The audience finds in William Shakespeare’s tragic drama Othello a curious collection of abnormal behaviors and happenings. In this paper let us examine in detail the abnormalities.
In her book, Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies, Maynard Mack defends the Moor as one who is not necessarily the victim of a psychological deficiency, as some critics maintain:
What should be noticed in particular is that, essentially, Shakespeare invented Iago; set him down in his dramatis personae with the single epithet “a villain”; and devoted most of the play’s lines and scenes to showing in detail the cunning, malignancy, and cruelty of his nature, including the cowardice of his murder of his wife. It seems to me therefore impossible to believe, as some recent critics would have us do, that the root causes of Othello’s ruin are to be sought in some profound moral or psychological deficiency peculiar to him. (137)
A more obvious example of the irregular appears in the conduct of Iago. The abnormal behavior of the ancient is partly rooted in his misogynism. In “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello” Valerie Wayne implicates Iago in sexism. He is one who is almost incapable of any other perspective on women than a sexist one:
Iago’s worry that he cannot do what Desdemona asks implies that his dispraise of women was candid and easily produced, while the praise requires labour and inspiration from a source beyond himself. His insufficiency is more surprising because elsewhere in the play Iago appears as a master rhetorician, but as Bloch explains, ‘the misogynistic writer uses rhetoric as a means of renouncing it, and...
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...normal psychology. (89-90)
Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.
Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1970.
Coles, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Mack, Maynard. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
Wayne, Valerie. “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello.” The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ed Valerie Wayne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
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