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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Q: The Genesis Metaphor in *Othello*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0628.  Saturday, 19 August 1995.
 
From:           Amy E. Hughes <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 20:15:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        The Genesis Metaphor in OTHELLO
 
I know I should buy a gun and shoot myself for this, but I am taking on the
task of directing OTHELLO.
 
<HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPP!>
 
Okay. I'll admit it is an exciting prospect. It is the play I have always
wanted to direct. It is comforting to know, also, that no matter how truly
horrible the production may become, I am still a student director (junior at
NYU/Undergrad Drama) making art in an academic context, so I can always cry
"inexperience" if I need an excuse. However, this is definitely not in my plan.
I expect it to be (as my mentor Louis Scheeder would say) FABulous.
 
So bear with me if I ask questions. Be my sounding board?
 
**************************************************
 
In my OTHELLO studies, hyperbolating on commentary I have read and research I
have done, I have come up with many ideas. The most current one may just be
amusing, but I find it an interesting parallel.
 
I have been experimenting with the idea of Othello in a weaker position than
Desdemona (his text is more subservient, especially in front of senate in Act
I, full of euphemisms; Desdemona's is not --- she seems almost brazen). In a
sense, Desdemona has the power to "make" Othello into a Venetian -- she is the
insider while he is the outsider. Who says that Desdemona has to be weak,
anyway??
 
Thinking on the biblical comparison of God's statement to Moses, "I am that I
am" and Iago's, "I am not what I am" (as observed by E. Jones and others), I
experienced epiphany: can the Garden of Eden story in Genesis be a metaphor for
the play in production?
 
My reflections produced the following:
 
1) Desdemona is Adam, Othello is Eve. Desdemona "creates" Othello in many ways:
by way of marriage, she makes a domestic out of a soldier; Othello effectively
marries in Venice through her; more of an off-shoot, she makes him a victim of
Iago, since it seems to be the marriage that sparks Iago's arsenal of hate.
 
2) As loathe as I am to use the cliche, Iago is the snake; i.e., the serpent:
Eve's temptress.
 
3) OTHELLO is, in many ways, a play about the danger of knowledge. My favorite
monologue in the play depends on this theme (III, iii, lines 351-364, "I had
been happy if the general camp,/Pioners, and all, had tasted her sweet body,/So
I had nothing *known*"). Eden's serpent is the bringer of forbidden knowledge.
 
This metaphor, I think, has possiblities in production terms (design, etc.),
but I know this post is long, and I will save them for later.
 
Are there any critics in print who have had similar revelations?
 
Thoughts?
 
Thanks,
Amy Hughes
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