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Lecture 2 Othello the Moor of Venice The Exposition Scene.

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1 Lecture 2 Othello the Moor of Venice The Exposition Scene

2 Reminder re- Paper 3 Play A Read and study Othello the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare in conjunction with Play B A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

3 Parallels and Contrasts of characters Othello the Moor of Venice Othello is an immigrant, from North Africa; Desdemona; and Emilia A Streetcar Named Desire Stanley Kowalski Family background: immigrants, from Poland Stella (Stanley’s wife) and Blanche Dubois

4 Plot summary Othello is a Moorish general in the service of the Duke of Venice (He is in this regard, foreign talent) Has secretly married Desdemona, daughter of the Venetian senator, Brabantio Brabantio charges him with her abduction However Othello is later cleared of the charge.

5 Plot summary (cont) Othello is later sent to Cyprus to defend it from the Turks. There Iago, his officer, dupes Othello into believing that his wife, Desdemona, is having a love affair with his lieutenant, Cassio. Deceived and violently jealous, Othello kills his wife, only to learn later she is innocent, and then he kills himself.

6 Some other background points to note In Othello, the Venetian state is a mercantile city, ruled by a duke, not a king. The play dramatizes the everyday world of men and women, in spite of the background of high politics and international conflict; The focus is more on personal relationships, and on the fortunes of an ill-starred marriage; Hence, seen as a domestic tragedy Rather similar in this respect to ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

7 Dramatic Purpose of Act 1 Scene 1? the Exposition Scene 1 To set (establish) the scene 2 To strike the keynote of the play; create mood and tension to capture attention of audience 3 To supply valuable background information 4 To introduce some of the characters, situations, relationships 5 To prepare the audience to meet Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio 6 To provoke a sense of intrigue and suspense in order to arouse and capture the audience’s attention thus making them want to know more

8 Setting the scene To acquaint his audience with the knowledge of where the scene is taking place (setting) It plunges us into the VENICE of 1570 with the news of an impending Turkish attack on VENICE, this great commercial republic of the Western world Time & Setting of Street Car Named Desire ? City of New Orleans (USA)

9 We (as an audience) are reminded of past wars at Rhodes, at Cyprus and elsewhere against Christians and Heathens... We are made aware that the play is taking place in troublesome times And are thus prepared for the change in setting from Venice to Cyprus in Act 2

10 Striking the keynote of the play; Enter Roderigo and Iago Time of day? Note the opening scene takes place at night; Dramatic effect? (Theatrical effect) This adds to the suspense and urgency of the atmosphere; and foreshadows the intrigue; We hear at first subdued, and then angry voices of Iago and Roderigo on a street, outside the house of the Senator, Brabantio Talking earnestly of money, ‘preferment’, and ancient grudges.

11 We learn of Iago’s hatred of Othello and of his reasons for following him purely as a means of achieving his own ends We hear of Brabantio’s “dream” which oppresses him, and of “treason of the blood” Atmosphere? It is an atmosphere of intrigue, of Iago’s double- dealing tactics, of search parties pursuing a missing couple who have eloped

12 The subdued voices of the opening develop into a discussion full of anger and hatred, reaching its crescendo in Iago’s devilishly clever advice to Roderigo to awaken Brabantio: “Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight, // Proclaim him in the street, incense her kinsmen.”

13 Creation of Suspense? There is a background of mystery As the audience, we are kept a little in the dark; How? We hear two men discussing “this” and “such a matter” but it is not clearly defined for us We listen to conversation about a man referred to impersonally as “he” and “him”, as the “the Moor”

14 What is “this” matter? Lines make sense if ‘this” is taken to refer to Othello’s marriage Roderigo seems to be rebuking Iago to whom he has been extremely generous for not sharing an interesting secret with him Third line thus needs to be supplemented: “That thou Iago…shouldst know of this” (without telling me anything about it)

15 What do we learn about Othello’s character in Scene 1? We are given an unflattering picture of Othello as a proud, self-centred man, guilty of favouritism, determined to have his own way at all costs He is described as a ‘lascivious,’ ‘thick- lipped’ Moor;

16 What we learn about Othello (cont) (Indirectly) that Othello is independent minded; that he has a mind of his own E.g. Iago points out he has rejected the pleadings of three great ones of the city by appointing instead his own man, Cassio And that Venice has no one else of ‘his fathom’ (ability) to lead them in the Cyprus wars

17 What Nigerian writer Ben Okri calls— the chromatic tension of the play The different colour, race, and background of Othello are strongly emphasized; We are made to dramatically note the incongruity between the “old black ram” and Brabantio’s daughter, the “white ewe”. How? Through the contrasting light / dark imagery; Concerns? The subject matter of the opening of the play Othello the Moor of Venice is the injustice, the unfairness, the wrongness of the world.

18 Note the critical significance of the imagery re- Relationships The imagery implies that each character is in a dependent or manipulative relationship to others The emphasis is on taking from people, and using people And begging, withholding or granting favours— e.g. the ‘strings’ of Roderigo’s ‘purse’; ‘great ones’ who ‘capp’d’ or begged favours from Othello

19 Introducing Iago; Appearance and Reality Iago has been rejected by the Moor but his self-interest makes him put on an appearance of loyalty Admires only those men who perform their duties to “do themselves homage” (those who have a good opinion of themselves) [As the play develops] we will see the lengths he will go to in the exercise of his hatred of Othello and jealousy of Cassio

20 Re Iago Even before we leave Scene 1, we come to see how he has cheated Roderigo of money without fulfilling any of his promises. The promise of keeping Roderigo informed of Desdemona’s affections and the promise to press his love suit for him. Scene 1 gives us some idea of how accomplished he is as an instigator;

21 Re Iago the artful Rhetorician Of how successful Iago is in manipulating Roderigo to start trouble in Venice Notice it is not simply the informing of a father of the elopement of a daughter – Rather people must be roused, poisoned, proclaimed, incensed, and plagued. Diction and Dramatic effects Incendiary;

22 Iago enjoys bestial humour? Evident in the picture he paints of the two runaway lovers; It is not a picture of pure, romantic love but of a “daughter cover’d with a Barbary horse” and a daughter and a Moor “making the beast with two backs.”

23 Iago is a skilled deceiver an accomplished liar an expert in the manipulation of the innocent

24 Re Iago For Iago the world consists solely of fools and villains (fools such as Roderigo) Of those who devour and are devoured Perceives people as being very much like animals—they copulate and eat each other

25 Foxy Iago Iago’s departure from the scene? Very cleverly Iago timely departs from the senator’s house before he can be used as a witness against Othello Also cleverly realizes that with rumours of war with Cyprus, the senate will not dismiss Othello for his marriage, as he is needed to defend Cyprus Iago’s hypocrisy? Emphasized in his readiness to support Othello

26 What we learn of Roderigo An aristocratic Venetian Has been paying court to Desdemona and has been employing Iago as his substitute in the courtship He shows the lowest form of moral decadence by paying Iago money in the hope that illicit arrangements can be made for him.

27 Roderigo and his character Role As he tells Iago: You have had “my purse / As the strings were thine.” One of his main faults? His stupidity. He is incapable of understanding the self-interested, individualistic soul of Iago His role in the play is that of the disappointed suitor who becomes Iago’s tool and dupe.

28 Roderigo and Iago Parallelism and Antithesis Here we see him in similar circumstances to Iago: Iago rejected by the Moor; Roderigo rejected by the Moor’s wife. In spite of his weaknesses and because of them, he stands out in contrast to Iago Individual and Society? Iago is a rebel against the social order; Roderigo accepts the social order willingly.

29 Characters in Shakespeare are the language they speak Iago uses the bawdy language of the military barracks and alehouse Roderigo uses courteous language – when Brabantio hurls insults at him, he replies in polite terms calling him “Signior…Patience, good Sir” Roderigo has an important role in the play’s dramatic structure—he helps us to fill in the character of Iago

30 Themes / Concerns? The Individual in conflict with Society Jealousy Resentment Betrayal of Trust Good versus Evil Injustice Hatred Appearance and Reality


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