Monday, October 20, 2008

#7 - "Othello" by William Shakespeare

So, Othello by William Shakespeare obviously isn't a book or novel, but a famous play, and probably one I should have read a long time ago. I bought the book for super cheap at a bookstore but only now, years later and unemployed, am I finding time to read it. I realize that Othello doesn't exactly conform to the Pajiba rules of reading books, but seeing as how I don't really care, I'm going to write about it anyways.

And once I got into it, it certainly held my interest, but mainly because the characters were so annoying. I guess that's often the thing with tragedies, especially tragedies fueled by human action, because people have to act stupid or the tragedies wouldn't occur. Both Othello and Desdemona annoyed me. Othello declares that he loves Desdemona and he loves her so much he goes crazy with jealousy, but he doesn't trust her, he doesn't discuss any of his problems with her, he doesn't listen to her, and he doesn't even ask her if she's cheating on him. That's not anything close to love. It's just jealous possession and it's not flattering. And then Desdemona is a wimpering little fool. Her husband yells at her and hits her and she never stands up for herself and she never gets mad at him. If she had any self respect, she wouldn't put up with that kind of treatment.

And then of course, Iago, is just a pure villain. It's hard for me to believe that people realistically live like that, but his treacherous ways certainly made the play captivating to read. And the play shows that Iago is moved by jealousy. When discussing why his rival, Cassio, needs to die, Iago says, "He hath a daily beauty in his life That makes me ugly;" Well said, Shakespeare.

Emilia is my favorite character. She is Cassio's wife and to me the only sane character in the entire play. She could jump right into a play in the 21st century and her character would fit. Here is my favorite speech of hers from Act IV, Scene 3 where Emilia sounds like a rising feminist.

Yes, a dozen; and as many to th' vantage as
would store the world they played for.
But I do think it is their husbands' faults
If wives do fall. Say that they slack their duties
And pour our treasures into foreign laps;
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite -
Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them. They see, and smell,
And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
As husbands have. What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it?
I think it doth. Is't frailty that thus errs?
It is so too. And have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well; else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

Right as I am writing this post I am wondering what to do about a guy that obviously does not care much for me. He, of course, does not resemble Othello in any real way. But I am afraid that I have lowered my expectations so much that I don't feel like I deserve anything from him, and I don't think it's healthy. Perhaps I should try to be stronger than Desdemona and stand up for myself. But I also don't want to lose him, as little as it is. Alas, I don't think Shakespeare has any answers for me, but if I ever run into a jealous, violent lunatic, I will now know to stay away.

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