Hello again! Your homework this week is to read Act I of Othello, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. At the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Note: I’ve been using my husband’s Vimeo account to upload my videos to this site; this week, however, I’ve used Google Drive instead. For some reason, Google Drive videos appear distorted when you’re just looking at the still “cover shot.” But don’t worry: once you click play, the image returns to normal.
Also note: There are two ways to make a Google Drive video appear full-screen: either you can start playing the video and then click the “full screen” icon in the lower right corner, or you can click “pop out” icon in the upper right corner. The latter will make the full-screen video open in a new tab.
Noteworthy speeches in Othello I.1-2: Iago's first words, 1.1.4: 'Sblood, but you'll not hear me! If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me. Iago continues, 1.1.8: Despise me if I do not. Three great ones of the city, In personal suit to make me his lieutenant, Off-capped to him; and, by the faith of man, I know my price; I am worth no worse a place. But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, Evades them, with a bombast circumstance Horribly stuffed with epithets of war, Nonsuits my mediators; for, "Certes," says he, "I have already chose my officer." And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician, One Michael Cassio, a Florentine (A fellow almost damned in a fair wife) That never set a squadron in the field, Nor the division of a battle knows More than a spinster, unless the bookish theoric, As masterly as he. Mere prattle without practice Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had th'election; And I (of whom his eyes had seen the proof) At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds Christened and heathen) must be beleed and calmed By debitor and creditor. This countercaster, He, in good time, must his lieutenant be, And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient. Iago's "bad guy" speech, 1.1.40: O, sir, content you; I follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave That, doting on his own obsequious bondage, Wears out his time, much like his master's ass, or nought but provender, and when he's old, cashiered. Whip me such honest knaves! Others there are Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves, And, throwing but shows of service on their lords, Do well thrive by them, and when they have lined their coats, Do themselves homage. These fellows have some soul, And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir, It is as sure as you are Roderigo, Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago. In following him, I follow but myself. Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty, But seeming so, for my peculiar end, For when my outward action doth demonstrate The native act and figure of my heart In complement extern, 'tis not long after But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at. I am not what I am. Othello's first speech, 1.2.17: Let him do his spite. My services which I have done the signory Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know -- Which, when I know that boasting is an honor, I shall promulgate -- I fetch my life and being From men of royal siege, and my demerits May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune As this that I have reached. For know, Iago, But that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhoused free condition Put into circumscription and confine For the sea's worth. But look, what lights come yond? Brabantio thinks Othello has used witchcraft to steal his daughter, 1.2.62: O thou foul thief, where hast thou stowed my daughter? Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her! For I'll refer me to all things of sense, If she in chains of magic were not bound, Whether a maid so tender, fair, and happy, So opposite to marriage that she shunned The wealthy curled darlings of our nation, Would ever have, t'incur a general mock, Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom Of such a thing as thou -- to fear, not to delight, Judge me the world if 'tis not gross in sense That thou hast practiced on her with foul charms, Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals That weakens motion. I'll have't disputed on; 'Tis probable, and palpable to thinking. I therefore apprehend and do attach thee For an abuser of the world, a practicer Of arts inhibited and out of warrant. Lay hold upon him. If he do resist, Subdue him at his peril.
Noteworthy speeches is Othello I.3: Othello on his and Desdemona's courtship, 1.3.128: Her father loved me, oft invited me, Still questioned me the story of my life From year to year -- the battles, the sieges, fortunes That I have passed. I ran it through, even from my boyish days To th' very moment that he bade me tell it. Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances, Of moving accidents by flood and field; Of hairbreadth scapes i' th' imminent deadly breach; Of being taken by the insolent foe And sold to slavery. Of my redemption thence And portance in my traveler's history, Wherein of anters vast and deserts idle, Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven, It was my hint to speak -- such was my process; And of the cannibals that each other eat, The anthropoqhagi, and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders. These things to hear Would Desdemona seriously incline; But still the house affairs would draw her thence, Which ever as she could with haste dispatch, She'd come again, and with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse. Which I observing, Took once a pliant hour, and found good means To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart That I would all my pilgrimage dilate, Whereof by parcels she had something heard, But not intentively. I did consent, And often did beguile her of her tears When I did speak of some distressful stroke That my youth suffered. My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of kisses. She swore in faith 'twas strage, 'twas passing strange; 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful. She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished That heaven had made her such a man. She thanked me, And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story, And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake. She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them. This ony is the witchcraft I have used. Here comes the lady. Let her witness it. Iago's soliloquy ends the act, 1.1.375: Thus do I ever make my fool my purse; For I mine own gained knowledge should profane If I would time expend with such a snipe But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor, And it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets H'as done my office. I know not if't be true, But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, Will do as if for surety. He holds me well; The better shall my purpose work on him. Cassio's a proper man. Let me see now: To get his place, and to plume up my will In double knavery -- How, how? -- Let's see: -- After some time, to abuse Othello's ears That he is too familiar with his wife. He hath a person and a smooth dispose To be suspected -- framed to make women false. The Moor is of a free and open nature That thinks men honest that but seem to be so; And will as tenderly be led by th' nose As asses are. I have't! It is engendered! Hell and night Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.
Write a comment on Othello Act 1 and post it in the comments section below. Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post. Consider answering any of the following study questions:
1.) How does Shakespeare use language (that is, the way a character speaks, including his/her vocabulary, meter, verbal logic, verbal mannerisms, etc.) to depict a character’s personality or otherwise tell us what we need to know about him/her? Discuss any specific example.
2.) How does Shakespeare depict Othello’s marginality? You might consider aspects of his racial difference, his foreignness, or other ways in which he is different.
3.) I’ve emphasized that comedy and tragedy are closely intertwined. Even though Othello is a tragedy, in what ways does this play resemble a comedy in Act 1? (Hint: you may draw on your knowledge of comedy from The Merchant of Venice.)
4.) Compare and contrast the Venice of Othello and the Venice of The Merchant of Venice. What sort of environment is it?
5.) What difference does it make that Iago eclipses Othello as the main character of Act 1? Why do you think Shakespeare might have made this artistic choice?