Othello, by William Shakespeare

Erica at The Broken Spine has been hosting the tragedy part of the Year of Shakespeare, and so I thought I'd sign up for a couple titles.  I decided to read Othello, and hope to read Antony and Cleopatra too, before the end of the year.

(The trouble I always have with writing blog posts about famous classics is...what do I say?   It's not like I'm going to tell you something you don't know.)

Othello is a newish and excellent general in Venice, and he's a Moor.  He's been winning battles and impressing everybody, and he's just secretly married the lovely Desdemona, daughter of one of Venice's senators.  His ensign, Iago, hates Othello because the general promoted a younger man, Cassio, above him, and vows to have his revenge upon all of them with the help of the dissolute Roderigo, who wanted to marry Desdemona.

Iago plays upon Othello's jealousy, implying that he knows that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio.  He masterfully acts the part of a good friend reluctant to give bad news, and manipulates Othello into a rage.  The evidence is provided by a stolen handkerchief planted in Cassio's room.  Othello, goaded beyond logic or thought, suffocates his innocent wife, only to find out about Iago's betrayal right afterward.  He kills himself and only Cassio is left to take his place as general and enact justice upon Iago.

Iago is brilliant at manipulation, but he eventually oversteps himself and his lies catch up with him.  I noticed that Othello's loss of trust in his wife means that he never gives her a chance to defend herself properly or to explain anything (not that she could, since she is ignorant of Iago's perfidy).  Nor does Cassio get a chance.  Giving ear to Iago, Othello becomes unable to hear anyone else.  He could have done better by keeping his head and his temper.

I'm glad I read this one; it had been too long since the last time.  Well, actually, my 16yo had to read it a while back for school, so we went over it together then, and I should have taken the chance to really read it with her, but I didn't.  So it's good to do it now.  (We are now experiencing a whole lot of togetherness as we read her AP US History book!  She finds it much easier to absorb and take notes if I read aloud, so I learned a lot about Andrew Jackson this weekend.)  I've never read Antony and Cleopatra at all, just Julius Caesar about five times, so that will be interesting too.


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