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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Othello's Love
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0342.  Monday, 6 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Pat Dunlay <
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        Date:   Sunday, 05 May 1996 10:19:22 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0337  Re: Othello's Love

(2)     From:   Herman Asarnow <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 May 1996 09:02:16 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0337 Re: Othello's Love


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dunlay <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 05 May 1996 10:19:22 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 7.0337  Re: Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0337  Re: Othello's Love

Another word on Othello's speech before suicide.  I agree that he refers to his
love for Desdemona, but have always found this speech as his or Shakespeare's
trying to elicit some sympathy for a man who has just cruelly murdered his
innocent wife.  It works too in our post-Romantic world!  Most of my students
modify their outrage at Othello because, poor fellow, he did it out of unwise,
but extreme "love". It sounds much like overzealous wife beaters today. It
could certainly be Shakespeare's way of allowing us to "pity" the fallen hero
in Aristotle's definition of tragedy. At this point, however, I want to stay
angry at him and find myself challenging this speech or at least, encouraging
my students to examine their responses to it.  Interestingly, I don't have the
same response to MacBeth's "Tommorow and tommorrow and tomorrow"  which serves
for me a similar function.  Maybe Macbeth is just a better play!

Pat Dunlay

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Herman Asarnow <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 May 1996 09:02:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 7.0337 Re: Othello's Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0337 Re: Othello's Love

One might support Seth Barron's "I think the object of Othello's love is quite
purposefully indeterminate" by recalling Othello's speech as he prepares to
smother Desdemona: "It is the cause. It is the cause....Let me not name it to
you, my soul."  The point may be that Othello, quite opposite Hamlet, can't
"think too precisely on the event," or think precisely at all.  He truly cannot
name "it"--why he is about to murder Desdemona--because he does not really know
why he's going to do it.

And W. Russell Mayes, Jr.'s view that Othello is "attempting to revise his
reputation" fits well with the "indeterminate" reading of who Othello loved not
wisely but too well.  Othello's concern about reputation at the end of the play
can indeed be tied back to his wooing of Desdemona, in its boastfulness and its
lack of veracity.  He seems at the end a disintegrating  character flinging
forth whatever ideas come to his mind that might exculpate his behavior--hence
the shifting from one stance, from the "Soft, you..." speech to the other
rhetorical approach, beginning with "No more of that..." (i.e., okay, let's be
frank).  The horror is that, human as he is, his compass is wildly spinning
here.  He sees what's happened, but cannot recover his orientation (his
reason). Only death can stop him spinning.

Herman Asarnow
University of Portland
 

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