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The play stands out from many aspects. However, there are some elements which make it one of the most important of Shakespeare's works and one of the most acclaimed. The tragedy comes from the eventual incompatibility between true love and the code of honor. Convinced by Iago's evil plan that his wife was unfaithful, Othello the Moor of Venice becomes blind to any explication and swears revenge. In the end, every one of the characters finally pays for his deed, although Desdemona appears to be the one pure presence of the play that is sacrificed in the midst of revenge. The story of the Othello is relevant because it showed a deep psychological and analytical approach on the character, a characteristic which is present in the drama of Hamlet. Moreover, Shakespeare builds his characters as mere peons in Iago's hands who, through thorough manipulation managed to influence them all. However, there is a heated debate on whether Shakespeare, when elaborating his character despised of his characteristics. One can agree though that "though for complexity Iago cannot approach Hamlet, he is almost as interesting" (Shakespeare: Life and Plays 57). He is exquisite in manipulating all the characters: "Roderigo is another instrument and a useful pigeon" (57) and Desdemona is the perfect tool against Othello, because she is the center of his universe, through her purity and love for him. This feminine character is of particular importance for the theater world, as it was the first character ever to be played by a woman back in 1660. Up until then all roles were played by males. (Mabillard)
The complexity of the characters makes the play to be a difficult task for any major actor. Moreover, the scenery demands a very good directing team and proper costumes and sets, which most often constitute an impediment for performing the play. In the early beginnings of the theatrical performance, the Elizabethan stage had no scenery and the plays were acted by daylight, therefore the actor could not rely on effects produced on the modern stage by lighting, scenery or sound effects. In their place he gained effects by the direct appeal to the emotion and imagination of the spectators. That is why the text, the words of the play were very important.
The critics have been most favorable and noticed especially the essential portrayal of the animals as forces in action. According to C. Spurgeon, "the main image in Othello is that of beasts in action, throwing themselves at each other, mean, cruel in their suffering." (Spurgeon 43)The text is generous in providing evidence in this respect "Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, / as salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross" (Shakespeare 405-405). He goes on to add that "the sea, the imagery and the marine language play an important role throughout...the play has an intimate musicality and an unique solidity and precision of expression of picturesque images" (Spurgeon 344)
All in all, William Shakespeare is indeed one of the most important figures of the classical literature and a true symbol of his culture and his time.
Berstein, Serge, and Pierre Milza. Histoire de l' Europe. Paris: Hatier, 1994
Mabillard, Amanda. Othello Analysis. Shakespeare Online. 2000. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/othello.html
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. London: Penguin, 1994.
Shakespeare, William, Othello. Penguin: London, 1994.
Shakespeare Biography." Absolute Shakespeare. 2005. http://absoluteshakespeare.com/trivia/biography/shakespeare_biography.htm
Spurgeon, C.F.E. "Imagery of Shakespeare's Tragedies." In Shakespeare Criticism, A. Bradby, ed. London: Pelican, 1937
Trevelyan, G.M. Illustrated History of England. London: Longman, 1962.
Shakespeare: Life and Plays. Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear."
The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Bartley. 20 May 2006.
Slug: William Shakespeare: the man, the playwright, and his legacy.
Label personal: early life paraphrase: controversy over the authenticity of his work summary: his life and most important poems quotes: burial information; about Robert Green's criticism; reason for leaving Stratford
Information: He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. At the early age of 18 he was married to Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older. They had three children. By the time he was 21 he left his family and moved to London, where he began preparing old plays for public performances. Afterwards, his own plays began to appear. He was co-owner of the Globe and took a lading part in the Royal Company of Players. The poet retired before 1612 and he died on April 23, 1616.
Slug: Highlights of British history
Trevelyan 319-326, 361-368.
Berstein and Milza 139
Label paraphrase: early history summary: economic and political development quote: the schism of Henry VIII
Information: The period was one of economic development, but at the same time of great political confusion. The Tudor dynasty had imposed an authoritarian rule over the people, which created a great amount of dissatisfaction. Oliver Cromwell's Revolution instated an even more terrifying regime, while the Restauration gave back to the British the traditional monarchical rule. Culturally speaking, Britain was not affected too much by the Renaissance influences, and kept its identity almost intact, as opposed to the other European countries. In this context however, it was more and more obvious that a new national spirit was emerging.
Slug: European insights
Berstein and Milza 147, 170.
Label paraphrase summary: description of the era quote: the situation in the beginning of the 17th century
Information: The 16th century proved to be a rather challenging period for European history. There was a rapid development of economic activities, due in most parts to the openness towards new geographical boundaries. Culturally speaking, the Renaissance was the major influence for the European states. The most affected were Italy and France, along with some parts of Germany and Spain, which, however, sensed its impact only in certain areas of the artistic spectrum. As a somewhat consequence of the new freedom of thought which the Renaissance promoted, the Reformation of the Church was et another determinant factor for this period. Although it had started with Luther in Germany, it quickly spread into France and the rest of Europe. Britain split from the Roman Pope during the reign of Henry VIII, thus establishing the principle of the king also being the head of the Church.
The Cambridge History of English and American Literature
Spurgeon 43, 344
Label paraphrase summary: brief description of the play quote: critics
Information: The plot of the play is based on the tragic story of Othello and Desdemona who fall pray to the mischief of Iago and his accomplices. Iago, wanting to take revenge on Othello uses Desdemona as a tool against him and exploits their love in order to convince Othello that his wife was unfaithful. Through an intricate plot, Othello, blinded by fury and jealousy comes to believe in Iago's words and his fabricated evidence and in the end kills his beloved wife. When he finds out that in fact it had all been a lie, unable to live with himself takes his own life. The importance of the play, seen at a larger scale, is the dramatic nature of the plot and the complexity of the characters and scenery. Shakespeare had written before tragedies, but this one combined perfectly composition characters, which are not clearly differentiated as being good and bad, but rather benefiting from a mixture of characteristics, all that being strongly supported by a well crafted use of words. The varied and ingenious placement of words contributed a lot to…[continue]
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