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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Epilepsy in *Oth*; Casting
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0141.  Tuesday, 28 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Feb 1995 17:15:33 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Epilepsy in OTH
 
(2)     From:   Charles S. Ross <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Feb 95 09:45:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re:  SHK 6.0138  Re: Casting
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Feb 1995 17:15:33 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Epilepsy in OTH
 
To Jocelyn Shannon--
 
Just because Iago reports that Othello suffers from epilepsy doesn't mean that
Iago is telling the truth, either about what the audience sees in IV.i or about
the (reported) seizure offstage. Is Iago's interpretation to be trusted?  Few
white directors can resist the impulse to have their Othello collapse to the
stage in drooling spasms--and most of our painted Othellos have been only too
happy to comply.  But it is clear from the text that Othello is in a
trance--which is, at least visually, a more dignified state of suffering than a
convulsion.  Othello's first movement from the trance comes with "Look, he
stirs."  The foaming mouth and savage madness that Iago cites as symptoms of
Othello's supposed illness are lies, beastly images not unlike those which Iago
conjures up for Brabantio in I.i.
 
So, in answer to your question and commentary--("What was the Elizabethan point
of view on this malady?  What was Shakespeare's slant?  As my television wraps
around another grim day at *Camp OJ*, I sometimes wonder if Nicole said, 'I do
fear you when your eyes roll so'")--one is tempted to reply that the falling
sickness, like mad (or comical) rolling eyes and unpredictable homicidal
violence, may be projected upon black males--but the "malady" lies as much
ourselves as in the object of our frightened or impatient gaze.  *Othello* is a
smorgasbord of lies.  Which ones we choose to believe is perhaps more
instructive than any Elizabethan medical handbook when it comes to the question
of Othello's falling sickness.
 
--Don Foster
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles S. Ross <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 27 Feb 95 09:45:27 -0500
Subject: 6.0138  Re: Casting
Comment:        Re:  SHK 6.0138  Re: Casting
 
I'll bet that Karen Mercedes can't prove that Shakespeare had the narrow
conception of a Moor that she ascribes to him. Complete color blind casting
should be the only rule. I noticed that Sir Ian, liberal otherwise, had trouble
accepting that principle during his recent Richard III talk/tour. But he was
wrong.
 
Charles Ross
Purdue University
 

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