Othello: The Initial Reaction(s)

Othello and DesdemonaI was born two months prematurely, and I’m pretty sure that was the only time I’ve ever done anything ahead of schedule.
That certainly seems to be the case here, anyway, as I’m scrambling and playing catch-up.

While my friend over at A Year of Shakespeare has spent the last couple of weeks examining Othello in depth,
I tore through the entire play last night. I’d intended on taking my time and working through the play this past weekend, but true to form, I left it until the very last minute. It was around 2am when I read the final lines, and it took me quite awhile after that before the thoughts flying around my head calmed enough for me to sleep.

I want to revisit my notes from last night and will whip up a more comprehensive response to the play later on, but here are some of my initial reactions:
Oh, the game of politics. Individuals getting ahead as a result of their connections and personal preference, as opposed to any sort of professional experience or merit? It’s amazing how little has changed in the last few hundred years (and arguably since the dawn of human society)…

I understand that Roderigo holds a grudge against Othello out of jealousy, because he loves Desdemona. But what is Iago’s deal? It seems rare that we see someone who is purely villainous, with no real cause or understanding as to where the awfulness is coming from. Between the one-dimensional quality of Iago’s character and the swiftness with which Othello’s character turns, I was inclined to think that Othello might be one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays. In fact, the opposite is true–Othello was written c.1603, just over a decade before Shakespeare’s death. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. The play was inspired by Giraldi Cinthio’s “Un Capitano Moro“, published in his Hecatommithi in 1565. Perhaps the source offers some insight? Or it could just be that what I’m perceiving as abruptness and one-sidedness are merely dramatic devices. What are your thoughts?

Brabanzio. Oh, Brabanzio. Freaking Father of the Year, right here. I’ll have a lot more to say about this later.

Desdemona. I love her, and at the same time I’m confounded by her. I’ll explain this more in depth later on, as well.

Emilia: the epitome of loyalty, and it becomes her ultimate downfall. Centuries before the X-Files gave us the tagline “Trust No One”, was Shakespeare implying the same? I’m quite curious as to what was going on in The Bard’s world around this time.

Lesson learned: Finish the play before commenting on it. I was feeling very excited and a bit overwhelmed while reading through Othello last night, so I decided to take a brief break. I’d just finished reading the scene wherein Othello and Desdemona are reunited in Cyprus. After Othello mentions how it was worth weathering the storm to see Desdemona, and comments that if he were to die in that moment, he’d be happy, Desdemona replies:

The heavens forbid
But that our loves and comforts should increase
Even as our days do grow.” (2.1.190)

I thought this was terribly romantic, so I posted it to Facebook. Then, I made the comment I’d almost immediately come to regret:
“Some of the best pillow talk I’ve ever encountered in this play.”

PILLOW TALK. Ugggggggh. If only I had known. Ugggggggh. I am SO embarrassed.
The worst part is that I’m certain some believed the remark to be an intentional pun.
I’m cringing just thinking about it, but I have to admit, it is a bit humorous in retrospect.

I should have known better. After all, this is a tragedy we’re discussing, and they’re sort of known for their dramatic twists.
So, yeah. From now on, I’ll be a bit more patient. Perhaps slightly more reserved in my commentary…at least until I know how things turn out.

More to come…


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