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Othello

Critical views of Othello

The play is thought to have been written between autumn 1603 and the summer the
following year. The first published version appeared in 1622.
Critics from the past:
Thomas Rymer was one of the plays earliest critics; he produced a commentary on the
play in A Short View of Tragedy (1693).
His writing is available here:
http://www.angelfire.com/oh5/spycee/rymer.html
You will notice his negative tone and almost complete condemnation of the play.
Dr Johnson, on the other hand, had nothing but praise for the play. In his preface in 1765
he wrote: are such proofs of Shakespeares skill in human nature, as, I suppose, it is vain
to seek in any modern writer.
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/j/johnson/samuel/preface/othello.html
In the nineteenth century Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote an essay on the play, referring to
Iago as, a being next to devil,:
http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/essays/othello_essay.htm
William Hazlitt published Characters of Shakespeares plays in 1817 in which he referred
to, The picturesque contrasts of character in this play are almost as remarkable as the depth
of the passion.
http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/criticism/hazlittw_charsp/charsp_titlepage.html
In 1926 Swinburnes views on Othello were published in Four Plays. The Complete Works
of Algernon Charles Swinburne. Ed. Sir Edmund Gosse, C.B. and Thomas James Wise. vol.
11 (Prose Works vol. 1). London: Heinemann. The section on Othello is available here:
http://www.letrs.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/acs-idx.pl?type=section&rgn=level1&byte=1546224
In the early twentieth century A C Bradley presented a lecture on Othello, in which he
portrayed the character as blameless but in contrast said of Iago, Evil has nowhere else
been portrayed with such mastery as in the character of Iago.:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16966/16966-h/16966-h.htm#LECTURE_V
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16966/16966-h/16966-h.htm#LECTURE_VI
T S Eliot rejected these views in Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca (1928) as did F R
Leavis in his text, Diabolic Intellect and the Noble Hero (1952). There is some discussion of
their criticisms here:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZTOGF99x4PwC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=f+r+leavis+
othello+diabolic+intellect+and+the+noble+hero&source=bl&ots=v6t5yBLFi&sig=iNlCSfLOjgvCgu-t1D0OUhSaxsw&hl=en&ei=HXXhS4a7JtfoQau9LDPDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CCAQ6AEwBw#v=onepag
e&q=f%20r%20leavis%20othello%20diabolic%20intellect%20and%20the%20noble%20hero
&f=false

Critical views of Othello.doc

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Othello
More recent critics:
It is more difficult to direct you to the writings of critics of the late 20th and early 21st century,
mostly because of copyright. However the following should give you a flavour of some of the
names or ideas you should be looking out for:
Marilyn French wrote Shakespeare's Division of Experience (London: Abacus, 1982). An
extract is available here:
http://www.idehist.uu.se/distans/ilmh/Ren/sh-othello-french.htm
Lisa Jardine discusses the role of Desdemona, and the way in which she is trapped by a
masculine world, in her book Still Harping on Daughters, 1983.
In his 1986 book, Power on Display, Leonard Tennenhouse explores the violence against
female characters in plays of the time and links it to politics.
In Ania Loombas work, Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (1987), she discusses both
gender and race.
Karen Newman explored both issues of race and sexuality in a 1987 chapter in the book
Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology.
Othello: New Critical Essays (2002, Routledge) edited by Philip C Kolin, might also be
worth reading:
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZTOGF99x4PwC&dq=critical+analysis+othello&printsec
=frontcover&source=in&hl=en&ei=RALkS8zDBKH40wTv_7mXAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct
=result&resnum=11&ved=0CFAQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=critical%20analysis%20othello&f
=false

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