost informs the Prince that his uncle Claudius poisoned him through his ear while he lay sleeping in his orchard: And in the porches of my ears did [Claudius] pour The leprous distilment, whose effect Holds such an enmity with blood of man That swift as quicksilver it courses through The natural gates and alleys of the body (I.v.64-68) In this passage, the annihilation of the king’s body is compared to a collapsing city that has let in an unwelcome enemy. The ears are seen as “porches” (63), “gates” (67), and “alleys” (67), weak points that allow the illusive poison to adulterate the body as a whole. Similarly, it is through Othello’s ear that Iago infects the rest of his mind, ultimately leading to Othello’s death. Iago reveals to the audience that he will enact an intricate plan through a verbal medium in order to “get [Othello’s] place, and to plume up will / in double knavery” (I.iii.387-389). While Iago’s poisoning of Othello’s mind is not
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/24/2008 for the course ENGL 210 taught by Professor Lambbakerschwartzgirgus during the Spring '08 term at Vanderbilt.

Page1 / 11

The ear in Othello and Hamlet - Conor Cook December 13,...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online