• Othello

• transition from AYLI (or Twelfth Night)

• next stage in life cycle--soldier's farewell to arms; casque to cushion; difficulty of adjusting to world of politics--cf. HIV to HV; adulthood, mature marriage, the justice; Othello's trials--prosperity and complacency, midlife crisis; established identity broken down; issues of place and preferment,"place" and "suit" ; public and private; reputation and intimacy

• Shakespeare's biographical pattern:

from history and comedy to tragedy and satire--perhaps crisis in Sh's own life

from Elizabethan to Jacobean: heroic, chivalric, erotic monarch to absolutist, schoolmasterish, Divine Right prince of peace monarch; James' lack of charisma--aristocracy undermined.

subversion and misrule no longer a means to establsihing order and authority; contest no longer positive, but undermining and sinister; more monolithic outlook; different strategy for idealizing power

• consideration of similar themes and characters; the dark side

gender, marriage, love, adultery

III, iii, 266 Curse of marriage/ That we can call these delicate creatures ours/ And not their appetites

They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;

They eat us hungerly, and when they are full

They belch us. (III,iv, 103)

three abused women

power, influence, responsibility

manipulation, illusion, inference, epistemology

trend from RJ onward....cf. final exam question idea

stage playing; disguise; manipulation; imagination

Rosalind and Iago

• Compare to structures of earlier plays

compact and tight; no double plots or apparent digression; like RJ; fate moves with dispatch; a well made play; vice grip closing on characters and us

play of character and psychology; analytical-- hidden motives and fears; eruption of darkness from the self and society

use of "second world" as Cyprus--world of night, chaos and evil; not as transition to positive new condition

introduction of sin and true evil

 

• I : Accusation, Arrest, Trial and Acquittal

• i. Venice street: Roderigo and Iago--gulling Roderigo; frightening Brabantio;

Iago chosen over Cassio; source of resentment

contempt for Cassio, the arithmetician, theoretician

contempt for Othello--his Moorship; thick-lips

opening issues of preferment and suit (cf. AYLI)

preferment by affection and not old gradation--(Cain)

his suit and that of his three supporters rejected by O.

the senators and "State" may hate but need Othello; he has power (142)

Iago forwarding R's suit

Iago is self-seeking rather than stupidly loyal, obedient and honest (63)

self definition: I am not what I am; were I the Moor I would not be Iago

relation to Roderigo: telling truth in order to deceive Roderigo

holding purse strings and forwarding his suit to D. which Brabantio has rejected

Poison Brabantio's delight; malicious methods; play on fears and vulnerabilities; invoking panic and chaos (72); gross language (114); dark setting

B. invokes his influence as senator repeatedly; will reward R.

Fear and hatred of Moor as sexual partner; B's dreams; suspicions of his daughter's betrayal of him--notion of miscegenation [bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be]

B's dislocated speech; Inference of magic device of seduction--[O's rhetoric]; [extended ii, 61 ff.--probable and palpable to thinking] complains about the impossibility of knowing her intention; anxiety about betrayal.

Parallel between B. now and Othello later; Brabantio appeals to Senate and accepts social verdict

• ii. Street , Othello, Brabantio, Iago: O. confesses to B. about elopement

Iago tries to scare Othello about B., painting himself as secret ally

incapable of murder

Othello brags of influence and clear conscience

Private/public confusion [of audience expectation]:(32) not B. but summons from Duke for service; then B. arrives; Othello's control and magnanimity(60) and convergence in council

• iii. Council Chamber; the "trial" of O and D; their pleadings; Iago's plottings [contrast to O's "trial" in V, ii]

confusion of reports from Turks; difficulty of inference(16-20); confusion of reports about marriage.

truth properly determined through investigation of conflicting reports; B's false inference rejected --"no proof" (108)

Othello's defense

simple soldier no eloquence

let Desdemona speak as testimony

telling stories about his life to father; tells story of his courtship now

exoticism of anthropophagi-cannibals--Desdemona devours with greedy ear

he beguiled her pity; she beguiled him; mutual love, but suspect (165)

The trial ends; Brabantio's concession, but not content: "Words are words" (210)

O gladly accepts commission to Cyprus, bending to state

Desdemona assertively demands to join him; O. insists he's not prone to lust

Iago and R.: Roderigo pines; Iago advises him to be self-seeking; and to exercise his will, not be passive; exert reason over passion (325); put money in thy purse rather than drown;

be cynical; if willing to give up all, you're free. [understanding where R. is at] Comforting cynicism: if there's no hope, you're free to do anything; nothing left to lose; encourages him; cheers him up, and gets him to sell his land [like Othello, gets him to destroy himself for Iago's sake]

• II: storm, joy, hangover

• i : Cyprus--Storm; Arrivals; Iago and Roderigo

Storm; Turks lost; Cassio arrives (theoretric gent); wordplay of I. and D.--misogyny

O's arrival; his expression of utter bliss and content at end of storm in being in D's arms; now he could die happy; she wants more; great kiss--(they haven't yet consummated). Grand climax of joy--verweile doch

[comic transition] Iago convinces R. D loves Cassio right after this; reinterpreting data for him; with rerun of the aria on this is the highest moment, i.e. now she'll tire of him

• ii. Proclamation of Joy and nuptials--partying--Irony

• iii. Trapping Cassio with drink

C. warned about restraint by O, who's still waiting to consummate

C. cant hold liquor [devilish weakness]; Iago getting everybody drunk; and drunk himself on possibility, but not certainty of his plot; Iago's drinking song; effectiveness as tempter; Cassio trying not to be drunk but lording his rank; brawl provoked by Iago

Othello interrupted in his rites by Cassio's brawl; Iago using language of "bride and groom divesting themselves for bed." to describe friendship turned to brawl. (179); getting very slowly angry; Cassio demoted (comic still)

Cassio's grief at losing reputation; Iago's speech devaluing reputation; advises C. to sue with D. for O's preferment

• Class 2--quiz; discussion of characters and specific passages and moments

• Characters/ Language

Iago

Intelligence and insight into psychology: "knows all qualities with a learned spirit/Of human dealings" (III, iii, 258-9)

his method: to ensnare a victim in trouble and then appear as their aide: Brabantio, Roderigo, Cassio, Othello; "match half truths to latent fears" (Heilman); reductionism of human values

"spiritual have-not"--satanic vacuum; compulsive thief

I, iii, 375: improvisatory scheme worked out as hatched scheme; engendered; plays on Moor's free and open nature who can't believe deceit in another; cant possibly believe rumor suspicion of Moor between his sheets, but it will do as pretext, reason, cause; aslo suspects Cassio--half-heartedly (II, i, 305)

his growing prominence at end of I

mysogyny in banter II,i, ll00)

addresses audience or self with delight in his plan; improvisation: out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all (II,iii,379-388)

the ultimate backbiter or gossip; with Ludovico re: Othello, with Othello re: Des. , etc.

Othello

Confidence and pride

Insecurity: (III,iii, 262) I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation...am declined into the vale of years

his speech on loss of reputation, but worse, loss of place he has garnered up his heart--the fountain from which my current runs or else dries up (IV,i, 55)

Desdemona

A child to chiding (IV,ii, 110) Can't say whore (160)

Emilia

makes correct inference--partly correct; assumes that someone was responsible for Iago's jealousy like whoever is now doing this to Othello

is totally cynical about men --belch line; opposite to Des.

• III: seduction--Class 3

• i: Cassio, Clown, Emilia, Iago, Musicians

Cassio tries to please O. with music, hears Othello is not angry with him; pushes for Desdemona to push his suit anyway.

• ii: Othello on battlements (?)

• iii: The Citadel-- D. C. E. I. O--the big seduction of Othello scene: Handkerchief--[subtopics are beats] [innumerable exits and entrances]

Cassio worried and greedy about his "place"--even if Othello is distantly friendly; D. assures him she'll help; total devotion to the cause

As O and I enter, Cassio uneasily leaves; I. creates first suspicion: "Ha, I like not that. (84)"--acts as if it slipped out and tries to retract; then creates impression--"steal away so guilty-like"

D's suit: don't put him off; he courted me with you and when I spoke of you dispraisingly he defended you (70); sexual undertone in: "What would you ask me that I should deny so" ; she's being sexually playful and projects a more pleading suit (83)

Othello is cold to her--compare last meeting in II,i--confirming Iago's idea of love cooling?--oscillates to love, when she's gone

Iago hangs out little signals--echoing--drawing O's curiousity and false inferences; discussion of being and seeming; presence of evil thoughts hidden away; stimulating fears and questions, anxieties and insecurities: --uncleanly apprehensions in pure breasts--cf. Othello's insecurity about sex and his own intentions; then again asks O to take no notice, actually asking him to take notice. Diverts him with high-minded praise of reputation (opposite of line to C.) Makes him writhe with curiousity

Beware of jealousy; a green-eyed MONSTER--then introduces prospect of cuckhold who doesn't know he's being cuckholded--generalizations and proverbs; makes the prospect of knowing look better than just suspecting; moves Othello another step forward. "O misery"-- then oscillates to resisting jealousy; Othello wont make inference

Iago pulls in as he resists (cf. Rosalind and Orlando): Now I can be more frank--suspect and observe her; Venetians in general are adulterous; but makes no direct accusation. She deceived her father; appearances can't be trusted [undermining O's reality] observing it and commenting on O's disturbance--I do see Y'are moved. Playing on O's broken reference to unnaturalness of adultery, Iago says she's probably regretting marrying a moor; it would be "natural"

255--Iago leaves at Othello's request, and comes back;[expressive of giving and receding with information, serpentine gesture--Milton's Satan]

Othello's soliloquy: He'll let her free/ He doubts himself/ His pain turns to rage against all women and the curse we're born with

from specific instance to generalization; the opposite course of Iago's procedure

D. and E enter; O. has headache; she tries to heal him with handkerchief; he pushes it away; it falls--climactic moment's signification: her love, his refusal--Emilia picks it up; steals to please her husband

Iago's reentrance; Emilia tries to get attention and affection with handkerchief; he grabs it; she leaves; he soliloquizes "Dangerous conceits"

Another entrance for O: He's on rack now, imagining her with Cassio; wishing he knew not; poisoned imagination envisions her screwing the whole army while saying he wished he didn't know it. Makes melodramatic farewell to arms

Oscillates to absolute demand for proof from Iago (356); more imagery of torture (385) cf. Lear; Iago proceeds to make the torture worse: would you behold her topped? (395) Death and Damnation O; evidence provided of Iago's recollection of Cassio's dream...enough to "tear her all to pieces" --more torture.

I'll have some proof (III, iii, 383)--but false test; illusionary magic; asks for more reasons (406) for circumstantial evidence--Iago's report of Cassio's dream (some evidence! but enough for Othello (420), since the language is so evocative)...I'll tear her all to pieces; next piece of evidence (Iago building case)--handkerchief wiping C's beard; O expunges love and invokes hate from hell; pact with devil; demonism; satanic. Iago rouses him further with false restraint.; Satanic vow, pact with devil; kneeling with Iago--"I greet thy love"..."I am your own forever."

• iv: D.E. O. I. C. The Street--Intrigue deepens

D. wont believe O. could be jealous; O. abuses her as whore without her comprehension; tests her for handkerchief and tells BS story about its magic; she speaks of Cassio, he of handkerchief; communication broken;

E. D. converse ; D. mistakenly infers O. is worried about State; discussion of jealousy--causeless; a monster begot and born on itself

• IV:

• i: Othello losing it in public; recalled and strikes Des.

Iago working Othello further into distraction, harping on handkerchief and images of D. and C. in bed; Othello losing it; goes into epileptic trance; Cassio comes in and leaves after suggesting head massage; Othello decides to murder

Des. and Ludovico , rep. of Duke; O. gets orders to return; strikes Des.--confusion of private and public reversal; strikes Des. in public; Ludovico shocked, then invited to dinner; wrenching of behavior patterns; Iago gossips about him to Ludovico

• ii: Desdem. and Emilia

O.refusing to believe Emilia's evidence abusing Des., physically and verbally; she infers his distraction is about recall; his speech on loss of reputation, but worse, loss of place he has garnered up his heart--the fountain from which my current runs or else dries up (IV,i, 55); accuses her of whoredom; Desdemona distracted and playing victim--lay wedding sheets on bed; Emilia infers a plot correctly: slave to get some office IV, ii, 130

Iago and Roderigo : I. diverts him from his jewels in plot to kill Cassio

• iii: The citadel--D's bedroom; tenderness and intimacy

O. obsequious to Lud. and harsh to D.

Desdemona's passivity and obedience and innocence--is it saintly? Willow Song associated with mothers maid and love/death; unpinning; admiration of Ludovico; discussion of men and women; can't imagine there are women who are adulterous; opposite view to Iago's that all women are whores.

debate about whether to commit adultery for the whole world; Emilia puts it in proportion; D. says absolutely no; Emilia says women cheat on men because men cheat on women; rejects the double standard--why is this discussion here?

a peaceful interlude; relationship of intimacy; full of trust; no preferment or jealousy, but women--the Barbary maid and Desdemona's mother as well--communing in the shadow of male domination

• V:

• i. Iago and Rod. attack Cassio; Othello smells blood and gets fiercer; action all moving from mental plotting to physical action; I. exits and returns bearing light; kills Roderiog; taking sheer delight in his betrayals and manipulations; shifts blame to Bianca as soon as she shows up; no more plotting all spontaneous action; high risk; he sends Emilia to Othello, not aware that O. is raging

• ii. D's chamber--the final setting in bed; parallel bloody scene; she invites him to bed; she must die; she'll betray more men; righteousness at end, fallacious

• Emilias' debate with O. "My husband" three times--Emilia attacks the two men; she has tremendous sense of sexual solidarity; is utterly courageous in standing up to his sword; Iago tries to silence Emilia: I will not charm my tongue; I am bound to speak" V, ii, 182; her anger, clarity and strength; refusal to obey husband, while Othello falls on bed.

• Iago tries to slience her again; and then kills his wife; another bad husband killing good wife

• Othello left totally wimped out: I am not valiant, but every puny whipster gets my sword; realizes, repents and goes to hell; tries unsuccessfully to kill Iago; disclaims responsiblity--an honorable murder(!)

• Lodovico plans long torture of Iago (330); Othello justifies self with maligning jews, invoking memory of killing Turk as circumcizsed dog, at the same time killing himself and falling with a kiss on Desdemona; his gestures all failures--"bloody priod" --kissing and killing

• triple emphasis on torture of Iago and expropriation of O's property ends play

• Themes--Class 4

• Ask students to read Kernan essay and ask if they agree on the characterization of Desdemona and Iago; what about the racism of final ending; is the evil in the Turk; is the good in Desdemona; what about Emilia; who is the hero of the play? What is the truth? The Cause, the Cause? What if Rosalind were in Iago's role?

• Inference--check out if this has been done; if not its a coup article: Dangerous conceits: the rules of evidence and reported dreams; historical research into the law of the period. Altman's article in Representations, first...a possible collaboration with Jan.

• Act I with Brabantio and court

• II, i, 235--a most pregnant and unforced position--convincing R. not to believe his senses and accept I's interpretation; 263--the incorporate conclusion; creating the probability 286

• III,iii, 120: O's inferences from Iago's signals; refusing to make inference without proof III,iii, 185--logical disjunction: love or jealousy

• Iago's sermon on inference III, iii, 319: Trifles light as air (handkerchief--piece of court evidence; contrast to Venetian court on evidence)/ Are to the jealous confirmations strong/ As proofs of Holy Writ...Dangerous conceits...at the first are scarce found to distate, but with a little act upon the blood/ Burn like the mines of sulfur (demonic imagery)

• I'll have some proof (III, iii, 383)--but false test; illusionary magic; asks for more reasons (406) for circumstantial evidence--Iago's report of Cassio's dream (some evidence! but enough for Othello (420), since the language is so evocative)...I'll tear her all to pieces; next piece of evidence (Iago building case)--handkerchief wiping C's beard; proof is adequate to sway O. to pact with devil

• D's false inference that O's disturbance is an affair of state--I had suborned the witness, /and he's indicted falsely (III, iv, 153)

• Bianca's jealous inference about Cassio III, iv, 183; also about handkerchief IV, i, 155-railing in street

• IV, i, 68 Preferable to be certain about bad news than in doubt or deluded

• O. will make wrong inference about Cassio's gestures IV, i, 104 while Cassio laughs at Bianca's false inferences about his marrying her

• Emilia's correct inference: a plot : slave to get some office IV, ii, 130 ff

• V,ii, 1: O: It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul....it is the cause

• Racism--psychological and political and cultural and sexual; the Turk and the Moor as "others"; also the female and sexuality as "other"; alien

• anthropophagi stories (I, iii, 144)

• Are we turned Turks (II, iii, 168)

• Fear and hatred of Moor as sexual partner; B's dreams; suspicions of his daughter's betrayal of him--notion of miscegenation [bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be] (I,i) Cassio's reputed dream in III,iii, 420

• (III,iii, 262) I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation..

• III, iii, 230: I to O: she's probably regretting her unnatural marriage

• V,ii, 154 Emilia: she was too fond of her most filthy bargain

• Preferment and power

• Lots of business in Act I

• Cassio's suit with D. ; III,iii,18 --C's worry over his place

• Iago's song about King Stephen and the tailor III, i

• ,Cassio's rank in II, iii, 110;

• she's being sexually playful and projects a more pleading suit (III,iii,83)

• O: I kiss the instrument of their pleasures (!); fawning on Ludovico IV,i, 220; Cassio having O's place in Cyprus and in bed

• Sexuality-

• Cassio's dream: plucked up kisses by the roots/ that grew upon my lips

• B: To fall in love with what she feared to look on (I,iii, 98); and love--

• a mutual deception of sorts; D's aggressiveness with kisses of pity; O's consciousn playing on her; their playing on one another. (I,iii,165)

• O. protests his freedom from lust and foggy-headedness (I, iii, 270)

• Iago: Love as a sect or scion of lust (I,iii, 326); when blood is made dull with the act of sport...(II,i,255)

• Cassio:[ O's] love's quick pants in D's arms/Give renewed fire to our extincted spirits (II, i, 81)

• his speech on loss of reputation, but worse, loss of place he has garnered up his heart--the fountain from which my current runs or else dries up (IV,i, 55)

• III, iii, 137--presence of evil thoughts hidden away; stimulating fears and questions, anxieties and insecurities: --uncleanly apprehensions in pure breasts--cf. Othello's insecurity about sex and his own intentions

• Cassio and Bianca--the strumpet's plague to beguile many and be beguiled by one; Cassio laughs about her; tricks her and cruelly laughs at her (IV, i, 130)

• Liebestod; necrophilia, sadism V,ii Othello and sleeping Desdemona; the woman in desired position; passive and dead--cruel tears; (mention opera); kill thee and love thee after--cf. pact with devil; death's unnatural that kills for loving; demands confession; she casts doubt on Othello's scenario, but he wont listen; not give her half an hour, he's totally committed now to killing her

• Emilia at door; makes sure she's dead and rationalizes--cruel am yet merciful; Desdemona protects him; he wont accept it--again--

• sexual politics; gender roles-

• she wished that heaven had made her such a man

• divided duty (I, iii, 179)

• mysogynistic banter with Iago (II,i 135)

D. wants to hear praise of good woman from I; he does so and ends with contempt: a good woman suckles fools and chronicles small beer

• the strumpet's plague to beguile many and be beguiled by one; her fury with Cassio re handkerchief--jealousy about sharing the corner

• Emilia's subjection to husband and final rejection

What will he do with it/ Heaven knows, not I; I nothing but to please his fantasy. (III,iii, 298)

They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;

They eat us hungerly, and when they are full

They belch us. (III,iv, 103)

• Male fear of women's power to hurt their vulnerability leads to violence against women (Sprengnether 251)

• O: a horned man's a monster and a beast (IV, i, 64)

• murderous hatred of prostitutes--Jack the Ripper (IV,ii,90); along with idealization of woman

• debate about whether to commit adultery for the whole world; Emilia puts it in proportion; D. says absolutely no; Emilia says women cheat on men because men cheat on women; rejects the double standard IV,iii 100

• Guilt--O confesses the vices in his blood; C. sees devil in wine II,iii,280; transform self to beast; despises himself

• III,iii--Othello, guardedly knows his jealousy may stem from his own weak merits

• Tempting, Test, Trial, Judgment

• Evil and cruelty

• Iago's motiveless malignancy: jealous souls are not ever jealous for the cause/but jealous for they're jealous. It is a monster/Begot upon itself born on itself. (Emilia) III, iv, 160

• Othello's solace in torment--sadistic thoughts: tear her to pieces; "O, I see that nose of yours, but not that dog I shall throw it to." (IV,i, 143); Nine years a-killing(180)

• Interrelationship of these themes

• Symbols

• The Saggitary--half man/half goat; monsters (IV, i, 64)/ jealousy as monster

• Be a toad and live upon a vapor of a dungeon/ than keep a corner in the thing I love/ For others' uses. (III,iii, 275)

• Headache; Desdemona's handkerchief (III, iii): Cassio suggests head rub--healing efforts

• Thue handkerchief: light and airy thing; passed from person to person and besmirched; Othello placing more and more value upon it, after throwing it away--pearl of great price she places on his forehead--Emilia's bosom, Cassio's beard, Bianca' s possession, then thrwon in street.