The Reputation of Othello Essay

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The Reputation of Othello

Where in the rankings does this Shakespearean tragedy stand? This essay will explore the answer to this question by considering professional literary commentary.

Francis Ferguson in “Two Worldviews Echo Each Other” ranks the play Othello quite high among the Bard’s tragedies:

Othello, written in 1604, is one of the masterpieces of Shakespeare’s “tragic period.” In splendor of language, and in the sheer power of the story, it belongs with the greatest. But some of its admirers find it too savage [. . .]. (131)

Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “The Engaging Qualities of Othello” maintain that the popularity of this play has been consistent for about 400 years
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Robert B. Heilman says in “The Role We Give Shakespeare” that the playwright “has said many things in what seems an ultimate form, and he is a fountainhead of quotation and universal center of allusion. ‘A rose by any other name’ comes to the mouth as readily as ‘Pride goeth before a fall,’ and seems no less wise” (24-25).

Regardless of who views or reads Othello, he sees himself and his own situation reflected in the drama. Is this due to the multi-faceted aspects in which persons, places and things are presented by the writer. Heilman relates the high ranking of Shakespeare to the “innumerableness of the parts,” with the result that ”each interpreter sees some part of the whole that does, we may say, mirror him, and he then proceeds to enlarge the mirror until it becomes the work as a whole” (10).

The large variety of “parts” in just the opening scenes testify to the accuracy of Heilman’s assertion. The audience meets initially a wealthy playboy Roderigo, a cunning military ancient Iago, and an esteemed senator of Venice, Brabantio. Scene 2 introduces the audience to the Moor, his lieutenant Cassio, and two groups of people (Brabantio’s search party and Cassio’s party from the council). Scene 3 involves the audience with the duke and senators of the council, Desdemona, a sailor, a messenger, officers, and attendants. Besides this, the audience is exposed to unending sequences of action, ceaseless presentations of motivations

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