Othello – How it Ranks

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Othello – How it Ranks In the context of thousands of plays written by hundreds of dramatists since 500 years prior to the time of Christ, how does William Shakespeare’s play Othello rank? In this essay let us find the proper place for this play, and consider critical opinion in the process. Othello would appear to have a beauty about it which is hard to match – thus ranking high. Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” touches on this beauty which enables this play to stand above the other tragedies of the Bard: Among the tragedies of Shakespeare Othello is supreme in one quality: beauty. Much of its poetry, in imagery, perfection of phrase, and steadiness of rhythm, soaring yet firm, enchants the sensuous imagination. This kind of beauty Othello shares with Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra; it is a corollary of the theme which it shares with them. But Othello is also remarkable for another kind of beauty. Except for the trivial scene with the clown, all is immediately relevant to the central issue; no scene requires critical justification. The play has a rare intellectual beauty, satisfying the desire of the imagination for order and harmony between the parts and the whole. Finally, the play has intense moral beauty. It makes an immediate appeal to the moral imagination, in its presentation in the figure of Desdemona of a love which does not alter ‘when it alteration finds’, but ‘bears it out even to the edge of doom’. (139) The play is so quotable; consider Desdemona’s opening lines before the Council of Venice: “My noble father, / I do perceive here a divided duty,” or Othello’s last words: “Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” Could the continuing reputat... ... middle of paper ... .... San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955. Heilman, Robert B. “The Role We Give Shakespeare.” Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965. Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos. Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.
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