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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Othello; Iago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0359  Wednesday 3 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tue, 02 Mar 1999 12:54:11 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0348 Re: Othello

[2]     From:   Kenneth Requa <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Mar 1999 07:45:59 EST
        Subj:   Iago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tue, 02 Mar 1999 12:54:11 -0800
Subject: 10.0348 Re: Othello
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0348 Re: Othello

Peter Hadorn:

>I would ask him to look again at Othello's own description of their
>falling in love:

Thanks for quoting it.

>I don't take this as meaning that he had to be told to woo.  I take this
>rather, to mean, that Desdemona was, in a round about way, declaring
>that she was already won.  I would suggest that Othello knew exactly the
>effect his words would have.

Sorry, I do take it that he had to be told to woo.  I've told many young
women details of my previous life without expecting, or even hoping for,
a seduction.  There's nothing in the text at all to suggest that he was
wooing all along.  He might just feel that he was an educator, like
Purchas or Hakluyt.  And we can't know the contrary.  Charity, if not
critical modesty, would indicate that we take characters (like people)
at their words as much as possible.

>I would respond: Why not?  Shakespeare used magical/supernatural
>elements very judiciously.  My point about Othello is that he likes to
>woo with his words and is not above lying to do so.  Why not here as
>well.

Of course it's possible.  The burden of evidence is on you, since you're
making the accusation that he's a liar.

Incidentally, I'm not even sure that these examples of wonders would
even qualify of "magical/supernatural elements" to a contemporary
audience.  It might be more like Captain James T. Kirk telling us about
Klingons-perfectly acceptable within the genre of travel narrative, or
science fiction, as the case may be.

>Lawrence: "Why couldn't his father give his mother a handkerchief with
>magical powers?"
>
>Because of the lie he told to Desdemona about the origins of the
>handkerchief.  He told her: "That handkerchief/ Did an Egyptian to my
>mother give.  She was a charmer, and could almost read/ The thoughts of
>people.  She told her, while she kept it/ 'Twould make her amiable, and
>subdue my father/ Entirely to her love. . . ."  It's only later that he
>admits that it was his father, and not an Egyptian, who gave the
>handkerchief to his mother.

This could mean many things.  Maybe his father paid for it, but his
mother commissioned the work.  Maybe his father bought it from the sibyl
for his mother, and Othello earlier neglected to mention the
middle-man.  In any case, I'm sure an "antique token" could quite easily
be invested with extra significance in a series of pre-Christian
ceremonies.

>Referring to my assertion that King Harry V CLAIMS ineptness in wooing
>Katherine, Lawrence responds: "Keep in mind that his ineptness is
>elicited by Katherine.  Every time he gets off on a courtly tangent,
>comparing her to an angel or a goddess, she drags him back forcefully."
>I admit that their exchanges are indeed structured in this way.  But I
>would also point out that towards the latter part of their speech it
>becomes apparent that he is no slouch at understanding and speaking
>French.

Katherine's response "le Fran

 

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