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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Othello on Bloom
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1343  Wednesday, 2 July 2003

[1]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 07:38:07 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1326 Bloom on Othello

[2]     From:   Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:57:28 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

[3]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:35:11 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

[4]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 01 Jul 2003 18:58:15 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

[5]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 21:27:33 -0400
        Subj:   Bloom on Othello: Consummation Vel Non?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 07:38:07 EDT
Subject: 14.1326 Bloom on Othello
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1326 Bloom on Othello

As Keith Hopkins demonstrates, Iago is everyman - hence his horrible
effectiveness.

Desdemona (speaking as someone who had the enormous pleasure of playing
her many years ago) is a normal young woman with normal sexual appetites
and a normal understanding of sexual behaviour. She is quite capable of
parrying Iago's sexual jokes (in a scene that so many directors cut
because it does not fit with their preconceptions of her supposed
'virginal' 'innocence'). But the fact that she is not ignorant does not
mean that she is not innocent. She tells Emilia that she can't imagine
sleeping around and there is no way that an an audience in the theatre
at that moment can interpret that as any other than the truth.

She also believes in doing what she's promised to do even if that makes
life difficult for herself. She doesn't know that Iago has been dropping
suggestive, poisonous remarks in her husband's ear, and, as so many
women do, she stays with someone who starts abusing her. Women do that
all the time because they keep hoping it's going to get better - that he
will turn back to being the person they love. Like it or not, it is
perfectly normal behaviour and the people at fault are those doing the
abusing.

'These men, these men' as she despairingly says.

Ros

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:57:28 EDT
Subject: 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

Desdemona can be seen as a "rescue personality," whose maternal,
comforting instincts prevail.

1. She falls in love with Othello because he tells what scary things
he's been through. After lots of details on being sold into slavery,
Cannibals, etc, he summarizes "She loved me for the dangers I had
passed."

2. She marries him--OK this is a stretch--to rescue the racist society
from its odious prevailing [not just prevalent but prevailing] idea,
still-existent 400+  years later, racism, i.e., the belief that skin
color is significant.

3. Act II scene 1: She rescues Emilia from Iago's habit of wife-abuse
(part of his and the surrounding society's misogynism<--root concept
underlying whole play) by standing between him and Emilia, "What wouldst
thou say of me...." knowing she is now the general's wife. She is not
flirting here, as pre-1975 commentators believed. She is rescuing a
"sister."

4. SHE IS RESCUING CASSIO

5. SHE TRIES TO RESCUE OTHELLO with her last words.

Kezia Vanmeter Sproat

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:35:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

>Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but those of
>us who've seen her
>case history, plus the pre-sentence reports of her
>probation officer
>never did hold out much hope. There's the background
>of domestic
>violence and substance abuse for a start.  We're
>also pretty sure that
>that Mrs Lear was involved (again!), which explains
>the shoplifting. You
>knew she was dyslexic, I suppose?
>
>T. Hawkes

I have to agree. There is nothing to indicate anywhere that Desdemona
had such a past. Shakespeare would have made that known. Besides,
wouldn't the tragedy be greatly diminished if Desdemona were indeed a
whore and Othello had merely discovered it? I thought the tragedy was
that someone entirely chaste is falsely accused and murdered by someone
who dearly loved her (too well). Besides, I believe we can trust even
Iago when he says in an aside:

"Thus credulous fools are caught, and many worthy and chaste dames even
thus, all guiltless, meet reproach".
Act IV, Scene i

Brian Willis

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Tuesday, 01 Jul 2003 18:58:15 +0100
Subject: 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1334 Re: Othello on Bloom

>Keith Hopkins observes,
>
>'I do not think Desdemona was a chaste person, and probably had a sexual
>history, and is very much of a product of the society she was born in
>to.

when I shagged her last week she was definitely a virgin - I'm not sure
about afterwards though.

Jonathan Hope
Strathclyde University, Glasgow

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 21:27:33 -0400
Subject:        Bloom on Othello: Consummation Vel Non?

After Othello quells the night-brawl, Desdemona suddenly appears with
her attendant(s).  Startled, Othello exclaims: "Look if my gentle love
be not raised up!"  Then sternly to Cassio:  "I'll make thee an
example." Desdemona asks what is the matter.  After words of reassurance
to her, invitation to Montano and command to Iago, Othello leads her off
saying: "Come, Desdemona:  'tis the soldier's life/ To have their balmy
slumbers waked with strife."  (II.3.246-254).

These lines clearly indicate that Othello and Desdemona were sleeping
when the brawl erupted.  If so, the act of consummation had presumably
occurred, and their "balmy slumbers" were post-coital.  It is hard to
understand why Othello would speak to Desdemona of being awakened from
sleep if they had been interrupted in the middle of their conscious,
unconsummated amours.

On the basis of the quoted lines I would go further and say that Othello
alone was roused by the alarm; that he left Desdemona sleeping in order
to deal with the matter; that she subsequently awoke and was disturbed
to find him gone; and that he was accordingly surprised and angry to
find her "raised up" by the disturbance.  Had they been engaged in
conscious love-play when the bell sounded, Othello would know that
Desdemona, as well as he, had been alerted by it, and he would not
express surprise and sudden anger at seeing her awake and in search of
him.

--Charles Weinstein

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