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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Othello's Name
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0526  Monday, 21 March 2005

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 11:21:11 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:26:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

[3]     From:   Todd Pettigrew <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 17:20:50 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 18:49:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 11:21:11 -0600
Subject: 16.0512 Othello's Name
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

 >Othello was entrusted to guard the safety of Venice
 >against a Turkish threat, hence he must have totally identified with
 >Venice, in religion and all else.

Patently false. All guards are 110% committed to what they're guarding?

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:26:04 -0500
Subject: 16.0512 Othello's Name
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

Ed Kranz <
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 >

 >I have to say I find your argument unconvincing. In The Duchess of Malfi
 >(written reasonably close to Othello), John Webster has the Duchess say:
 >"I have heard lawyers say a contract in a chamber,/ per verba de
 >presenti is absolute marriage:" Who then would have been able to prevent
 >this marriage?

Any competent lawyer, inasmuch as the law made marriage between a
baptized Christian and an infidel null and void. (That is, not merely
forbidden, but inoperative.)

 >Othello's final speech which you cite, indicates Othello
 >thought of himself as a Muslim, an outsider, the "circumsized dog" so I
 >don't see how that provides any support for the view that he converted
 >to Christianity.

On the contrary, the "circumcised dog" is someone else:
                      ...in Aleppo once,
     Where a malignant, and a Turbond-Turke
     Beate a Venetian, and traduc'd the State,
     I tooke by th'throat the circumcised Dogge....

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------


That Othello is a Christian seems clear from at least two passages.

For one, Othello seems to contrast himself and his men with non-Christians:

"Why, how now, ho! from whence ariseth this?
Are we turn'd Turks, and to ourselves do that
Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?
For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl"

For another, when Iago argues that Othello loves Desdemona so completely
that he would do anything for her, he notes that Othello is baptised and
that to renounce it would be the just the sort of unbelievably
outrageous thing that he might do for Desdemona:

"And then for her
To win the Moor--were't to renounce his baptism,
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin,
His soul is so enfetter'd to her love,
That she may make, unmake, do what she list,
Even as her appetite shall play the god
With his weak function."

Othello is a baptised Christian. Whether this implies that he is
converted is another matter.

Todd Pettigrew
Cape Breton University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 18:49:46 -0500
Subject: 16.0512 Othello's Name
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0512 Othello's Name

 >Tolstoy was critical of this play, finding as too improbable that a
 >sophisticated man could be so readily tricked into jealousy the way
 >Othello was. Apparently, the Bible disagrees with Tolstoy on the
 >potential for such a happening since the Pentateuch in Numbers 5:14
 >discusses the problem of what is to be done if "the spirit of jealousy
 >come upon him [the husband], and he be jealous of his wife, and she be
 >not defiled." The Pentateuch prescribes the procedure that is to be
 >followed. The husband is not allowed to harm his wife but must bring her
 >to a priest so that she can go through an awesome ceremony of drinking
 >"bitter waters." If the "bitter waters" have marked physical effects on
 >her, it is proof of her guilt and he may put her aside, but not harm her
 >physically in any way, as the Talmud interprets it. But if the waters
 >have no effect, the Bible specifically dictates that she must be
 >returned to her home and she cannot be put aside by her husband for the
 >rest of her life.

I'll take Tolstoy over the author of the Pentateuch any day.  He was far
more intelligent, sophisticated, educated and knowledgeable, and
probably held a more exalted social rank.

To suggest that it would have been better all around if Desdemona had
been put to the ordeal rather than convicted (albeit erroneously) based
on circumstantial evidence and false testimony about a confession speaks
volumes about those who put their faith in scriptures.

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