Unformatted text preview: Shakespeare's Othello (1604) Guthrie Theatre 2003, Lester Purry as Othello, Cheyenne Casebeir as Desdemona Summing Up From Last Time: Characteristics of the Elizabethan Theatre Audience "up close" Simple/limited scenery Economy Thrust stage Fast transitions, constant movement (sight lines) Violence and lewdness Theatre for profit Shakespeare as theatre professional Time of political instability and intrigue A Few Big Ideas/Issues Great Chain of Being Hierarchy of creatures, from God to Man to Stones Justification for monarchy and empire Religious turmoil Emerging science and rationality Francis Bacon & the Scientific Method Galileo & cosmology 1579 drawing of the Great Chain of Being - Didacus Valades The Politics of the Play: The Moor of Venice Relationship to outsiders Fascination with and repulsion from the "exotic" Ambivalent attitude toward slavery and empire Conception of the "Moor" Site of the Renaissance Connected with East and West Beautiful and strange (physically and metaphorically) Catholic but progressive, righteous but lascivious Political utopia? The play's main Venitian: Iago Venice: paradoxical utopia Othello (c. 1603, first performed 1604)
What kind of tragedy is this? Do you see structural, thematic, or other similarities to Medea? Othello's Critical Ambiguities Who is Othello, and what is his society's relationship to him? Is this a tragedy of racism? Is Othello a righteous man? What is this world's attitude toward women? Is this a tragedy of misogyny? Why does Iago do what he does? Ways of Understanding Othello Patrick Stewart in the Washington, DC "photonegative Othello," 1997 Structural analysis: the progression of deceit Linguistic/poetic analysis: the failure of reason Cultural analysis: the failure of society Structural Analysis: the Progression of Deceit Act I: Problem established Iago - how to destroy Othello (and Cassio) Othello - how to overcome his disadvantages Iago sets in motion the pattern of deceit Iago tries to convince Othello to believe him The curtain scene The handkerchief Deaths: Roderigo, Desdemona, Emilia, Othello, (Iago) Act II: Plan of attack Act III: Struggle Act IV: Turning point Act V: Outcome Structural Analysis: The Progression of Deceit Multiple smaller deceits: Desdemona and Brabantio Iago and Roderigo Emilia and Desdemona Iago and Emilia Othello and Cassio Gossips and Iago Lawrence Olivier as Othello Structural Analysis: The Progression of Deceit Environment where stories/appearances matter Othello and Desdemona Cassio - reputation Iago and Montano Othello and Montano Act I: The Venetians Act II: Cassio Act III: Desdemona, binding to Iago Act IV: Iago alone Act V: Othello's awful act, his and Emilia's recognition (anagnorisis), replacing Othello with Cassio Gradual stripping away of truthful counselors Linguistic Analysis: The Failure of Reason Playing with blank verse: Moments of rhyme and comedy Loss of control, loss of rhythm Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Kenneth Branagh as Iago, 1995 Iago's control over speech 1000+ lines vs. 800+ Cultural Analysis: The Failure of Society Is Venetian society to blame? Yes: Iago is Venetian Yes: Racism in the play's language No: Tragedy occurs in Cyprus No: 1st act = tragedy averted Does this play reflect flaws in English society? For Next Time:
Read Kent Thompson Question: What does Othello mean to us now, in this society? ...
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