And sing it like poor Barbary. Like Barbary, Desdemona is in love, and her beloved, though not "mad," is insanely jealous and has emotionally forsaken Desdemona. Presumably, Barbary died of a broken heart while singing the "willow" song; Desdemona will die at the hands of her love soon after she sings the same song.
There is practically no doubt that Othello was the tragedy written next after Hamlet. Such external evidence as we possess points to this conclusion, and it is confirmed by similarities of style, diction and versification, and also by the fact that ideas and phrases of the earlier play are echoed in the later.
The heroes of the two plays are doubtless extremely unlike, so unlike that each could have dealt without much difficulty with the situation which proved fatal to the other; but still each is a man exceptionally noble and trustful, and each endures the shock of a terrible disillusionment.
This theme is treated by Shakespeare for the first time in Hamlet, for the second in Hamlet. These four dramas may so far be grouped together in distinction from the remaining tragedies. But in point of substance, and, in certain respects, in point of style, the unlikeness of Othello to Hamlet is much greater than the likeness, and the later play belongs decidedly to one group with its successors.
We have seen that, like them, it is a tragedy of passion, a description inapplicable to Julius Caesar or Hamlet.
And with this change goes another, an enlargement in the stature of the hero. They are not merely exceptional men, they are huge men; as it were, survivors of the heroic age living in a later and smaller world. Othello is the first of these men, a being essentially large Love and desdemona grand, towering above his fellows, holding a volume of force which in repose ensures preeminence without an effort, and in commotion reminds us rather of the fury of the elements than of the tumult of common human passion.
What is the distinctive impression that it leaves? Evil is displayed before him, not indeed with the profusion found in King Lear, but forming, as it were, the soul of a single character, and united with an intellectual superiority so great that he watches its advance fascinated and appalled.
He sees it, in itself almost irresistible, aided at every step by fortunate accidents and the innocent mistakes of its victims.
He seems to breathe an atmosphere as fateful as that of King Lear, but more confined and oppressive, the darkness not of night but of a close-shut murderous room.
His imagination is excited to intense activity, but it is the activity of concentration rather than dilation. I will not dwell now on aspects of the play which modify this impression, and I reserve for later discussion one of its principal sources, the character of Iago.
But if we glance at some of its other sources, we shall find at the same time certain distinguishing characteristics of Othello. Othello is not only the most masterly of the tragedies in point of construction, but its method of construction is unusual.
And this method, by which the conflict begins late, and advances without appreciable pause and with accelerating speed to the catastrophe, is a main cause of the painful tension just described.
To this may be added that, after the conflict has begun, there is very little relief by way of the ridiculous. The clown is a poor one; we hardly attend to him and quickly forget him; I believe most readers of Shakespeare, if asked whether there is a clown in Othello, would answer No.
Such a passion as ambition, however terrible its results, is not itself ignoble; if we separate it in thought from the conditions which make it guilty, it does not appear despicable; it is not a kind of suffering, its nature is active; and therefore we can watch its course without shrinking.
But jealousy, and especially sexual jealousy, brings with it a sense of shame and humiliation. For this reason it is generally hidden; if we perceive it we ourselves are ashamed and turn our eyes away; and when it is not hidden it commonly stirs contempt as well as pity.
Nor is this all. And this, with what it leads to, the blow to Desdemona, and the scene where she is treated as the inmate of a brothel, a scene far more painful than the murder scene, is another cause of the special effect of this tragedy.
I mean the suffering of Desdemona.
This is, unless I mistake, the most nearly intolerable spectacle that Shakespeare offers us. For one thing, it is mere suffering; and, ceteris paribus, that is much worse to witness than suffering that issues in action.
Desdemona is helplessly passive. She can do nothing whatever. She cannot retaliate even in speech; no, not even in silent feeling. And the chief reason of her helplessness only makes the sight of her suffering more exquisitely painful.
She is helpless because her nature is infinitely sweet and her love absolute. I would not challenge Mr. We must not say more than this. We must not call the play a tragedy of intrigue as distinguished from a tragedy of character.
Still it remains true that an elaborate plot was necessary to elicit the catastrophe; for Othello was no Leontes, and his was the last nature to engender such jealousy from itself. Now in any novel or play, even if the persons rouse little interest and are never in serious danger, a skilfully-worked intrigue will excite eager attention and suspense.
And where, as in Othello, the persons inspire the keenest sympathy and antipathy, and life and death depend on the intrigue, it becomes the source of a tension in which pain almost overpowers pleasure.
Nowhere else in Shakespeare do we hold our breath in such anxiety and for so long a time as in the later acts of Othello.
And this impression is strengthened in further ways.Lecture on Othello - Play Construction and the Suffering and Murder of Desdemona. From Shakespearean Tragedy by A. C. Bradley. London: MacMillan and Co., There is practically no doubt that Othello was the tragedy written next after ashio-midori.com external evidence as we possess points to this conclusion, and it is confirmed by similarities of style, diction and versification, and also .
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Iago continues his psychological torture until Othello falls into a trance. Enter Cassio. To Love My Father All William Shakespeare. Lear Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
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