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Compare, contrast and evaluate the 5 screen interpretations of Othello's Final Speech - cross-comparing throughout, under different headings.

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Introduction

COMPARE, CONTRAST and EVALUATE the 5 SCREEN INTERPRETATIONS of Othello's Final Speech - cross-comparing throughout, under different headings. Include references to (and comments on): * Key moments and evidence from Othello's key speeches from across the play, as you try to come to terms with his "tragic fate" * Your reactions to T. S. Eliot's interpretation * Your reaction to A. C. Bradley's interpretation * Use the Greer and Ryan interpretations * Reference to the Robeson Production * Relevant context material - from the articles and from your notes * Some evaluation of language Othello's emotional final scene contains the deaths of three major characters in the play: Othello, Desdemona and Emilia. There have been many disagreements over the meanings of these deaths and how they relate to other events in the play, but Othello's appears to be the most controversial of the three. This scene, most importantly Othello's final speech, has been interpreted in many different ways, including articles, paintings, and film and stage productions. Two main ideas which have arisen from these different interpretations are the portrayal of Othello as either Bradley's "romantic figure" or Leavis's "egotistic" character. Five different illustrations of Othello's final speech have been done by Welles, Olivier, Hopkins, White and Fishbourne, all playing Othello in feature films or stage productions of the play. Welles's black and white feature film cuts the speech dramatically, but produces and powerful and emotional scene. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly, Othello dies lying with his wife, after kissing her. "Killing myself, to die upon a kiss." V.ii.355. Othello is portrayed as more emotional than the previous three, as he is shown as truly distraught and crying. He also shows signs of feeling bitter for the loss of Desdemona, and for being betrayed by Iago. However, he is still shown as having authority over Desdemona, as he is shown in the end of the final scene, lying on top of her, which also suggests how she was always submissive to him, even at the end of her life. However, she is still portrayed as innocent, as she is clothed in white and surrounded by white sheets. It seems almost contradictory, then, that Othello is clothed in white as well, but this simply demonstrates his love for Desdemona, and implies the portrayal of a "romantic figure". Due to the colour of his clothing, then, he is shown to walk into the shadows or away from the light to commit suicide, so that the idea that he is condemned to Hell is still enforced. Similarly to the White and Olivier illustrations of Othello in V.ii., Fishbourne plays a romantic, noble character, who is emotional but relatively calm, although still noble and hedonistic. However, his emotions are still clear, as he, too, cries during his final speech, and speaks at almost a whisper. Like White's portrayal, Fishbourne appears bitter, making threatening moves before climbing on top of Desdemona "to die upon a kiss". ...read more.

Conclusion

Kiernan Ryan believes that Othello is between the interpretations Bradley and Leavis gave, saying that "insofar as Othello is a black outsider, he is the tragic victim of the poisonous racist mentality embodied in Iago". However, he then progresses to comment that "inasmuch as he is a man, acting in unconscious obedience to the norms of patriarchy, he is also the complicit agent of his own derangement and demise". Paul Robeson's revolutionary portrayal as Othello also illustrated the character as "noble", and "magnificence personified". Words such as "power", "majesty", "grandeur", "sweet simplicity" and "innocence" are frequently used in contemporary reviews, once even being described as showing "radiant bliss" when reunited with Desdemona in II.i. This implies that Robeson played the "romantic figure" Bradley spoke of in 1904. I agree with T. S. Eliot's interpretation of Othello in his final speech, and across the play, as a "pathetic character", as he has shown signs of being untrusting towards Desdemona, having very little faith in her, and decided his opinion and feelings were more important than any others, including the justice system. Othello felt, throughout V.ii., that he was just in his actions, stating that Desdemona could "almost persuade Justice to break her sword", implying that he believes that what he is about to do is just and fair, but her sweet breath and face could "almost persuade" him to not kill her. This is clearly ignorance and arrogance, in my opinion, and fortifies the interpretation of Othello as "a pathetic figure". Charlotte Greene 12A ...read more.

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