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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Desdemona
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1344  Saturday, 18 May 2002

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 2002 08:24:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1314 Re: Desdemona

[2]     From:   Michele Marrapodi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 2002 15:28:33 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1280 Re: Desdemona


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 2002 08:24:38 -0500
Subject: 13.1314 Re: Desdemona
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1314 Re: Desdemona

Fran Teague remarks, vis a vis Desdemona, .

> Now [Paula] Vogel is, of course, using a late 20th-century ethical system that
> regards women as human beings. Whether Shakespeare or any of his
> contemporaries felt that way is, of course, another matter.

I don't want to be fractious, but this strikes me a over-stated. Granted
that there have been theoretical arguments over the humanity of women
(parallel in many respects to similar arguments over other races and
even other nationalities), the very fact of male jealousy, especially
insane and murderous jealousy, implicitly acknowledges the humanity of
the woman in question.

To put it most simply, if a man rides your horse without permission, you
might charge him with theft, but you don't shoot the horse. You may love
the horse, but you don't marry it, and you thus don't have your ego
invested in its "honor" (chastity, fidelity). You don't assume that your
horse willingly shamed you by going off with another man -- not unless
you're a real nut case.

Whatever may have been claimed theoretically, the evident fact of
jealousy (as likewise of locking women away, veiling them when they are
out -- customs practiced in many times and locales) must be predicated
on their humanity. You wouldn't bother with a horse, a dog, or any other
non-human creature.

This in no way justifies the viciousness of sexist customs. My point is
exactly the opposite. Sexist customs are only possible by a kind of
double-think, whereby their innate inconsistency and injustice are
willfully overlooked to accommodate the power-needs and fears of men.

Cheers,
don

PS: One of the reasons that I am not a relativist is that, from my
belief in certain Absolutes, I can consider and finally condemn things
in both my own culture and foreign ones that I decide are cruel and
unjust. d.a.b.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michele Marrapodi <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 2002 15:28:33 +0200
Subject: 13.1280 Re: Desdemona
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1280 Re: Desdemona

>Stuart Manger writes,
>
>> Can I canvas opinions on how unwittingly and thus almost culpably naive
>> or irresponsible through innocence and a lack of streetwise savvy
>> Desdemona is for her own downfall?

In "'Let her withness it:' The Rhetoric of Desdemona" (_Italian Studies
in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries_, ed. M. Marrapodi and G.
Melchiori, Delaware UP, 1999), I studied the strategies of character
construction in _Othello_, to challenge some traditional readings of
Desdemona as a passive, childlike figure in past and recent
interpretations. The rhetoric of character construction demonstrates
Desdemona's fundamental role if it is seen in opposition to that of Iago
and for the salvation of the Moor. A comparison between the two
antagonistic characterizations of Iago and Desdemona and their
rhetorical strategies may throw fresh light on the tragedy's overall
symbolic dimension and allow Desdemona to be freed from the artificial
displacement of the other characters' opinions, speaking vith her own
"voice" to the audience. From this perspective, Desdemona becomes Iago's
most natural and direct antagonist, her more active role being necessary
for the dynamics of the action and decisively influential for the final
recovery of Othello's spiritual knowledge. I hope this (provocative)
reference may lead the participants in this discussion list to a defence
of Desdemona.

Cheers.
Michele Marrapodi

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