Friday, June 13, 2008

Othello by William Shakespeare

summer reading challenge 1 of 10

This goes without saying: it's a tragic story. Othello is a quintessential tragic figure, falling prey to the lies and deceits of his inferior officer Iago, who convinces Othello that his wife, Desdemona is unfaithful. The jealousy and rage that result from Othello's belief that Desdemona is having an affair with his right hand man (Cassio) leads to numerous innocents being maimed and killed. I sorta figured it would end up that way somehow :)

At the crux of this story is Iago - the lying and conniving standard bearer who wants to improve his standing in the army and goes about purposely ruining the lives of all those around him in order to gain the post of lieutenant. Iago is, ironically, constantly being called "honest" and "true" by his companions, he almost has a split personality. Shakespeare lets us even hear his thoughts occasionally- how carefully and craftily Iago leads everyone to their doom. It was so painful to see Othello slip deeper and deeper under Iago's spell, knowing how pliable he was allowing himself to be under Iago's hands.

And poor Desdemona and her unlucky token. If only she'd kept that danged handkerchief in her pocket, she might've had a chance to prove her innocence. Well, possibly. It's hard to say if anything could've broken through Othello's belief that she was untrue to him. How sobering to watch something beautiful like the love between Othello and Desdemona twist into something so very ugly - a reminder to constantly take everything you hear with more than a grain of salt. Ulterior motives and hatred can breed misery for anyone not on his guard.

Shakespeare is a genius. The lyrical nature of the turns of phrase and the way the characters interact and react is fascinating. Let's end with a few of my favorite quotes:

Regarding getting drunk (one night of drunkenness for Cassio starts a whole chain of horrible events for him)
"O that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!"

Regarding reputations
"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving"

Regarding jealousy (ironically enough, it's IAGO saying this to OTHELLO!!)
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."

Well said, William Shakespeare. Well said.


erin sheely said...

well i just started is soooo not what i've read for years so it should be interesting

Melissa said...

I hadn't thought of Iago having a split personality, though that's an interesting take on it. I agree about Desdemona: if she'd only kept that blasted handkerchief in her pocket!

Cami said...

Hooray! It sounds like you liked it, horrible and all! Oh, I just think it's his masterpiece! It's all just so tragic and pointless. If everyone would just get in the same room and start TALKING . . .

p.s. I accidentally told my mom we were reading Hamlet, so she bought and starting reading that one . . . oops.

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