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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Getting Back . . .
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0313  Wednesday, 25 February 1999.

[1]     From:   Tom Mueller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 08:58:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: "Soul"; HS Sh.; Hotstaff; Characters; Linguist

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:21:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Getting Back to Shakespeare (Cordelia)


[3]     From:   Bill Allard <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 20:33:59 -0700
        Subj:   Re: "Soul"; HS Sh.; Hotstaff; Characters; Linguist

[4]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:12:17 -0000
        Subj:   Re: Pity and Othello


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Mueller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 08:58:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: "Soul"; HS Sh.; Hotstaff; Characters; Linguist

Regarding M. Bonomi's following letter:

I for one take great pleasure in relating much of literature to current
events, and judging by the preponderance of current insertions, think I
may not be alone.  As a topic for an upcoming paper, I intend to relate
happenings at the turn of the last century (specifically decadence as
seen "in" the then current literature) with similar happenings as we
near the turn of the current century-again-as seen in current
literature.  Outside the scope of this paper, similarities can be seen
at the turn of many past centuries-especially notable are works of many
Elizabethan Dramatists.

As for those of other lands not wishing to read of our current events
related to earlier literary works, it is often said that others are more
aware of and better read (on US politics) than the average (U.S.)
American is.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 09:21:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Getting Back to Shakespeare (Cordelia)

In the spirit of Marilyn Bonomi's admonition for us to "get back to
Shakespeare," I want to call attention to a recent book by Harry Berger,
Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicities in Shakespeare
(Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997), in which Berger argues that Cordelia
adopts the role of victim in the opening scene of KL and thus "places
herself in the position of one who stands in need of vindication"
(302).  Indeed, according to Berger, Cordelia's final speech in this
scene (272-279) "confers on Cordelia's sisters the power to mete out the
punishments Lear deserves for having cast [Cordelia] away and deprived
himself of a 'better place.'  She in effect commits him to prison"
(303).  I have given my comments on Berger's analysis elsewhere, so I'd
like to read what others on this list think.  I might add that Berger's
book is energetically and passionately written, an instance, perhaps,
where the style really IS the man.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Allard <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 20:33:59 -0700
Subject:        Re: "Soul"; HS Sh.; Hotstaff; Characters; Linguist

Marilyn: Right on! Thank you!

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Feb 1999 12:12:17 -0000
Subject:        Re: Pity and Othello

Marilyn Bonomi wrote: "Let's leave the politics of the US at the time of
Bill Clinton to alt.news.salacious or alt.news.blindpoliticaladvocacy."

Thank you, Marilyn. You may well have saved many of us foreigners giving
up in despair. So let's consider one of your questions:

"Is Othello more to be pitied or scorned?"

It is axiomatic that the tragic hero must deserve some sympathy, but
Othello deserves most among Shakespeare's leading characters. His faults
are most within the experience of many of us, and his downfall is
largely caused by society rather than himself. The state cannot do
without him in time of war - even Iago admits this (I.i) - and it is
embarrassed by him in time of peace, a black outsider. While Brabantio
is railing against the presumptuous marriage, Othello is saying "Her
father loved me, oft invited me ..." (I.iii).What Brabantio invited were
the tales of war and the tall stories; marriage to his daughter was
"against all rules of nature".

Othello's major faults are threefold. First there is the lack of
confidence of the soldier when it comes to courting a woman -
understandable enough. Then there is the insecurity that Venetian
society has imposed upon him: without this insecurity the first weakness
would hardly have mattered.  Thirdly there is his boastfulness - a less
admirable quality, but one that Shakespeare gives also to Coriolanus,
another general. (The British may recall that Montgomery bodied forth
qualities of both characters.) When the Turkish fleet is destroyed by
the storm, Othello is left without an enemy to fight, other than
Venetian society. Othello's occupation's gone, and he is at his most
vulnerable. Iago leads him to his ruin, but it is always Othello who
draws the conclusions, for Iago embodies fears that are already within
Othello. Imagine the impossibility of Othello's believing Desdemona has
betrayed him with a black man. No, this is a social matter: she is a
well-connected white and he feels he does not deserve her (in society's
terms, of course - his arrogance has no doubt of his deserts as a
successful soldier). Scorn does not figure in a judgement of Othello -
this is really a man more sinned against than sinning.
 

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