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Othello: An Academic Discourse.

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Othello: An Academic Discourse Introduction: Shakespeare and His Continuing Value as a Writer Shakespeare's works continue to promote intellectual discussion across all spectrums of academic discourse in schools and universities. The universality of his themes, such as jealousy, love and revenge manifest themselves in the excellently crafted play Othello. The text reveals that such themes transcend time and culture, yet can provide particular insights in to the play's reception in a historical context; 400 years after initially being composed, it contains issues of inequality relating to class, race and gender which continue to be the focus of modern literary discourse. By overlaying such frameworks onto the text, modern audiences are able to evaluate the extent to which values have changed or remained static despite said contexts. One of theatre's key functions is to serve as a cultural artefact, which replicates or challenges the values of the time in which it was composed. Othello achieves this by strongly reflecting and indeed challenging the social attitudes of the time, particularly in relation to gender and race. The analyses of Othello that are contained within this volume demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of the text. ...read more.


The connection between Othello's lieutenant Michael Cassio, and the courtesan Bianca is also analysed. Brabantio feels affronted by Iago's public acclamation of the loss of his daughter by dubious means, fearing that by shouting about his Desdemona in the streets, he is implying whoredom, and thus risking loss of reputation. In the same way later Cassio worries about keeping Bianca sedate, and compromises by dining at her house, fearing "she'll rail in the streets else". (IV, i, 163). Both men are concerned primarily with their reputations, not wanting to be associated with whoredom, and thus risk losing their social status. McDonald also makes a strong point in tying their similarities to Iago. Like Brabantio who partakes of their mutual racism, Cassio shares "an ugly sexual understanding" (P193) with Iago, both relating to the other's misogynistic view of women. Cassio dismisses Bianca's love for him, sneering how she "hangs, and lolls and weeps upon me!" (III, iv, 158). McDonald's essay is an exploration of the way in which racial and sexual fear is manifested in Othello. It examines the nature of Elizabethan society, and how this is supported and challenged by Shakespeare. As a text, it is an assessment of the racial stereotypes of his era. ...read more.


"Othello: A Study in Class Struggle" is an interesting look at the way in which class can be examined in a performance context. Iago, who is in most circles considered the villain, is almost a character worthy of sympathy, only manipulating people in order to rise above his low place in Venetian society, and bring the power to the working class into play. Fabian looks at Othello as challenging the accepted notions of hierarchal order in Elizabethan society; yet does not express sympathy towards him, as by passing Iago over for promotion, it appears he has forgotten his social roots. It is one of the few Marxist readings that does not ignore the value and place of women within the text; Fabian considers the three women intrinsic to the representations of the class struggle as they also reject accepted codes of behaviour. In this way, his work is an important and original Marxist interpretation of Othello. The value of this volume is the range of perspectives it offers. This enables the reader to discover and consider new intellectual insights which enlarge former perceptions of the play in its responders. Each analysis contained in this book - whether Freudian, feminist, post-colonialist or Marxist - has, like the Othello itself, a number of merits and insights into society. ...read more.

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