Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2017: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida
Time

June 21:
Titus Andronicus
Revenge

June 28:
NO CLASS

July 5
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens
Plot

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Othello
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Cymbeline
Pastoral and Romance

Othello

Of the nine items in this year’s curriculum, this is perhaps the only one that would be classed among the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays. It is raw, intense, and emotionally exhausting, and a good performance of it shows dimensions that won’t easily emerge during a reading. If you can find and see one, you will almost certainly find it to your advantage.

Othello has of course been a kind of lightning rod for issues of race relations, especially in the twentieth century: while Othello is not ultimately undone by anything to do with his race, but rather by a subtly provoked jealousy by Iago, his race is always a present issue in view.

Somewhat more problematic (especially for those who prefer to see in a tragedy some evidence of a tragic flaw) — what actually is Othello’s failing here? At the end, it is said that he “loved not wisely but too well” — but does that really cover it? Is there a failure here on his part, or is the main point of the play to enable us to look unflinchingly as the suffering mounts up without letup?

Things to consider while reading Othello


Othello and what has come before


Shakespeare’s Sources

The sources for this play are not terribly well known to the wider world, but they have been reasonably well established. They include:


Themes that emerge in the play (and perhaps a few thematically significant facts)


Symmetries in the play


Problems in the play