Understanding Othello: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Overview

Although Othello has been one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, its performance history has been marked with risk and tension because of the play's focus on racial prejudice, gender conflict, and sexuality. The controversies surrounding conflicting attitudes toward race and religion, love and marriage, and war and the military in Shakespeare's time are reflected in the tragic plot and thematic ambiguities of Othello. This interdisciplinary casebook is designed to help students and their teachers explore the ...

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Overview

Although Othello has been one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, its performance history has been marked with risk and tension because of the play's focus on racial prejudice, gender conflict, and sexuality. The controversies surrounding conflicting attitudes toward race and religion, love and marriage, and war and the military in Shakespeare's time are reflected in the tragic plot and thematic ambiguities of Othello. This interdisciplinary casebook is designed to help students and their teachers explore the historical and modern issues related to the play. By combining primary documents with commentary, this guide considers many theatrical, cultural, social, and political concerns at the core of Othello. A literary analysis chapter addresses such topics as the nature of tragedy, the source of the play, and the richness of Othello's language, imagery, and thematic patterns. Three chapters on historical context consider attitudes toward race, love and marriage, and the role of the military in Shakespeare's time, revealing some of the social and political controversies reflected in Othello. A discussion of performance and interpretation traces the ways that changing cultural values and artistic expectations have affected the popularity and interpretation of Othello on stage, in film, and in literary criticism over the centuries. A final chapter on contemporary applications expands the focus of discussion to explore how Othello might reflect and challenge perspectives on contemporary stories, including both factual events recorded in newspaper headlines and fictional plots drawn from a variety of storylines in literature.

Primary documents include excerpts from Renaissance travel journals, Elizabethan marriage and military conduct books, dramatic criticism and actors' journals, poetry, fiction, and recent newspaper articles and editorials relating to the trials of O. J. Simpson and the Unabomber. Numerous suggestions for written assignments, oral discussion, and further readings offer additional practical and creative ideas for examining the diverse topics of Othello.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-The play is examined in detail, focusing on its themes of good and evil, politics, race, gender, sexuality, violence, and justice. The book is divided into six chapters: "Dramatic Analysis," "Historical Context: Race and Religion," "Historical Context: Love and Marriage," "Historical Context: War and the Military," "Performance and Interpretation," and "Contemporary Applications." Analyses of poetic form, imagery, interpretations, character, and theme guide students to a deeper understanding of the play. Each chapter includes stimulating discussion questions. The author encourages additional enhancements such as Internet research or multimedia projects. From a historical perspective, Othello is described in the context of Greek tragedy, English medieval drama, Turkish and African history, a study of the Moor, and 16th-century Italy. Many primary-source materials are included such as an excerpt from Gasper Contareno's 1543 book, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, which describes the politics of the Italian city-state. From an interesting modern perspective, the characters and themes are compared with the O. J. Simpson trial, the psychotic behavior of the Unabomber, and the private life and public office of Bill Clinton. A comprehensive discussion of one of Shakespeare's most intriguing tragedies, this book is a valuable addition to any collection of literary criticisms and analyses.-Pat Bender, The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

FAITH NOSTBAKKEN has taught literature at the college level.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

Dramatic Analysis

Historical Context: Race and Religion

Historical Context: Love and Marriage

Historical Context: War and the Military

Performance and Interpretation

Contemporary Applications

Index

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