Symbols & Symbolism in Othello; The Handkerchief in Othello;

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Different Visual Symbolism in Othello | Kibin

Although Rymer's hostility to Othello and his overt racism make unpleasant reading for modern critics, A Short View of Tragedy is not without valuable perceptions about the play, and it is worth noting that Rymer is the first published critic to recognize (however disapprovingly) that language or "talk" is the basis of Othello's courtship of Desdemona:

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Othello was particularly popular with eighteenth-century critics, few of whom were convinced either by Rymer's strict views on neoclassical dramatic form or by his claim that the play's plot and characters were implausible. On the contrary, readers such as Samuel Johnson (1709-84), one of the most influential essayists and commentators of the period, defended the play specifically on the basis of its compelling portrait of human behavior. In this excerpt from the commentary in his 1765 edition of Shakespeare's plays, for instance, Johnson highlights the aesthetic value of Othello, and then argues that the play offers crucial insight into human nature:

Of the many attacks on nature for which Rymer holds Othello responsible, he clearly considers its depiction of the marriage of a senator's daughter to a military commander irksome, and its portrayal of a man of color in the illustrious rank of general truly loathsome.

A summary of Themes in Dante Alighieri's Inferno

The character of that state [i.e., Venice] is to employ strangers in their wars, but shall a poet thence fancy that they will set a negro to be their general, or trust a Moor to defend them against the Turk? With us, a Blackamoor might rise to be a trumpeter, but Shakespeare would not have him less than a lieutenant-general. . . . Nothing is more odious in nature than an improbable lie, and, certainly, never was any play fraught, like this of Othello, with improbabilities. (91-92)

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In addition to prompting a reassessment of Iago, the nineteenth-century view of Shakespeare's characters as expressions of fundamental truths about human nature stimulated a growing interest in Desdemona. This attentiveness to the play's tragic heroine intersected with a notable increase in the number of women's voices contributing to public conversations in the realm of literary criticism, as female actors began lecturing and publishing on the roles they performed on stage, and as women slowly began to be admitted to the ranks of professional scholars of Shakespeare. Among the latter category, Anna Jameson (1794-1860) is notable as the author of the first substantial and systematic discussion of Shakespeare's female characters, a volume published first in 1832 as Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical, and later retitled simply Shakespeare's Heroines. Jameson challenges boldly many of her contemporaries by locating Othello's tragedy not in the plight of its male hero, but rather in the character of its heroine, arguing that "the source of the pathos throughout—of that pathos which at once softens and deepens the tragic effect—lies in the character of Desdemona" (224). Discussing Desdemona at length, Jameson describes her in amusingly patronizing terms as "one in whom the absence of intellectual power is never felt as a deficiency, nor the absence of energy of will as impairing the dignity, nor the most imperturbable serenity as a want of feeling: one in whom thoughts appear mere instincts, the sentiment of rectitude supplies the principle, and virtue itself seems rather a necessary state of being, than an imposed law" (224). Desdemona is, on Jameson's account, a young woman who is neither clever nor dynamic, and whose dominant features—her goodness and gentleness—are both beyond her control and inadequate to ensure her survival: "Desdemona displays at times a transient energy, arising from the power of affection, but gentleness gives the prevailing tone to the character—gentleness in excess—gentleness verging on passivity—gentleness which not only cannot resent—but cannot resist" (218).

Is Othello Really Black? | HuffPost

Jameson's work on Othello is also significant for locating the play's fundamental opposition not in the marriage of Desdemona and Othello, which so many of her contemporaries viewed as a hopeless mismatch, but in the relationship between Desdemona and Iago: