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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: November ::
Othello's Pronouns and Double Time
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0575  Wednesday, 18 November 2009

From:       Jim Fess <
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 >
Date:       Thursday, 12 Nov 2009 15:28:48 +0800
Subject:    Othello's Pronouns and Double Time

Editors of Othello often change two pronouns to smooth the play, but the 
changes destroy two settings: Desdemona's misbehavior towards Cassio, 
and Iago's sexual desire for Othello.

1. From *he* (in 1623 Folio) to *you*

IAG: Did Michael Cassio when *he* wooed my Lady, know of your love?
OTH: He did, from first to last: Why dost thou ask?
IAG: But for a satisfaction of my Thought, no further harm.
OTH: Why of thy thought, Iago?
IAG: I did not think he had been acquainted with her.
OTH: O yes, and went between us very oft.

The original *he* means Cassio pursued Desdemona the same time as 
Othello, who won the lady and possibly promoted Cassio for exchange. The 
*he* is printed as *you* in 1622 Quarto and 1632 Folio, a change 
unlikely a print error.

2. From *she* to *he*

Iago suspected Othello slept with his wife and said:
[1623 Folio] I hate the Moor,
And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets
*She ha's* done my Office.

This can be translated as: I hate the feeling of being abandoned, and my 
wild thought tells me that my wife has done my work in bed with Othello. 
(I should be the one in bed with him, not my wife.)  Iago never said he 
hated Othello but only hated the Moor, a wild open land. Other two versions:

[1622 Quarto] And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets
*Ha's* done my office;

[1632 Folio] And it is thought abroad, that twixt my sheets
*He ha's* done my Office.

Iago's sexual desire was the motive for him to drug Othello and hurt 
people close to Othello except Othello himself. The drug was the cause 
of the so called double time scheme.

Othello acted and spoke as if he stayed in Cyprus only two days, but 
others weeks already. Some consider this a flaw. On the contrary, "Womb 
of Time" is the play's major topic, a writing experiment that the author 
interacted with his characters, and asked readers to solve this riddle 
"by wit."

Answer hides in judging metaphors. When Iago said, "the Moor already 
changes with my poison," he really drugged Othello. Iago emphasized this 
with "my medicine works" and drugs like poppy, drowsy syrups that he 
used to ruin some "chaste dames." Poison made Othello lose his sense of 
time, and a wise general in Venice become a rogue in Cyprus.

Hints for this time riddle in the script:

*Horologe a double Set*: the double clock trick.

*There are many Events in the Womb of Time, which will be delivered*: a 
hint that _time machine_ will be the issue in this play.

*set the Watch*: to announce the start of double time in Cyprus, strange 
timing happened after this command.

*work by Wit, and not by Witchcraft*: a hint to solve this riddle by 
logic only. In other plays, riddles may be solved by supernatural 
events, like Hamlet (ghost) and Macbeth (witch). Othello and King Lear 
have no witchcraft.

*Wit depends on dilatory time . . . make the hours seem short*: a hint 
for slow (dilatory) and fast (short) clock.

With the poison in mind, Othello may have a different reading 
experience, more intriguing and logical.

Your comments are appreciated.

Jim

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