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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Othello's Love
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0337.  Sunday, 5 May 1996.

(1)     From:   W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 May 1996 15:16:14 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0332  Re: Othello's Love

(2)     From:   Seth Barron <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 1996 15:47:30 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   othello's love


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 03 May 1996 15:16:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0332  Re: Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0332  Re: Othello's Love

I must admit that I like the idea of "Not too wisely, but too well" potentially
referring to Iago, and perhaps we should see this line as referring to all of
Othello's potential "loves."  However, in context, I think the line is likely
to relate to Desdemona primarily.

It seems to me that Othello is attempting to revise his reputation in this
speech.  He begins:

                Soft you; a word or two before you go.
                I have done the state some service, and they know't--
                No more of that.

Othello begins by considering the possibility that he could redeem his
reputation (perhaps even his life) by reminding the Venetians how much of a
debt they owe to him.  However he thinks better of this approach (why is a
question I often ask my students).  He then asks them to

                Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
                Nor aught set down in malice.  Then must you speak
                Of one that lov'd not wisely but too well;
                Of one not easily jealious, but being wrought,
                Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand
                (Like the base [Indian]) threw the pearl away
                Richer than all his tribe . . .

The line about loving could refer to other people, but I think that as we move
through the passage it is clear that Othello has Desdemona in mind.  I find it
interesting that immediately after these lines, he begins to tell a story--one,
I imagine, like those he told to woo Desdemona--that lulls his audience just
enough to allow himself to commit suicide.

W. Russell Mayes, Jr.
Department of Literature and Language
University of North Carolina at Asheville

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Seth Barron <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 1996 15:47:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        othello's love

I think the object of Othello's love is quite purposefully indeterminate.
Recall his odd line earlier, "Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore"
(3.3.365), where "my love" can be either Desdemona or, simply, Othello's
capacity to love: his anxiety is that his own desire is whorish, available to
all.  Maybe the end of the play is showing us that Othello is one who loved not
wisely but too well insofar as his love was really objectless, but was a kind
of self-supporting egosphere which by 5.2. has crumbled.

        Seth Barron
 

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