The Shakespearean tragedy Othello contains various irregularities of time and occurrence which cause the audience to scratch their head in wonder and doubt. Let us analyze some of these shortcomings in this essay.
In the Introduction to The Riverside Shakespeare Frank Kermode explains one of the difficulties in Othello:
Othello murders his wife on the second night in Cyprus. The difficulty, of which Shakespeare was clearly aware, arises from the fact that this leaves no time for her to have had “stol’n hours of lust,” certainly not to have enjoyed them repeatedly, as Iago alleges. In such allusions to frequent adultery as III.iii.340-43 and V.ii.211-12, Shakespeare slides over from Short to Long Time very successfully; the audience is not invited to consider that Othello is forgetting that Desdemona was not in the same ship as Cassio, and has had no chance since. We accept it as possible for her to have been unfaithful, though we know she was not. (1199)
Consider the basic plot and what a “house of cards” it is. Without extreme good luck, such a plot would not be possible. A. C. Bradley, in his book of literary criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, describes the important “accidents” that befell the antagonist during his deception of the general:
The skill of Iago was extraordinary, but so was his good fortune. Again and again a chance word from Desdemona, a chance meeting of Othello and Cassio, a question which starts to our lips and which anyone but Othello would have asked, would have destroyed Iago’s plot and ended his life. In their stead, Desdemona drops her handkerchief at the moment most favourable to him, Cassio blunders into the presence of Othe...
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...ally to be moving in the right direction. (329)
Bradley, A. C.. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Heilman, Robert B. “Wit and Witchcraft: an Approach to Othello.” Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. Rev. Ed. Rpt. from The Sewanee Review, LXIV, 1 (Winter 1956), 1-4, 8-10; and Arizona Quarterly (Spring 1956), pp.5-16.
Kermode, Frank. Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.
Mack, Maynard. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
Wilson, H. S. On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1957.
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