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William Shakespeare's Othello

Powerful Essays
William Shakespeare's Othello

A significant moment in Othello demonstrates the theme of binaries questioned in many of Shakespeare's works. Addressing the Duke and senators, Othello says:

"Let her have your voice.

Vouch with me heaven, I therefore beg it not

To please the palate of my appetite,

Nor to comply with heat--the young affects

In me defunct--and proper satisfaction,

But to be free and bounteous to her mind;

And heaven defend your good souls that you think

I will your serious and great business scant

When she is with me. No, when light-winged toys

Of feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness

My speculative and officed instruments

That my disports corrupt and taint my business,

Let housewives make a skillet of my helm,

And all indign and base adversitities

Make head against my estimation."

This speech occurs in Othello 1.3.259-273. Desdemona has just requested to accompany her husband to Cyprus and Othello seconds her request. He swears not to be distracted from his military duties if Desdemona comes along. To convince his listeners, he claims he cannot be distracted by sex because he lacks the desire for it. As he puts it, “the young affects [are] in me defunct” (262-263). Further stressing his commitment to the military, he boldly declares that if he indeed neglects his duties for the state, “let housewives make a skillet of my helm, and all indign and base adversities make head against my estimation” (271-273). In other words, if his sexual pleasure (“disports”) gets in the way of his work (“business”), he does not deserve to be called a man and should be emasculated by allowing housewives to cook with his helmet. Furthermore, his enemies good reputation should be razed.

Line 271 (“Let house...

... middle of paper ...

...od a place as any to start.

Works Cited

“Appetite.” Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1987.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Introduction. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997.

“Helm.” Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1987.

McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespare. 2nd ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001.

“Palate.” Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1987.

Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Coriolanus.” The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 2793-2872.

---. “The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice.” The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 2100-2174.

---. “Troilus and Cressida. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 1835-1913.

“Skillet.” Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1987.
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