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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Othello's Love
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0332.  Friday, 3 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Thomas E. Ruddick <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 May 96 11:19:57 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love

(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Thursday, 02 May 1996 17:35:15 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love

(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 02 May 1996 21:53:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Loving Iago

(4)     From:   Richard W Bovard <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 1996 10:02:06 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0330 Othello's Love

(5)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 1996 11:00:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas E. Ruddick <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 May 96 11:19:57 EST
Subject: 7.0330  Othello's Love
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love

When Othello says "loved not wisely, but too well" I see it as another example
of Shakespeare recommending that strong passions be tempered by judgment.  From
an actor's viewpoint, one might interpret this line as Othello's dying
realization of his _hamartia_, a moment of clarity concerning his own motives
and failings just before his own life ends.

The theme of strong passion tempered by reason pops up elsewhere in
Shakespeare; in Romeo and Juliet, for example, Friar Laurence counsels Romeo
again and again to "Love moderately."  It's expressed yet again, I think, by
Puck's assessment of the four impassioned youths, "what fools these mortals
be!"

Othello's line doesn't need to refer to any particular "love"--his passions for
Desdemona, Iago, Cassio, and others were all powerfully expressed. "Too well"
here means excess, not excellence, I think.

"TR" --Thomas E. Ruddick, Edison Community College

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 May 1996 17:35:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0330  Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love

Dear Bill Godshalk--Of course, your student could have also used the lines "I
kiss the instruments of their pleasures" (IV.i. 214) to support the argument
that the line in question is not in reference to Desdemona-- rather than simply
reducing it to Iago specifically. Nonetheless, I would not object to a
perfomance in which Othello gestures to Iago (if subtle--if he doesn't saw the
air with his hands, etc.). But it seems Iago HAS already been overdetermined as
a scapegoat in this last scene, and maybe what should pointed to is an iceberg
of which IAGO is only the tip (i.e. their pleasure---the white men of Venice,
the plumed troop that makes ambition virtue, etc.)

The distinction between "not wisely" and "too well"---is it REALLY misguided if
applied to "desdemona." After all, isn't "loving too well" the same as not
loving well enough? Or is it an attempt to REDEEM Othello (like in MUCH
ADO--Our only fault was in mistaking---)? A spin-control? I think not. And
therefore the line isn't problematic for me, even if played    as referring to
"Desdemona". Yours (ha ha), Chris

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 May 1996 21:53:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Loving Iago

Offline I got the following response from Judith Angelo.  I think it's worth
recording as a genuine, untutored response to the Othello's loving not wisely
but too well:

"A few months ago, I took my 15 year old daughter Sarah to see the most recent
film of Othello.  As we were walking home, she said that the line about loving
not wisely, was neither troubling nor ironic (as I tried to explain), because
the Moor is speaking of his love for Iago.  In fact she thought this was the
obvious interpretation.

"I had never read this take either, and granted the latest movie does play up
the homoerotic theme, but there she was.  Pretty cool, huh?   Cite her if you
like: Sarah Josephine Stewart, Cleveland Heights OH."

Yeah, pretty cool, I agree.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard W Bovard <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 1996 10:02:06 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 7.0330 Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0330 Othello's Love

Yes, indeed.  Such a gesture is consistent with the earlier parody of the
marriage ceremony, when Othello embraces Iago.  Shakespeare has worked on this
irony before, has he not?  In "Julius Caesar," most of the male characters
speak of their love for one another.  And that speaking helps to create the
hollow feeling of the play for some of us.

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 1996 11:00:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0330  Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0330  Othello's Love

Regarding Bill Godshalk's student's comment on who Othello meant by "loving not
wisely but too well;" an interpretation of the relationship between Othello and
Iago that shows latent (or not so latent) homosexuality explains more than just
this line. It also gives a believable motive for Iago's otherwise "motiveless
malignity," and for the powerful hold he has on Othello, not really
understandable in any other terms.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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