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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Othello at Aleppo
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0573  Monday, 12 March 2001

[1]     From:   Scott Oldenburg <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Mar 2001 19:40:14 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0557 Othello at Aleppo

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 11 Mar 2001 20:23:38 -0500
        Subj:   Othello in Aleppo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Oldenburg <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Mar 2001 19:40:14 -0800
Subject: 12.0557 Othello at Aleppo
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0557 Othello at Aleppo

>                                        in Aleppo once,
>               Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk
>               Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
>               I took by th' throat the circumcised dog
>               And smote him thus. (5.2.361-5)

Whether these lines refer to an actual event or not, by stabbing himself
at the end of these lines, Othello equates himself with the Turk he had
stabbed in Aleppo, the Other, which Othello has tried not to be through
service to Venice and marriage to Desdemona. A few lines earlier he
equates himself with another altern, "the base Indian" (V.ii.348).

What do you make of Lodovico's echo of "circumcised dog" 8 lines later
directed at Iago, the "Spartan dog"?

Best,
Scott

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 11 Mar 2001 20:23:38 -0500
Subject:        Othello in Aleppo

According to Syrian sources, Aleppo was taken by the Ottoman Turks in
1516, under whom it underwent a remarkable commercial revival, becoming
a principal market in the Levant.  So it appears that Othello's
fictional visit to Aleppo must have taken place after 1516.

The naval battle of Lepanto was fought on October 7, 1571, when the
Christian League (including a Venetian squadron) met and beat the
Turks.  However, the Turks had already landed an army on Cyprus in 1570,
and had basically taken the island by August, 1571.  In March 1573, the
Venetian recognized the Turkish conquest. Turkish rule lasted for the
next 200 years.

So, we may conclude that Othello killed the Turk in Aleppo some time
between 1516 and 1571.

But what was Othello doing in Aleppo -- if, indeed, he was in Aleppo?
(Some of us believe that Othello tells stories that have no factual
basis.) He seems to have already been a Venetian official of some sort
or possibly a Venetian citizen, since he objects to the turban'd Turk
beating a Venetian and traducing the state (Riverside Othello 5.2.353).
Was Othello on a military mission?  Was he on a mission as a cultural
broker?  Was he acting as a spy?  Was he merely traveling -- without
brief -- through the city to some other place?

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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