Othello An Introduction Othello A Shakespearean Tragedy l
- Slides: 18
“Othello” An Introduction
“Othello” – A Shakespearean Tragedy l l “Othello” is a Shakespearean Tragedy It encompasses elements of tragedies such as: It ends with the death of numerous characters including the title character l It encompasses historical and military details l The protagonist is admirable, but flawed, with the audience able to understand sympathise with the character. l The protagonist is capable of both good and evil l Free will is insisted upon – the protagonist must always be able to back out of a situation or to redeem themselves – but always towards their inevitable doom. l
The world’s greatest… l l By the time he’d written “Othello” (around 1604) Shakespeare was considered the greatest playwright of his day. Many feel that Shakespeare's later plays show a darker, more pessimistic view of the world than his early plays. Under James I (his rule is referred to as the Jacobean period), England lost some of its power and prosperity. Too, conflicts between Catholics and Protestants led to civil strife. Shakespeare's earlier plays reflected Elizabeth's golden reign. By 1604, when Othello was first produced, the headiness of the Elizabethan period was recent history. This is reflected in the fact that, unlike his other tragedies, there is no resolution to the conflict caused at the end of the play.
The Plot The plot for Othello was developed from a story in Cinthio's collection, the Hecatommithi, which it follows closely. The only named character in Cinthio's story is "Disdemona", which means "unfortunate" in Greek; the other characters are identified only as "the standardbearer", "the captain", and "the Moor". The first known performance of the play occurred on November 1 st 1604 at Whitehall Palace in London.
Othello – a moor Othello is described in the play as a moor, and a general in the Venetian Army. The origin of the word “moor” comes from the word “mauri” which was used to describe a group of people called the Berbers, who came from North Africa.
What does it mean to be Moorish? Moors were characterised in Elizabethan England as being alternately or simultaneously noble or monstrous, civil or savage. l It was often the case (in literature) that a moor was presented as someone accepted by society to a certain point, but then rejected due to other factors. l
Iago is one of Shakespeare’s most sinister villains, often considered so because of the unique trust Othello puts in him, which he betrays while maintaining his reputation of honesty and dedication. l Shakespeare contrasts Iago with Othello’s nobility and integrity. l Iago is a malcontent – he has a bitter and cyncial view of the world around him. l The name Iago is a shortened version of the Spanish name “Santiago” or “St James”. l Saint James of Spain was also known as “St James the Moor Killer” which seems appropriate within the play. l
Winning a fair lady… Men were expected to go through distinct stages of courtly love in order to woo a woman. l It was thought that love wasn’t entirely platonic, but that it was based on sexual attraction. l As the etiquette of courtly love became more complicated, the knight might wear the colours of his lady: blue or black were the colors of faithfulness; green was a sign of unfaithfulness. l The stages of courtly love: l Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance l Worship of the lady from afar l Declaration of passionate devotion l Virtuous rejection by the lady l Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty l Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness) l Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady's heart l Consummation of the secret love l Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection
The Wife’s Status The husband, in the accepted role as head of the household, gives moral direction to his wife and children--who sit obediently listening. l “Ye women, submit your selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the wife's head, even as Christ is the head of the Church, and he is the saviour of the whole body. Therefore as the Church in congregation is subject unto Christ: so likewise let the wives be in subjection unto their own husbands in all things” (“The Book of Common Prayer”) l A typical wife receiving her instruction
Evil Women! In the Elizabethan times there was a long and well established tradition in the Church of what we would now call misogyny – women were distrusted simply because they were women. At the time it was assumed that women would cheat – it was part of their nature! The men in “Othello” have differing views of women – from Othello who idolizes his wife (Desdemona) to Iago who sees love as "merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will“. The attitudes of the audience at the time are likely to have been varied too.
The Cuckold Any man whose wife It was highly undesirable to cheated on him (without his be considered a cuckold. knowledge) was known as a All of the community would cuckold. find out about it and it The word derives from was considered a public “cuckoo” – the bird known humiliation. for laying their eggs in Cuckolds were often another’s nest. described as having horns – a hangover from the days when a cuckold was forced to parade around his town wearing antlers as a sign of his wife’s infidelity.
Jealousy was viewed as something irrational and linked to the deadly sin of envy. l It was viewed as a sudden infection against which there was no prevention or cure. l It was thought of as eroding trust and it dissolved the bonds holding together marriages, families and social frameworks. l Being jealous could let in evil and chaos and it was a state greatly feared by Shakespeare’s audiences. l
Task l On the following slide are some lines spoken by, or about, various characters in the play – consider what you think each quotation reveals about the person speaking/being spoken about and what they are like as a character.
1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) Iago - describing Othello: “loving his own pride and purposes” Iago - speaking about his relationship with Othello: “I follow him to serve my turn upon him” Iago - speaking about himself: “I am not what I am”. Iago - speaking about Othello: “The state cannot with safety cast him; for he’s embarked with such loud reason to the Cyprus wars” Othello - speaking about himself: “My parts, my title and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly” Othello - about Iago: “A man he is of honesty and trust”. Othello – to an angry Brabantio: “Hold your hands, were it my cue to fight , I should have known it”.
Jealousy and Deception Do you consider yourself to be a jealous person? Why? l Have you ever deceived anyone? Why? l Is jealously acceptable in a relationship? l Is it ever okay to knowingly deceive someone? l
Quotations on Jealousy – Do you agree? “Love sees sharply, hatred sees even more sharp, but Jealousy sees the sharpest for it is love and hate at the same time” “Jealousy is nothing more than a fear of abandonment ” “ In jealousy there is more of self-love than love. ” “A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity. ” “Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy -- in fact, they're almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other. Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil. . . ”
Quotations on Deception – Do you agree? “We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves. ” “Deception is a cruel act. . . It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul. ” “It's better to get something worthwhile done using deception than to fail to get something worthwhile done using truth. ” “Truth lives on in the midst of deception”
Today’s society - TASK Think about the cultural rules that you live by. Look at the questions opposite and discuss/make notes. What rules dictate the behaviour of young men and women in relationships today? l What are things “nice girls” just don’t do? l What are things “nice boys” just don’t do? l What do you think the consequences are of breaking these rules? l