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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Similarities
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0571.  Saturday, 25 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB.bitnet>
        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 1994 , 16:06:50 EST
        Subj:   Emilia, Othello, OJ, pop culture, and Disney
 
(2)     From:   Diana Akers Rhoads <
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 >
        Date:   Saturday, 25 Jun 1994 08:52:52 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0562  Re: Similarities
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB.bitnet>
Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 1994 , 16:06:50 EST
Subject:        Emilia, Othello, OJ, pop culture, and Disney
 
Emilia is such an interesting character nowadays because she (like Bianca) is
the used woman, the abused (certainly by defamation and denigration, if not by
force) woman.  Iago's evil painting of Desdemona is what makes Othello become
the savage, which he was not before.  Othello *is* like O.J. Simpson in that
his appearance on the public stage has been one of self-confidence, poise, and
charisma.  His athletic grace under pressure somehow made the transition into
his TV announcing. Othello's generalship likewise somehow translates into
private courage when he is accused by the racist Brabantio of bewitching his
daughter.  Simpson wrote in his "suicide" note that he was "different" from
Nicole and left the reader free to interpret the difference.  Something in the
relationship (there was no Iago, we presume) drove Simpson to do insane and
violent things like break down doors or hit his wife or his ex-wife.  I see the
downfall of O.J. Simpson as being potentially tragic, though I certainly have
sympathy for those people who may have been the victims of his uncontrolled
rage.  A portrait of an insanely jealous man-otherwise a mild and sweet
personality--emerges from the bits of evidence we have so far, someone who
rages over pictures of old boyfriends or who wants addresses of new boyfriends,
the syndrome of "If I can't have her, nobody will," which Othello also
expresses, with some significant changes as "Yet she must die, else she'll
betray more men."
 
The fight for battered wives is a legitimate one and should not be forgotten in
the case of Nicole Simpson, but Othello must be driven to abuse Desdemona.
Before the devil breathes in his ear, he is the soul of kindness to his wife.
 
Unlike William Proctor Williams, with whom I usually agree, I see no problem in
noting the relation between events in the marketplace or the commonplace as
being like Shakespeare's tragic plots.  Jealousy, fratricide, spouse abuse,
mental cruelty all still flourish, as they did in 1600.  And archetypes of
evil, like Iago, Claudius, Milton's Sin and her counterpart Disney's Ursula (my
favorite character in {The Little Mermaid}), still can be represented visually
or in words or music (compare Moussorsky's "Night on Bald Mountain and Disney's
visualization of it in {Fantasia}).  If we can tolerate the transition from
Goethe to Gounod, can't we tolerate the transition from {Hamlet} to {The Lion
King}?  After all, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.
 
Roy Flannagan
Ohio University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Akers Rhoads <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 25 Jun 1994 08:52:52 -0400
Subject: 5.0562  Re: Similarities
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0562  Re: Similarities
 
I hesitate to join the debate on the comparison between Othello and OJ Simpson
because it is so terribly difficult not to simplify one's perception of a play
over e-mail.  Still, I am tempted to give a cryptic response.  Making a
one-to-one comparison between the two is simply misleading about Shakespeare's
*Othello*.  Such an approach misses key questions which the play raises--for
example, whether the supposed universality of Christianity can overcome the
distrust of the citizen for the outsider or the degree to which martial virtue
can translate into Christian action.  O. J. Simpson is not a man trying to
enter a culture foreign to him.  Moreover, as Mary Ellen Zurko points out,
Iago, not Othello, is the one guilty of chronic spousal abuse.
 
On the other hand, Othello mistakenly thinks he can judge as a god judges
rather than as a man.  He cannot recognize the evil in himself.  O. J. Simpson
must have been subject to the same blindness when he murdered his wife.
 

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