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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: Shakespeare's Thought
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0213  Tuesday, 1 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2000 10:44:56 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought

[2]     From:   Carol A. Cole <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2000 20:02:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought

[3]     From:   Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2000 22:14:02 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2000 10:44:56 -0600
Subject: 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought

Abdulla al-Dabbagh writes:

<I am sorry to have lost the details of the posting, but <somebody on
the
<List wondered a few days ago "Why Othello would have <married
Desdemona.
<It seems that he would have married someone who fit into <his closed
<system", which has been making me feel rather <uncomfortable.

I was the person who made that statement, but since, by your own
admission, you were not following the details of the posting, I will
assert that you took my statement out of context. Sean was making a
philosophical argument about the nature of absolutist thinking, and I
said that if Othello were an example of it, why did he marry Desdemona.
Sean replied that he was not referring to Othello but to Iago.

Abdulla continues:

<Is it right
<to wonder why Othello should marry or fall in love with <someone
outside
<his "system"? Isn't that really tantamount to asking why <didn't he
<choose somebody "of his own kind", i.e. non-white and <non-western?

I was asking a rhetorical question, not making a value judgment.  Not
for a moment do I think that Othello "should" have married someone from
"his own kind."

<Isn't
<it (unconsciously perhaps) succumbing to common racial <prejudice?
Would
<one ask why didn't Romeo choose one of his own <(Montague) kind and
<Cleopatra one of her Egyptian compatriots? Isn't <Shakespeare, in fact,
<in those three great love tragedies deliberately addressing <and
<provoking those common prejudices that appear in the <form of feudal,
<cultural or racial narrow-mindedness?  It seems to me <wondering why
such
<"mixed" matches take place may be more of an <indication of a closed
<system than the one that Othello is presumed to belong <to.  Surely it
is
<missing the whole point of Shakespeare and surely here <we have an
<example of how a closed mind will not be able to follow <Shakespeare's
<truly open, humanist mind.

I think that to accuse someone, publically, on a list of respected
scholars, of racism and a closed mind, without following the argument is
"hoist with [your] own petard"-an example of "how a closed mind" will
adopt the surface of a potentially inciting argument to his own
detriment.  It is you who are not demonstrating a "truly open, humanist
mind."

Judy Craig

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol A. Cole <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2000 20:02:36 -0500
Subject: 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought

I do not recall the original question, but it seems to me that when a
character does something out of the ordinary-against convention and/or
different from that character's customary behavior-that's the time to
ask "why."  There could be all kinds of reasons for Othello to marry
Desdemona, including but not limited to love.  And what is there about
Desdemona that makes her willing to go against all her upbringing and
risk disownment by marrying Othello?  Likewise, why does Cordelia not
only refuse to flatter Lear but downright provoke him when the merest
token capitulation would get her a third of the kingdom?  And so on.
Even without definitive answers, questions like these can be very
illuminating.  At least they make us think.

Best, Carol

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2000 22:14:02 EST
Subject: 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0201 Shakespeare's Thought

I second Abdullah Al-Dabbagh's motion, and strongly, but might a remark
about Othello's "closed system" possibly have been a misprint, or
misremembered?  Indeed, where is any useful evidence of Othello's
background beyond what the text includes?

Re. Othello and Desdemona, it may help those who can't understand that
union to note that she too is a warrior of sorts who easily leaves the
well-cushioned parental cocoon for love, then shows up as a strong
defender first of Emilia (in II.i.), then Cassio (oops! is defending
others her tragic flaw?), perhaps Bianca (? I am slightly rusty), and at
the last her dear husband. The play (especially II.i) was misread for
generations and may still be most of the time. In my view, it is among
the top five works of anti-misogynist art ever produced, one of the
greatest of feminist works.

Kezia Vanmeter Sproat
 

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