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Othello Revision Lecture


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Title: Othello Revision Lecture

Othello Revision Lecture Part 1
J1Promotional Examination 2012 Literature Paper 3
  • Othello the Moor of Venice
  • Literature Paper 3
  • The Individual and Society
  • From Act 1 up to end of Act 5
  • Choice of one of two essay questions

Reading, and Readings of OthelloInterpretations
of the play
  • Different schools of literary-critical thought
  • Marxist, Feminist, Post-Structuralist
  • Psychoanalytic Formalist
  • Conventional Unorthodox Radical
  • Regurgitations of borrowed points from run of the
    mill guide books
  • Your own Reading / Interpretation of the play,

Lecture Overview
  • Genre Shakespearean Tragic Drama
  • Concept of Tragedy and the concept of Tragic Hero
  • Setting, Time, Atmosphere  
  • Critically significant Themes Issues
  • Dramatis Personae Characters and their
  • Plot organization and development
  • Dramatic Techniques re- use of Poetry and
  • Dramatic Techniques re Elements of Style
    Analysis of Diction, Imagery, Symbolism, Syntax,
  • Dramatic Effects

Remember, lest you forget
  • The essence of all drama is

Entry Point?
to the text of the play, Othello
  • Through the language (speech dialogue)
  • Always through an analysis of the choice and form
    of the LANGUAGE of the play
  • The language the characters speak to each other
    in speech and dialogue

Common causes / sources of Conflict
  • Money (Money is the root of all Evil?)
  • Beautiful women (Desdemona)
  • Power power distribution power dynamics
  • Passions such as Ambition Greed Jealousy
  • Love (matters of the heart) Sex Marriage
  • Race, Religion, Ethics, and Culture
  • Ideology (Rival Belief and Value Systems)
  • Appearances, and Reality

Shakespearean Tragedy
  •     Tragedy? A work of fiction that plays out
    before us with implacable logic, for our moral
  • OTHELLO a drama of Tragedy?
  •         Serious consequences arise from passions
    that disrupt life.
  •         E.g. Envy, Jealousy, Resentment, lack of
  • re-persona relationships.
  •         Leads to the tragic death of the main
    character / Hero
  • also the deaths of the innocent and

Tragic Hero whose situation changes from
well-being to misfortune
  • A potentially noble person
  • who, through some flaw in Heros character (what
    is Othellos tragic flaw?),
  • helps to bring about his own tragic downfall,
    (hamartiatragic error / flaw)
  • and who, by suffering acquires self-knowledge,
    and so purges his faults.

Setting VENICE CYPRUS (Knowledge of the
geography of the play?)
  •        Venicefirst Act of the play takes place
    in Venice
  •         16th Century, Venicea powerful European
  •         A centre of commerce and protector of
    the Christian religion against the Turks who are
    regarded as infidels.

Atmosphere e.g. the creation of an atmosphere
  • Notice how the play begins in darkness.
  • Symbolism? Symbolical significance?
  • Foreshadowing, as a dramatic technique
  • Interestingly, Acts 3 4 are staged in daylight.
  • Notice it is in the daylight Acts the deception
    of Othello takes place. Why?

Critically significant Themes Issues (Central
Thematic Concerns of the play)
  • Love / Romance Hate Order Disorder Conflict
  • Good Evil e.g. Cruelty Magic Witchcraft
  • Appearance and Reality (Deception or Deceitful
    Appearance, Hypocrisy)
  • Jealousy, Envy, Resentment, Reputation, Trust,
    Honesty, Innocence, Credulity
  • Power, Revenge, Fate and Free Will Racial and
    Cultural differences Miscegenation
  • Race, Colour, Alienation (Important as suggested
    even by the title of the play).
  • Jealousy, the dominant theme? Would you agree?

Themes and Literature Paper 3This is Venice! -
  • The Individual and Society (Antithesis)
  • Contrasting individuals contrasting cultures
  • Othello, the Outsider Othellos Otherness
  • The racial, and cultural differences and also
    cultural distance between Othello as an African
    and white, European Venetians such as Iago as a
    rival individual in Venetian society

Dramatic Techniques used by Shakespeare
  •         Set Speeches
  •         Soliloquies also Asides
  •         Patterned dialogue
  •         Complex use of patterned imagery
  •         Poetic language Noble characters speak
  • blank verse note use of assonance and
  •         Prose lower status characters speak in
  •         Atmosphere, scene setting, lighting
  • all suggested through the power of

Language and Characterization
  • All speeches reveal states of mind

Characterization Who is Who in the play?
(Venetians Florentines?)
  • Protagonists and Antagonists?
  • Power and influence?
  • Relationships
  • Othello Iago relationship?
  • Othello Desdemona relationship?
  • Every character is partly defined by his / her
    relationship with other characters
  • Who is Gratiano? Lodovico? Montano?

Characterization and Language
  • Characters are the language that they speak
  • The choice and form of language and imagery used
    by characters to speak about other characters
    reveals much about themselves, as well as those
    they describe
  • Consider Iagos representations of Othello,
    Cassio, Roderigo and Desdemona

Characterization and Language
  • The character exists from what is spoken
  • This includes not just concentrating attention on
    choice of words
  • But also on the feelings and motives around the
    word, as much as the word itself

Shakespeares language Poetry Prose
  • Mode of diction energy of words in relation to
    meaning power of words in context?
  • Vivid Imagery Symbolism Personification Rhyme
    (patterned sound repetition)
  • Rhythm (movement of thought)
  • Rhetoric Copia Verborum All kinds of
    Repetition, and Enumeration (Lists)
    Puns Antithesis
  • Use of Irony

  • Copia verborum (Copia) (Long speeches)
  • Extended dialogue

Diction of Shakespearean Characters
  • Use of Latinisms Latinated vocabulary
  • More plain Saxon monosyllabic words
  • English slang
  • Vernacular
  • Dialect
  • Freely transforming nouns into verbs and verbs
    into nouns etc Ungrammaticality

  • The thought whereof
    Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my
    And nothing can or shall content
    my soul Till I am evened with him, wife for
  • Till I have got even with him

Focusing on ImageryImage ideas clusters of
repeated images convey themes
(No Transcript)
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Imagery in Poetic Drama
  • Imagery Carefully developed comparisons
  • Arising from the sophistication and precision of
    the language of Shakespeares characters
  • Why? To what purpose?
  • In order to create / implant a particular picture
    (image) in the mind of the audience

Imagery Iago to Roderigo in Act
2 Scene 1 p71 p73
  • Her eye must be fed
  • What delight shall she have to look on the devil
  • A fresh appetite
  • Nowher delicate tenderness will
    begin to heave the gorge and
  • Disrelish and abhor the Moor

Some other examples of imagery
  • Appearance Reality not I for love and duty, /
    But seeming so, for my peculiar end
  • Disease corruption a curse of marriage
  • Didst thou not see her paddle with the palm
    of his hand? Ill pour this pestilence into his
  • Clothing three great ones of the city
    off-cappd to him

Shakespeare embodies conflict using Antithesis,
and Effect
  • Sets word against word Phrase against phrase,
    Line against line
  • Speech against speech silence with speech
  • Image against image
  • Character against character
  • Scene against scene
  • Why? To keep the audience constantly engaged
    through varying dramatic tension.

Othello Revision Part 2
1. Shakespeare as Dramatist
  • Shakespeare as Poet (Noting and commenting on
    elements of poetic language)

2. Antithesis revisited
  • A black / white opposition at all levels
  • Poetically physically psychologically
  • morally religiously culturally ethnically
  • Reflected in the plays language
  • Dark Light
  • Heaven and Hell Love and Hate

3. Re- Themes Issues revisited
  • Miscegenation O treason of the blood!
  • It is only when race is connected with
    miscegenationit becomes a highly charged
    emotional issue
  • Envy
  • Reputation
  • Othellos paranoid and pathological jealousy

4. Iagos grievances and theories re- his
  • A villain with a motive Promotion of Cassio?
  • Unfounded suspicion Othello is having an affair
    with Emilia?
  • Envious of Othello re- Othellos perceived
    superior authority sexual potency contentment /
    peace of mind?
  • of Othellos goodness and innocencethe absence
    of envy?

Iago, a Machiavellian malcontent?
  • Iago, a motiveless villain?
  • Iago, not a villain? Does not recognize, only
    pretends to recognize conventional moral
    dichotomies of good and evil?
  • No good or bad only strong and weak?
  • Iago and the will to power might is right
  • Iago, a sadist?
  • Machiavellian language the artful deceiver

Whats immoral about prevailing over others?
  • Evil as neither really evil nor really good
  • Just merely useful or counterproductive
  • The strong and the smart inevitably desire to
    dominate and destroy the weak and stupid
  • And whats he then that says I play the villain
  • In Machiavellian language, virtue is power

6. Languagecontains the psychological shading of
the characters
  • The awful vulgarity of Iagos mind
  • Iagos fondness to reduce most vividly and
    degrade / debase all human activity
  • e.g. Love is merely an anatomical function
  • a lust of the blood.
  • Reputation is an idle and most false imposition
  • Oft got
    without merit and lost without Deserving
  • Darkness is his natural element and he dominates
    the three night scenes

7. Othellos stately formal, courtly, slow
moving, dignified poetic language
  • Rhetoric and poetic rhetoricRhetorical strategy
    in great set speeches
  • Being very consciously aware of your situation,
    and your objective
  • Languagefundamentally a weapon in human
  • Appropriately formal and respectful
  • Persuasion by Reason Persuasion by Emotion
    appeal to imagination

  • Poeticsdiscourse that moves people
  • RhythmThe best judge of rhythm is the ear
  • The ear is offended by harshness and soothed by
    smoothness tonalities
  • Accumulation of Repeated Sounds to intensify
    emotional impact
  • Dictionuse of emotionally charged words Copia
    verborumaccumulating languagepiling up of
    language to intensify emotional effect / impact
    and consolidate argument

  • Structure arrangement sequence Patterning
    what to include / exclude slanting
  • Verbal labeling, or indexing, affects perception
    very significantly
  • Proportion Emphasis Repetition for emphasis
  • Anaphora antanaclasis (punning on a repeated
    word to obtain different meanings) hyperbole
  • Repeated words, phrases, rhythms, and sounds add
    to the emotional intensity of a moment or scene
    thus heightening its dramatic effect.

  • This overwhelming richness and abundance of
    wordsnecessary to convince or enchant.
  • Othello is also very much aware of his rhetorical
  • He knows it is the vehicle of his majestic
    authority the source of his power to win
  • Othellos physical attributes and vocal
    endowments as made evident in the Senate Scene.

8. Othellofrom Page to Stage
  • Drama is literature intended for performance
    Audience impact
  • None of the language of the play works in
  • Lighting, costume, sound effects, actors
  • Gesture and movement reinforce the implications
    of the plays verbal texture.

Othello Revision Part 3
Preliminary Remarks
  • Basic knowledge / basic facts (Sound general
    knowledge of the play)
  • e.g. sequence of acts and scenes dramatic action
    on stage, Now? Before? After?
  • Critically significant scenes / events
  • Critically significant speeches/soliloquies

Text in context
  • Text in context /dramatic situation / From page
    to stage / Visualizing the scene
  • Appreciation of, and engagement with the dramatic
    situation, and dramatic effects
  • Theatrical experience of the play for the first
    time, for a first time audience?
  • e.g. Scene 3 of Act 1 theatrically experienced,
    it is a most impressive scene

Text (of Act 1 Scene 3) in context
  • The highlight of the proceedings is Othellos
    justification of what he has done
  • Knows that to contradict would arouse hostility
  • Othellos account of the wooing of Desdemona is a
    magnificent assertion of his worth
  • Great dramatic tension, and suspense
  • It holds us enthralled, (Dramatic effect,
  • as it does the Duke. (Dramatic effect, internal)

Critical thinking re- dramatic action
  • Critical intelligence / critical thinking
  • Critically evaluating his justification
  • Critical reservations (of viewer of the play)

Critically Thinking
  • Does Othello prove to the Duke he really loves
    Desdemona, and Desdemona Othello?
  • Does Othello prove to the Duke that he has done
    nothing wrong? Is Othello a saintly figure?
  • Is Brabantio completely at fault?
  • Is Othello completely faultless?

Structure of the play? Structure of an Act? Of
a scene? Of a speech?Fundamental questions re-
  • Purpose / Intention / Strategy / Game Plan (Any
    hidden agenda?)
  • Organization Why things are where they arewhy
    is this here, and not there?
  • Emphasis re- sequence of presentation

Structure Dynamic Symmetric
  • Dynamic Consists of the sequence of events which
    build up a cause-effect pattern to create the
    overall plot
  • Symmetric (a) Through various parallels, and
    cross-references, repeated images, symbols
  • (b) and language that creates a network of
    threads that runs through the entire play

Examination Questions Focus in mind
  • Proceed with the focus of the question in mind
  • Essay Introductory overview plus Thesis, or
  • Controlling Framework of Ideas
  • Paragraph organization Key leader sentence for
    each paragraph.

Dramatic significance of a passage?
  • How the content of the passage relates to and
    contributes to the whole plot
  • What and how it contributes to your understanding
    of character(s)
  • Its relevance to the underlying themes of the
  • Its contribution to the creation of atmosphere
    and mood
  • Its contribution to the overall impact on the
    audience both at this point in the play / as a

Analysis Framework of Conversation Turns
  • Who speaks, how often, and for how long?
  • What kind of contribution does each speaker make?
  • Who interrupts and gets interrupted?
  • Who influences the agenda and changes the topic?
  • How do the speakers address each other?
  • Does any speaker comment on anothers
  • What distinguishes the language of each speaker?

Characterization Re- Othello
  • Othellos greatness as a public figure
  • His adventurous background
  • Public image of discipline and self-control
    (Private image?)
  • and diplomacy
  • Courage, bravery, fortitudevaliant his
    charisma, calmness and confidence
  • Personal, romantic, exotic, ethnic and cultural
    background (Different / unusual / stranger /

Othellos character
  • Othello the successful warrior?
  • More a man of action than an intellectual?
  • More a doer than a thinker?
  • His trusting nature patient dignity?
  • Othello the noble Moor?

Key set speeches soliloquies
  • Othellos O MY SOULS JOY! 2, 1
  • First soliloquy Act 3, Sc 3
  • Othellos Farewell the tranquil mind
  • Othellos Pontic sea speech 3, 3
  • Othellos Had it pleased heaven 4, 2
  • Othellos It is the cause Act 5, Sc 2

Iagos advice to YOU!!!
  • Tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus. Our
    bodies are our gardens, to the which our WILLS
    are gardeners.
  • to have it sterile with IDLENESS or manured with
  • Why the power and corrigible authority of this
    lies in OUR WILLS.
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