So, you’re a pretty nice guy. Got this beautiful fiancée or wife, and she’s totally faithful to you. And this dude comes along and tells you that she’s been disloyal. You get sad then mad, and you want her killed. We’ve seen this before in Othello and now Cymbeline. You’re the Moor or Posthumus. She’s Desdemona or Hero. And that “dude” is Iago or Iachimo.
Is similarity in the name intentional?
Continue reading Iachimo: little scamp or little Iago?
[I know, we’ve already put a bow on this play…but think of this as a little parting gift (you know, a “Leap Day” present)!]
So here’s the numerical breakdown…
Continue reading Othello: by the numbers
With the play about to be seen only in our rear-view mirror, let’s close this three-month discussion with a simple question:
What’s Othello about?
Continue reading Othello: the wrap-up
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This week’s podcast concludes our three month-long discussion of Othello with a wrap-up, a look back, and some production concepts and casts.
Continue reading Podcast 122: Othello: Wrap-Up and Production Concepts/Casts
Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Othello.
There are 3237 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1619, or at Act Three, Scene Three, line 188. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint (or within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions. Of course, with only 19% of this play in prose, wiggle room may not be needed.
Continue reading Othello: midpoint microcosm
Much of any given Shakespeare play is poetry, mostly blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter (more on that here). Sometimes some of those poetic lines rhyme, but mostly not. And some of the play (just over a quarter by average; just over 16% in tragedies, though Othello has closer to 20%) isn’t even in verse; it’s just prose.
So, the question always comes up, “Why do this in verse and that in prose?” Well, the standard, cliched answer is the ol’ “verse = nobility :: prose = common man” trope. And while that may be true in many cases, it’s certainly not true all the time.
So what’s going on?
Continue reading Prose, verse, and rhyme: an Othello case-study
I have noted before (many times) now how Shakespeare’s plays are mostly written in poetry; here, in the case of Othello, nearly 80% of the lines are in verse. When the verse is metrical–and typically, we’re talking about blank verse/unrhymed iambic pentameter (you can check this out for a refresher course on scansion)–then variations from that regular meter can often point out something to help us as actors and directors.
With most plays, I take a look at acting direction we get from the scansion; but with Othello, I’m going to take a different tack: I’m going to take a “macro,” rather than “micro” view. I want to focus on two speeches and how their contrasting scansion helps define character and his linguistic strategy (not just the tactical choices of single words).
Continue reading Scansion: shock and ahhh…
Every month, I like to delve into the text to find the non-stage direction found in the dialogue. Shakespeare is famous (or notorious, depending on your view) for a relative lack of explicit stage direction. But it’s there; he just hides it in the dialogue of his characters. We’ve already discussed what Othello’s fit should look like. Let me provide a just few examples of other spoken stage direction from Othello (just a few…but don’t feel short-changed: I’ve got something else today–whoo hoo, two entries for one day!).
Continue reading Staged direction
[EXPLICIT CONTENT, ADULT LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL IMAGERY AHEAD… SKIP IF EASILY OFFENDED.]
OK, yesterday, I recounted my love for bawdy, and discussed what Eric Partridge said about Othello in his great dictionary of the dirty stuff, Shakespeare’s Bawdy: Othello is “slightly … bawdier” (Shakespeare’s Bawdy, Partridge, Eric. New York: Routledge Classics, 2001; page 57) than Measure for Measure, and that the pair make up “Shakespeare’s most sexual, most bawdy plays” (Shakespeare’s Bawdy, 57). As I mentioned yesterday, I can’t argue that. In Othello, the sexuality is so pervasive as to make it commonplace.
With sex, sex organs, and lust out of the way, let’s take a look at whores…
Continue reading Carpet F-Bombing the Bawdy, Part Two
[EXPLICIT CONTENT, ADULT LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL IMAGERY AHEAD… SKIP IF EASILY OFFENDED.]
Anybody who’s spent any time on this blog knows I love the good, raunchy, dirty bit o’ bawdy. (sometimes too much) But I’m not alone… Shakespeare had quite the wicked wit himself, and he planted enough naughty bits to keep me occupied–usually happily–in every play. Back in Hamlet, though, I noted a disturbing trend: the increase of dirty concurrent with the decrease of fun. Troilus and Cressida got a little fun back, but ended diseased. All’s Well That Ends Well was a journey–a slog, really–from virginity to prostitution. And Measure for Measure? Well, sexuality so pervasive that even the bawdy stuff is subconscious.
So, where does that leave us with Othello?
Continue reading Carpet F-Bombing the Bawdy, Part One
A couple of weeks back, I took a look at Heaven and Hell. Not physically, of course. I’m just going to one of those (and it’s not the one with the rarely used stairway, it’s the one with the packed highway). No, I meant a view of Othello, shot through the prism of a concordance. For those who don’t know, a concordance is an exhaustive listing of the uses of any word within a given body of work. And if you’ve been following along for any length of time (or have just checked out the not-so-digital tools of the trade), I love the one over at OpenSource Shakespeare, I like to take a dive into it for words like “nothing” in Much Ado About Nothing, “gulling” in Twelfth Night, “man” and “play” in As You Like It, “noble” and “honor” in Julius Caesar, “play” (again) in Hamlet, and “mercy” in Measure for Measure. And as I said, earlier in the month, I took a look at Heaven and Hell in Othello.
Today, I want to tackle another “H” word: Honest.
Continue reading Othello in Concordance: honestly jealous
Yesterday, when I was discussing the perversity of Othello‘s ending (or the perversion of audience expectations by Shakespeare [or what you will]), I mentioned that another (along with the sexual connotation) post-Shakespeare definition of “perverse” was “against the weight of evidence or the direction of the judge on a point of law” (“perverse, adj.; 4” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 14 February 2016.).
I also mentioned that I’d riff upon that on another day. Well, with apologies to Margaret Mitchell, yesterday’s tomorrow is another day.
Continue reading Othello: On trial
In Shakespeare’s day, the word “perverse” had–for the most part–meanings similar to what we have today: “disposed to go against what is reasonable, logical, expected, or required,” “adverse, unfavorable, untimely,” “Contrary to what is morally right or good,” “Contrary to an accepted standard or practice” (“perverse, adj. 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, respectively” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 14 February 2016.).
What does this, exactly, have to do with Othello?
You might think this is another of my concordance entries.
And you’d be wrong.
Continue reading Othello: Perverse
To follow up on Monday’s discussion of race and religion in Othello:
The use of the term Turk is interesting for a couple of reasons: it and its plural are used 24 times in 15 works in the Canon; and it’s used the most frequently in (you guessed it) Othello, with 10 usages (second place goes to Richard II with…two usages). But what I find really interesting is that like “Moor,” “Turk” had become Elizabethan shorthand for Muslim (“Turk, n.1; 3a” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 15 February 2016.).
Continue reading Of Turks and Tempests
Othello, the Moor of Venice.
As I’ve mentioned before, “Moor” was Elizabethan shorthand for Muslim (though through the Middle Ages, “the Moors were widely supposed to be mostly black or very dark-skinned” [“moor” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 13 February 2016.]). Though we know that Othello is black (or at least black-er than the other major characters on stage)–because of some descriptive (and descriptively racist) references–how important is his Muslim-ness?
What is “moor” important (bad pun, I know) within the play, being black or being Muslim?
Continue reading Race / Religion