The Connell Guide To Shakespeare's Othello
With the exception of Hamlet, Othello is Shakespeare's most controversial play. It is also his most shocking. Dr Johnson famously described the ending as "not to be endured", and H.H. Furness, after editing the Variorum edition of the play, confessed to wishing that "this tragedy had never been written". No play in performance has prompted more outbursts from onlookers: there are many recorded instances of members of the audience actually trying to intervene to prevent Othello murdering Desdemona. It is a more domestic tragedy than Hamlet, King Lear or Macbeth, and it is the intimacy of its subject matter which gives it its dramatic power. Othello is a faithful portrait of life, wrote one anonymous Romantic critic. "Love and jealousy are passions which all men, with few exceptions, have at some time felt." Othello has also prompted more critical disputes than any other play except Hamlet. How could the hero possibly believe his wife had been unfaithful within a few days of their marriage? Is the marriage consummated (as it is usually assumed to be)? Is Othello a noble hero or is he really just a self-deluded egotist? And in this play about a disastrous inter-racial marriage, how important is the whole issue of race? Is the play itself racist? This book looks at what Othello is really about and why it has such power to move us. It aims to offer a clear, authoritative and fresh view of Othello, while taking account of the many fascinating insights other critics have had into the play in the four centuries since it was written.
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