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Othello Case

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Valued texts maintain interest for their audiences beyond their compositional contexts. William Shakespeare's play, "Othello", is one such example which has enabled a range of responses in contemporary society even in distinctively different contexts with diverse social values. My personal opinion is shaped by the characteristics of the traditional Aristotelian tragedy, in which the noble protagonist, Othello, is subject to a tragic and undeserved demise due to the prejudiced construction of Moors in white Jacobean society. He is constructed as replicating the marginalized position of women in the era. Adaptations of the text over time, such as Oliver Parker's 1995 production and Norman Gunston's satirical stage play, have enabled various responses by their composers and critics reflecting the gaps that exist in writerly texts, further influencing my personal opinion.

The protagonist of the play, Othello, is depicted as being noble and heroic in the original Shakespearian play described as the "valiant Moor of Venice" who is infamous for his high military status. This idea resonates in Oliver Parker's production as Othello is shown from low angle shots and on higher ground than the people around him, accentuated by the exceptionally large black horse he is shown riding from a low angle, close up shot foreshadowing his nobility and aristocracy. However this noble stature is juxtaposed by Norman Gunston's insipid venture into mocking the literary canon through the satirisation of Shakespeare's work. Gunston totally disregards the valiant presence of Othello, and instead depicts him as a morbidly fake and imprudent character for comic relief, seen when he uses a trivial and chanting tone as he says "It is the cause, it is the cause..." in a lighthearted nursery rhyme manner. Thus epitomizing the multi-faceted nature of the text, as the text is open to idiosyncratic interpretation.

In my opinion the text is an example of a "perfect tragedy," as first philosophized by Aristotle. Shakespeare constructs his text to include the "cause-and-effect chain" distinctive of an Aristotelian text, whereby the "renowned and prosperous" protagonist's fortune "changes from good to bad", coming as a result of "some great error or frailty in the character" as outlined by Professor Barbara F.McManus. In order to comply with Aristotelian nature of the text, Iago is placed as a Machiavellian character whose ubiquitous nature is exposed in the opening scenes, his vengeful tone "I follow him only to serve my term upon him," revealing his intricate plans to manipulate Othello. Whilst dramatic irony is evident as Othello is unaware of Iago's deceitful disposition, being "a man he is of honesty and trust," Iago is there to take advantage of Othello's naivety, his self assurance evident in "he hold me well, the better shall my purpose work on him"

Iago's duplicate disposition is further exaggerated by Shakespeare's establishment of him as a "double headed Janus", whilst Iago himself reveals that "I am not what I am," this paradox further construing his duplicitous nature. This is corroborated by Oliver Parker who conceives Iago as a real two-faced character that invokes trust and doubt at the same time, seen in his soliloquy which becomes a direst speech to the audience, breaking the fourth wall. This postmodernist technique gives an insight into Iago's psyche, where he not only reveals his sinister intentions in birth imagery, "must bring this monstrous birth to the worlds light", but also his unadulterated racist ideologies, "but for my sport and profit, I hate the Moor." However the whole character of Iago is overlooked in Norman Gunston's version, as he is bringing the "play to the clubs" and therefore does not position Othello according to the meta-narrative of a commanding figure imagined by critical discourse, instead simplifying him for a particular audience, substantiating the versatility of the original play.

Its categorization as a writerly text is also evident in the texts generation of pity and fear as the protagonist is subject to Othello's harmatia, brought upon by the manipulative actions of the ironically "honest" Iago.



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