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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Hamlet and Othello
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1197  Friday, 9 June 2000.

From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Jun 2000 12:23:40 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet and Othello

The pairing of *Hamlet* and *Othello* in recent postings brings to mind
an unrelated observation on those two plays.  Long ago I heard somewhere
unremembered a mental exercise that I put my students to working with
many a semester when we were talking about Shakespearean tragedy as
frequently a matter of a character whose talents are irrelevant to the
situation at hand.  This exercise of the imagination is to put Hamlet in
Othello's play and Othello in Hamlet's play.  Neither play would go very
far and neither would be a tragedy recognizable as the tragedies we have
left to us.  "To be once in doubt / Is once to be resolved" *Oth.*
3.3.193-4.  If Hamlet could act as this speech suggests, Claudius would
be dead at the end of Act I.  If Othello could interview Desdemona in
her closet near the middle of the action as Hamlet does his mother, he
would likely find a way out of jealousy and back to love.  Othello tries
for a Hamlet-and-Gertrude interview in 5.2, but too late--he is all
wrapped up in his fatal purpose and cannot hear her protestations of
innocence.

Students used to find this an interesting way of encountering both
plays, both characters.

Cheers,
John V.
 

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