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The Function of Narrative in Othello. A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 32, no. More concretely, Foucault's Discipline and Punish, and Said's Culture and Imperialism, draw critical attention not only to the sociopolitical and psychic dimensions of narrative discourse but to questions of power relations that inform narrative structures and practices.
Although Shakespeare's Othello is a dramatic rather than a narrative work—or perhaps because it is drama in which racially-turned narrative performance is conspicuously, structurally staged—the play offers a fascinating, if unusual, site for examining narrative production and use.
The plot in itself is simple enough: Othello, a General in the Venetian army and a Moor, secretly weds Desdemona, the young daughter of a Venetian senator. Iago, Othello's ensign, beguiles him into believing that Desdemona has been adulterous with the lieutenant, Cassio, and in a jealous rage, Othello murders Desdemona.
The period in which the play was written—the Elizabethan age of exploration and colonial expansion, a time of shifting geographic boundaries and of unprecedented cross-cultural transaction—has already attracted considerable attention on the part of theorists concerned with the constitution of institutionalized sociopolitical structures and the textualization of these structures, as well as those concerned with modes and processes of literary representation and the ideological and rhetorical tensions that it necessarily inscribes.
What needs more attention, however, is how these features are concretely conjoined in a work like Othello and how this play makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the politics and poetics of the Elizabethan period.
Then, I will elaborate on Shakespeare's procedure by linking it to the dynamics of fiction-making in general, going on to explore what his particular construction of Othello reveals about his poetic agenda.
Finally, I will expand my argument to explore relations of power in imperialist culture and the signs of this power in Shakespeare's art and canonic status. In this way, I wish to demonstrate not only how Shakespeare's schizoid casting of the Moor as, at once, central subject and marginalized object reflects colonial power relations but also how the play's colonializing instrumentality extends beyond the literary text and pertains to Shakespeare scholarship and criticism of the play as well.
In the last scene of Othello, the protagonist, aware of how he has been duped by Iago, is confined with the corpse of his wife whom he has just murdered; the time seems to have come finally for what Othello has not yet done: She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
Othello, however, has no capacity for reflection of this kind, either in personal or general humanistic terms.
Faced with the tragic results of his poor judgment, he musters an audience and, predictably, tells another story: Earlier, goaded into believing that Desdemona is guilty of adultery, he disintegrated into apoplectic incoherence: We say lie on her, when they belie her … Handkerchief—confessions—handkerchief—… Pish!
When faced with similarly disillusioning circumstance, Hamlet though it is highly unlikely that he could be tricked by Iago protested: Fie on't, Ah fie! That it should come [to this]!
But [two days married], nay, not so much, not two. Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman! The closest Othello comes to soliloquizing in the vein characteristic of Shakespeare's tragic heroes is in his paranoiac ally telescoped aside: Haply for I am black, And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberes have, or for I am declin'd Into the vale of years yet that's not muchShe's gone.
I am abus'd and my relief Must be to loathe her.
Othello was written four years after Hamlet, one year before King Lear and two years before Macbeth, the three plays with which it is usually ranked.
Yet Othello is not invested with any of the self-searching, self-revelatory monologues that endow Shakespeare's tragic heroes with their special poignancy. Othello does not experience those ennobling moments when with lyric intensity the protagonist faces a personal crisis and gains and imparts insight into self and the vicissitudes of human life.
In Shakespeare, the soliloquy is one means of bringing the hero closer to the audience; it magnifies and at the same time humanizes him. Notably, in Othello, instead of the Moor, it is Iago, his white ensign, who is given to self-communing and his primary role is to diminish, through calculated psychic violence, Othello's humanity.
As part of this function, Iago's privileged soliloquizing installs him between the protagonist and the audience even as it signalizes his own impressive intellectual capabilities and psychological astuteness.
With this edge, Iago interprets, manipulates, even forecasts the hero's thought and actions for the audience, flattening the character, rendering increasingly evanescent verbal profundities like those allowed to Hamlet and Lear.
Othello himself, in contrast, is limited to retailing his history, telling stories about his past exploits. In a well-documented critical dialogue, when A. James Calderwood goes even so far as to suggest that Othello's preoccupation with storytelling comes close to jeopardizing the drama: Shakespeare's dramatic story yields to Othello's senatorial story, which disappears into stories of cannibals and Anthropophagy which might disappear into.
Why this yielding to the narrative impulse in this drama? Why in this play more than in any other is Shakespeare's dramatic art in danger of being upstaged by the characters' storytelling?Get this from a library!
Othello: new essays by Black writers. [Mythili Kaul;] -- "The theme of this work is race and racism in Othello. The critical question raised is whether Othello is a racist play, written by a racist playwright, for a racist audience, or whether it is a play.
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Use BorrowDirect to request a different copy. For additional help, ask a library staff member. Suggested Further Reading for Othello. Bartels, Emily C. "Making More of the Moor: Aaron, Othello, and Renaissance Refashionings of Race." Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (): Bartels addresses the Elizabethan understanding of the Moor, observing that representations of so-called Moors were both varied and inconsistent.
Free othello papers, essays, and research papers. My Account. Your search returned The handkerchief symbolizes the start of a new generation, a token of their union and ultimately determines their fate and the main characters lives being changed by the events. Othello is a black man of a very high status and can be see as valuable and.
Jan 21, · Othello (Vol. 79) - Essay William Shakespeare. Homework Help. Introduction (Shakespearean Criticism) ” In Othello: New Essays by Black Writers, edited by Mythili Kaul, pp.