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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2081  Friday, 10 December 2004

[1]     From:   Todd Pettigrew <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 09:55:07 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

[2]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 16:16:40 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

[3]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 10:49:04 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

[4]     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 13:09:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

[5]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 14:00:39 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd Pettigrew <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 09:55:07 -0400
Subject: 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

I am fascinated by this question and must confess that I had always read
the line as Bevington does.

For what it's worth, "made her" is not a common phrase in Shakespeare.
When it does appear elsewhere it is not in the sense of "made for her,"
but either "forced her" or "created her."  Consider:

I to myself am dearer than a friend,
For love is still most precious in itself;
And Silvia--witness Heaven, that made her fair!--
Shows Julia but a swarthy Ethiope. (2 G of V)

Of course, Desdemona has probably said "made me" and while I have not
looked at every instance of that phrase, it seems to follow the same
pattern:

That god forbid that made me first your slave,
I should in thought control your times of pleasure,
Or at your hand the account of hours to crave,
Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure! (Sonnet 58)

That a woman would wish to have been made a man is not unheard of in
Shakespeare. Recall Beatrice:

Is he not approved in the height a villain, that
hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O
that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
--O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the market-place. (Much Ado)

All that said, I am still very attracted to the idea of a double sense
here. Might it be that Desdemona has intended it one way and Othello
took it another?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 16:16:40 +0000
Subject: 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

Philip Weller writes concerning Othello's description of Desdemona's
reaction to his war stories

 >Bevington's note on "made her" is "created her to be," despite the fact
 >that in Hardin Craig's edition, from which Bevington's is descended, the
 >note for "made her" is "made for her."
 >
 >Bevington's note on "hint" is "opportunity (Othello does not mean that
 >she was dropping hints),"

In both cases the language is ambiguous - deliberately I'd suggest - and
OED certainly gives all those suggested meanings as current at that
time. Surely the point is that they're both 'made for each other' - as
we still say: she's as much of a warrior as he is - she's prepared to go
into a war situation, both actually and metaphorically with him and for
him, and he greets her as 'fair warrior' in Cyprus. She wants him - she
'had eyes and chose me' - so she knew what she was doing when she said
what she said (a hint) and he grasped the opportunity (hint) to speak.
They both tentatively feel their way into what is a strange situation
for both of them - whereas by contrast 'dropping hints' is a euphemism
for a come on. If she needed only to hint as opposed to coming right out
and saying it, it's because, as she says, 'I perceive here a divided
duty'. Nice white girl or not, he's also old enough (one presumes) to be
her father. Most parents still balk at that one. It's a case of
both/and/and, not either/or.

Or was the question about Bevington's opinion?

Best
Ros

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 10:49:04 -0600
Subject: 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

Philip Weller, discussing David Bevington and his notes on Othello's
recollection that begins, "My story being done . . .," goes on to say:

 >"Bevington's note on "made her" is "created her to be," despite the fact
 >that in Hardin Craig's edition, from which Bevington's is descended, the
 >note for "made her" is "made for her."
 >
 >"Bevington's note on "hint" is "opportunity (Othello does not mean that
 >she was dropping hints),"  yet in the OED the very first citation for
 >"hint" as "a slight indication intended to be caught by the intelligent"
 >is "Upon this hint I spake."
 >
 >"Taken together, Bevington's notes seem to indicate that he is
 >determined
 >to adopt the opinion of Brabantio: Desdemona, a nice white girl, would
 >never come on to black Othello.
 >
 >"What do you think?"

I don't think much of the deduction that Bevington is some kind of
crypto-racist for making an honest (and quite reasonable) explication of
the text.

In the first place, I'm not precisely sure what he means by the
colloquialism "come on to." It has several possibilities, and I would
like to know which is meant.

Second, the phrase "made her" is ambiguous in the fullest sense of the
word since it can be equally a direct or an indirect object. The old
"Throw mama from the train a kiss" thing ("Knock me here soundly"). My
suspicion is that the author meant both, and thus that Desdemona meant
both. She has fallen in love with Othello and wants to express that love
without seeming sluttish.

Third, I don't see any reason that Bevington should be obliged to follow
Craig in every detail.

Finally, while I'm inclined to opt for the OED citation (in essence that
"hint" = "a subtle suggestion") rather than "opportunity," I don't see
much difference in the effect. It is an opportunity because it is a
suggestion. And I don't see what either has to do with crypto-racism.

I really think Mr. Weller needs to be more careful. To question the
decisions of a major critical editor is his right; to attribute them to
moral viciousness is not.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Dec 2004 13:09:13 -0500
Subject: 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

It seems obvious that "made her" (1.3.165) and "hint" (168) are
ambiguous, and Bevington should have made that point.

Write to him, and I'm sure he'll explain why he didn't.

Bill Godshalk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 14:00:39 -0600
Subject: 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2070 Footnotes in Bevington Othello?

Phillip Weller writes:

 >Bevington's note on "made her" is "created her to be," despite the fact
 >that in Hardin Craig's edition, from which Bevington's is descended, the
 >note for "made her" is "made for her." Bevington's note on "hint" is
 >"opportunity (Othello does not mean that she was dropping hints),"  yet
 >in the OED the very first citation for "hint" as "a slight indication
 >intended to be caught by the intelligent" is "Upon this hint I spake."
 >Taken together, Bevington's notes seem to indicate that he is determined
 >to adopt the opinion of Brabantio: Desdemona, a nice white girl, would
 >never come on to black Othello.

Alternatively, Bevington may be allowing for a more feminist reading
that Desdemona imagines a heroic role (like the one Othello has
described) for herself, rather than wishing simply to be paired to a
hero. And "dropping hints" like a Victorian maiden might be unseemly in
a woman like Desdemona, perceived as capable of seizing the moment
without waiting for male initiative. I see no reason to interpret these
shifts of interpretation as based on some supposed racism on Bevington's
part.

Regards,
Dave Crosby

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