Interpreting Shakespeare's Plays

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There is no master view of a text; widely differing perspectives of texts are created as our values shift over time, reflecting particular ideologies and enriching the understanding of responders. This is especially true for the Shakespearean play, Othello, whose reception has been heavily influenced by shifting values since the Elizabethan-Jacobean period when it was written. The conception of structuralism and feminism has created widely differing critical interpretations of texts that challenge affirmatory interpretations of traditional criticism, providing insights into varying ideological practices and social relationships of the past and present for contemporary responders.

The great joy and pain in Othello frequently results from love, evidencing its unquestionable power. The antagonist, Iago, expresses his view of love as “merely a lust of a blood and permission of the will” in prose with bestial imagery riddled with sexual connotation: he provokes Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, by saying that his daughter and Othello are “making the beast with two backs” in consummation of their marriage, a statement that repulses me because of my parents’ constant disapproval of using such vulgar language. The depiction of Iago as the villain, displayed by the dull, prose dialogue between him and Roderigo, highlights the deplorability of his perspective of love. The characters’ ignorance of Iago’s unloving nature allows him to orchestrate the tragic events of the play; in his frequent, scheme-revealing soliloquies, Iago acknowledges the diabolical nature of his devious plans with spiteful tone: “hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to light”. Being in a minority group as a result of my differing ethnicity has given me sufficie...

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...ience to consider the injustice that they may or may not be doing to their wives. The period in which Othello was written was riddled with conflict between social structures of Protestantism and Catholicism, which generated the fear of being controlled in its suppression of one’s beliefs. The control Iago exercises on the unaware characters evokes that fear of oppression in the audience.

Feminism and structuralism are not the only concepts that one can have in mind while interpreting Shakespeare’s plays; the ambiguity that Shakespeare articulately uses in his literary works allows for more analytical, theoretical approaches that one can adapt in order to enrich their learning experience. Exploring other critical interpretations not only refines our understanding, but it also acts as an exciting, alternate pathway for us to learn about past and present ideologies.
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