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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: September ::
Qs: *Othello*; Sonnet 144
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0743. Monday, 19 September 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Evett <R0870@@TAONODE>
        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 17:59 ET
        Subj:   Othello query
 
(2)     From:   Mary Tyler Knowles <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Sep 1994 21:28:04 -0400
        Subj:   Sonnet 144, line 14 query
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870@@TAONODE>
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 17:59 ET
Subject:        Othello query
 
Iago tells Othello to strangle Desdemona (4.1.200 or thereabouts); according to
the F stage direction he "smothers" her, and in all the recent productions I
have seen uses a pillow ready to hand on the bed; the action seems consonant
with his stated disinclination to "scar that whiter skin of hers than snow."
OED,however, lists "strangle" as one gloss on both "smother" and "stifle," the
s.d. in Qq.  Nothing in the surrounding text helps resolve the question. Was
strangulation the customary punishment for infidelity in some relevant society?
Are there other proprieties, or other reasons besides the one he gives that
might inhibit Othello from using his hands directly on Desdomona's body?
 
Breathlessly,
Dave Evett
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Tyler Knowles <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Sep 1994 21:28:04 -0400
Subject:        Sonnet 144, line 14 query
 
I have just been teaching the sonnets and hoped someone could help me with the
use of the verb "fire" in the last line of #144's couplet. The gloss in both my
old Signet edition and in my newer Folger Library edition suggests that "fire
my good one out" means "to communicate venereal disease."  "To fire" in the OED
is "to inspire with strong passion", "to inflame to passion"," to affect body
the with a burning sensation".  Partridge's Shakespeare's Bawdy glosse the noun
"fire" as "sexual ardour" but provides no gloss for the verb form.  So where
does this sense of veneral disease come from?  The use of fire is consistent
with the images of hell (place of eternal punishment and female sexual organ)
in the rest of this poem, but I'm baffled by the gloss.  And, oh dear, what an
attitude toward female sexuality is revealed here...
 

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