Othello Play Analysis

OTHELLO PROMPT: According to a recent analysis of Othello, “Othello’s dramatic fate is to have his exceptionality neutralized, his centrality decentered, pushed back to the margins ostensibly delegated to sociopaths like Iago, but in fact reserved for racial, ethnic, and cultural outsiders like Othello. It is Shakespeare’s play—not just Iago’s plan—that stages this transaction, that shapes the complex or paradigm the Moor inhabits and fulfills. In sum, Othello stages a fantasy of inclusion, a glamorous bridging of differences, only to restate, in the starkest manner, the terms of exclusion it seems initially to discredit.” What do you make of this analysis? How does it help explain the series of reductions—in stature, dignity, self-control, and self-possession—Othello suffers in the second half of the play, including (but not limited to) his increasingly servile relationship to Iago, his verbally disorganized lapse into a trance, his striking of Desdemona, her ritualized murder and his similarly ritualized suicide? How does Shakespeare make Othello’s race, culture, or ethnicity seem to figure in his so-called lapse into savagism? Is the critic right to conflate “Shakespeare’s play” with “Iago’s plan”? If not, how might the two be distinguished?

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