Othello

( 117 )

Overview

The most striking difference between Othello and Shakespeare's other tragedies is its more intimate scale. Because the play focuses on personal rather than public life, Othello's private descent into jealous obsession is especially chilling to behold. This invaluable new study guide to one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries on Othello, including commentaries by such important critics as Voltaire, Charles Lamb, A. C. Swinburne, T. S. Eliot, and ...
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Othello

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Overview

The most striking difference between Othello and Shakespeare's other tragedies is its more intimate scale. Because the play focuses on personal rather than public life, Othello's private descent into jealous obsession is especially chilling to behold. This invaluable new study guide to one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries on Othello, including commentaries by such important critics as Voltaire, Charles Lamb, A. C. Swinburne, T. S. Eliot, and many others. Studients will also benefit from the additional features in this volume, including an introduction by Harold Bloom, an accessible summary of the plot, an analysis of several key passages, a comprehensive list of characters, a biography of Shakespeare, essays discussing the main currents of criticism in each century since Shakespeare's time, and more.
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Editorial Reviews

The ALAN Review - Barbara G. Samuels
Shakespeare's plays often retell stories from other sources. In this novel, Julius Lester reverses that order and transforms Othello from drama to novel form. In doing so, he further investigates the characters of Othello, Iago, and Desdemona and provides answers to questions left unanswered by Shakespeare. He transforms Iago and his wife Emilia into Africans, sets the novel in England, and explores the racial issues in the story. Lester, author of books on slavery and African Americans in the United States, makes the mixed-race marriage and the relationships between blacks and whites more relevant and accessible to contemporary young people with his interpretation of the play. Of course most of the language in the novel is changed, but readers familiar with Shakespeare will recognize phrases and sentences as well as modern paraphrasing of allusions to Elizabethan society. Othello: A Novel may provide a transition to help students move into Shakespeare while at the same time raising challenging questions for discussion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781148309491
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 4/2/2010
  • Pages: 162
  • Product dimensions: 9.69 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.
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Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading — especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible — and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratford-upon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrotetheir own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammar-school experiences — for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody of a line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays — among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest — presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy — the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge — who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds — both North and South America — were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs — religious, scientific, and philosophical — cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London — the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade — was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London — the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon — references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It — and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend — or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records — some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by an aristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries — and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2003 by The Folger Shakespeare Library

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Table of Contents

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: [Comments on 'Othello']
Maynard Mack: The Jacobean Shakespeare: Some Observations on the Construction of the Tragedies
Madelon Gholke Sprengnether: 'I wooed thee with my sword': Shakespeare's Tragic Paradigms
Sylvan Barnet: 'Othello' on the Stage and Screen

NEWLY ADDED ESSAYS:
Marvin Carlson: Othello in Vienna, 1991

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 117 )
Rating Distribution

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(69)

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(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 118 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    Something wrong....

    There seems to be something wrong with Act IV in this version and it will not open on my Nook or on my PC... Either way I would go with a different version.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012

    Students only

    It works. Its a book. But there were so many typos and random numbers everywhere, it was annoying to read. But for desperate students, its cheaper than buying the book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2014

    Not othello

    This sucks

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2013

    Not english

    Not english version

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2014

    Moonflower

    Whoa what just happend?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    Legend

    "Would i mentor?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    {:DC:}

    Your symbols.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    Shimmerstar

    I swear l posted the ceremony! Ot didn't post. Darn! I'll do it tomorrow.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    Thunderstrike

    So should we have all ceremonies today or tomorrow, Shimmerstar? And I would like to mentor Seakit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    Tigerkit

    Let out a squeak

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    Leafdrop

    Is here

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2014

    Shimmerstar

    "I belive you will be a loyal, brave, deputy."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    FlameStar to StonePaw

    (No. I'm just saying I might.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2014

    To Ferns

    Actually the Pact Clans are just following the warrior code when they let abandoned kits join.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    𔫘

    Hdh

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    &star Feather &star

    "Married is he? To another fake werewolf? Ha! Fake werewof pups there gonna have right?" She aneered and launched herself at darkness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    Darkness

    No his married in the black market.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    Grim

    Without a moment of pause, she replied with a annoyed tone. "You must think I am foolish. First off, why am I even talking to you? You not a deputy nor a leader. Second off, I'm not going to just rattle off all my plans to you when the whole world is watching, we have never met, the whole idea is riding on a maybe, and you not a deputy or a leader. Good bye. Ferns, Poisenclaw, come back home with me please." She said with a nod and walked out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    Poisonclaw

    He flicked his tail, some anger spiking his pelt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Sparkkit

    Layed down

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