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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Desdemona's Death
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0855.  Monday, 30 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Kenneth S. Rothwell <
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        Date:   Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 15:34:40 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0851 Qs: Desdemona's Death;
 
(2)     From:   Stuart Rice <
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        Date:   Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 13:42:02 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0851  Qs: Desdemona's Death;
 
(3)     From:   Scott Crozier <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Oct 1995 07:29:33 +1000
        Subj:   Re: Desdemona's Death
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth S. Rothwell <
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Date:           Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 15:34:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0851 Qs: Desdemona's Death;
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0851 Qs: Desdemona's Death;
 
Dear Scott Purdy, For a full account of Desdemona's demise at the hands of
Othello, see Dr. William Hunt's clinical analysis in A NEW VARIORUM EDITION of
OTHELLO, ed. H.H. Furness (1886 rpt.; New York: Dover, 1963) 306. Maybe it's a
little out of date, probably incurably old historicist, but I found it handy
decades ago for satisfying student curiosity about this episode. Ken Rothwell
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Rice <
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Date:           Saturday, 28 Oct 1995 13:42:02 EST
Subject: 6.0851  Qs: Desdemona's Death;
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0851  Qs: Desdemona's Death;
 
In answer to Scott Purdy's question, I guess there are just somethings in
Shakespeare's plays you just have to accept.  I'd be interested in knowing if
your students think Jove has ever been spotted riding on an eagle in the middle
of London.
 
On a more serious note, however, your students seem to be reflecting a
nineteenth century (I think) attitude towards strict realism in Shakespeare.  I
believe I read of some person who actually detailed, using anatomical models
and posters, how the suffocation of Desdemona actually happened.  Be that as it
may, Shakespeare relied on "medical realism" only when it suited.  How else
could the Laertes and the King at the end of Hamlet die so quickly after being
poisoned (actually, after saying their requisite closing lines), yet Hamlet,
poisoned earlier than both of them, can languish through an extended death
scene where he forgives Laertes, says good bye to his mother, admonishes the
court, charges Horatio to report the happenings, grabs a cup from that
self-same gentleman, predicts that Fortinbras will win the election, and
generally gives a smashingly good go at a once in a lifetime experience and
then finally drops dead?
 
Also, remember than Othello stabs her as well, because the suffocation doesn't
work completely.  Just so you can appreciate the effort she made to say those
last lines.
 
Jovially yours,
Stuart Rice
Kenyon College
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Crozier <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Oct 1995 07:29:33 +1000
Subject:        Re: Desdemona's Death
 
Scott Purdy asks about the medical explanation for Desdemona's death. I expect
there is none. My suggestion would be it is a theatrical device for the "last
laugh" so to speak. Webster also used it for his Duchess with equally powerful
effect.
 
Regards
Scott Crozier
 

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