Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: February ::
Brazilian Spinoff (Cont'd)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 42. Saturday, 9 Feb 1991.
 
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 91 13:15 C
From: "ERIC MITCHELL SABINSON (INSTITUTO DE ESTUDOS DA LINGUAGEM/UNICAMP)"
Subject: Re:Brazilian Spinoff
 
          Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis is a wonderful novel,
subtle and difficult, and perhaps great.  As I live in Sao Paulo, I
am pleased by any reference to Brazilian literature.  It is
difficult, however, to see Dom Casmurro as a spin-off of Othello,
although the theme of the book is jealousy, and there are references
to the play.  (Do all texts on the subject of jealousy ultimately
find their origin in Othello?  There can be an intertextual
relationship without the latter work being a spin-off.)
 
        To capture the feel of the novel Don Casmurro one would have
to imagine an ironic Winter's Tale ending at the close of Act I,
Hermione forever seperated from Leontes, Polixenes dead, and Leontes
living on to tell the story as an old man, victim of his own
loneliness and incapacity to see through his jealousy, still
convinced that his wife and best friend had betrayed him, quite
satisfied when his grown-up and affectionate son, whom he believes to
resemble his friend, dies of typhoid fever on an archaeological field
trip in Palestine.
 
         There is nothing heroic about Casmurro in Dom Casmurro.  (He
is writing "A History of the Suburbs".)  There is no Iago figure,
unless one counts Jose Dias, Casmurro's pathetic and parasitic
preceptor, who first plants the idea in Casmurro's adolescent brain
that his girlfriend Capitu has the slanting and dissembling eyes of a
Gypsy.  Rather, Jose Dias ressembles Antigonus, or better, Polonius in
character, and Casmurro's jealously is that of a man who cannot
permit joy.  He needs no Iago.
 
          The novel is unusually interesting for its narrative
position, in which the reader has no "objective" evidence as to
whether or not Capitu and Escobar, his wife and friend, have truly been
unfaithful.  Jealousy is sterility whether or not there is cause, and,
in the view of Machado, an inescapable part of the human condition.
(Then again, would Othello's treatment of Desdemona be acceptable even
if she had betrayed him with Cassio?  Mrs Hushabye in Shaw's
Heartbreak House puts it this way: "Desdemona would have found
[Othello] out if she had lived, you know. I wonder was that why he
strangled her!")
 
          The novel Dom Casmurro is a brittle and mean comedy, full
of literary references, including one to the Merry Wives of Windsor,
another of Shakespeare's plays that takes up the theme of jealousy.
Casmurro, towards the end of the novel, attends a production of
"Otelo", a play he does not know.  His reaction to the play does not
suggest tragedy, but rather the irony of enervation and the closing
off of feeling, an overdressed and self-centered mediocrity in the
heat of Belle Epoque Rio de Janeiro:  "But Desdemona was innocent, I
repeated to myself as I came down the street.  What would the
audience have done if she had been guilty, as guilty as Capitu?  And
what death would the Moor have given her?  A pillow would not
suffice; blood and fire were required, a vast and intense fire that
would consume her totally, and reduce her to dust, and the dust would
be hurled to the wind like everlasting extinction . . . [my translation
from the Aguilar edition, p.933]".
 
         I should say that Machado de Assis is considered here the
greatest of all Brazilian novelists, but in my opinion, it is the
greatness of the hangover, of the dreamer who cannot realize his
dreams of grandeur, and having none, is incapable of giving them up.
If you like Dom Casmurro (an acquired taste), you'll love Quincas
Borba (translated to English as Philosopher or Dog?) and Bras Cubas
(translated to English as Epitaph of a Small Winner).
 
Eric Mitchell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
 
         There is nothing heroic about Casmurro in Dom Casmurro.  (He
is writing "A History of the Suburbs".)  There is no Iago figure,
unless one counts Jose Dias, Casmurro's pathetic and parasitic
preceptor, who first plants the idea in Casmurro's adolescent brain
that his girlfriend Capitu has the slanting and dissembling eyes of a
Gypsy.  Rather, Jose Dias ressembles Antigonus, or better, Polonius in
character, and Casmurro's jealously is that of a man who cannot
permit joy.  He needs no Iago.
 
          The novel is unusually interesting for its narrative
position, in which the reader has no "objective" evidence as to
whether or not Capitu and Escobar, his wife and friend, have truly been
unfaithful.  Jealousy is sterility whether or not there is cause, and,
in the view of Machado, an inescapable part of the human condition.
Received: from vm.epas.utoronto.ca by VM.UTCS.UTORONTO.CA (Mailer R2.07) with
 BSMTP id 0183; Sat, 09 Feb 91 13:22:11 EST
Received: by UTOREPAS (Mailer R2.03A) id 5161; Sat, 09 Feb 91 13:21:13 EST
Date:         Sat, 09 Feb 91 13:20:43 EST
From:         Ken Steele <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Subject: Brazilian Spinoff (Cont'd)
Comment:      SHK 2.0042  Brazilian Spinoff (Cont'd)
To:           Shakespeare Electronic Conference <SHAKSPER@UTORONTO>
 
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 42. Saturday, 9 Feb 1991.
 
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 91 13:15 C
From: "ERIC MITCHELL SABINSON (INSTITUTO DE ESTUDOS DA LINGUAGEM/UNICAMP)"
Subject: Re:Brazilian Spinoff
 
          Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis is a wonderful novel,
subtle and difficult, and perhaps great.  As I live in Sao Paulo, I
am pleased by any reference to Brazilian literature.  It is
difficult, however, to see Dom Casmurro as a spin-off of Othello,
although the theme of the book is jealousy, and there are references
to the play.  (Do all texts on the subject of jealousy ultimately
find their origin in Othello?  There can be an intertextual
relationship without the latter work being a spin-off.)
 
        To capture the feel of the novel Don Casmurro one would have
to imagine an ironic Winter's Tale ending at the close of Act I,
Hermione forever seperated from Leontes, Polixenes dead, and Leontes
living on to tell the story as an old man, victim of his own
loneliness and incapacity to see through his jealousy, still
convinced that his wife and best friend had betrayed him, quite
satisfied when his grown-up and affectionate son, whom he believes to
resemble his friend, dies of typhoid fever on an archaeological field
trip in Palestine.
 
         There is nothing heroic about Casmurro in Dom Casmurro.  (He
is writing "A History of the Suburbs".)  There is no Iago figure,
unless one counts Jose Dias, Casmurro's pathetic and parasitic
preceptor, who first plants the idea in Casmurro's adolescent brain
that his girlfriend Capitu has the slanting and dissembling eyes of a
Gypsy.  Rather, Jose Dias ressembles Antigonus, or better, Polonius in
character, and Casmurro's jealously is that of a man who cannot
permit joy.  He needs no Iago.
 
          The novel is unusually interesting for its narrative
position, in which the reader has no "objective" evidence as to
whether or not Capitu and Escobar, his wife and friend, have truly been
unfaithful.  Jealousy is sterility whether or not there is cause, and,
in the view of Machado, an inescapable part of the human condition.
(Then again, would Othello's treatment of Desdemona be acceptable even
if she had betrayed him with Cassio?  Mrs Hushabye in Shaw's
Heartbreak House puts it this way: "Desdemona would have found
[Othello] out if she had lived, you know. I wonder was that why he
strangled her!")
 
          The novel Dom Casmurro is a brittle and mean comedy, full
of literary references, including one to the Merry Wives of Windsor,
another of Shakespeare's plays that takes up the theme of jealousy.
Casmurro, towards the end of the novel, attends a production of
"Otelo", a play he does not know.  His reaction to the play does not
suggest tragedy, but rather the irony of enervation and the closing
off of feeling, an overdressed and self-centered mediocrity in the
heat of Belle Epoque Rio de Janeiro:  "But Desdemona was innocent, I
repeated to myself as I came down the street.  What would the
audience have done if she had been guilty, as guilty as Capitu?  And
what death would the Moor have given her?  A pillow would not
suffice; blood and fire were required, a vast and intense fire that
would consume her totally, and reduce her to dust, and the dust would
be hurled to the wind like everlasting extinction . . . [my translation
from the Aguilar edition, p.933]".
 
         I should say that Machado de Assis is considered here the
greatest of all Brazilian novelists, but in my opinion, it is the
greatness of the hangover, of the dreamer who cannot realize his
dreams of grandeur, and having none, is incapable of giving them up.
If you like Dom Casmurro (an acquired taste), you'll love Quincas
Borba (translated to English as Philosopher or Dog?) and Bras Cubas
(translated to English as Epitaph of a Small Winner).
 
Eric Mitchell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.