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Othello, Shakespeare

It is as sure as you are Roderigo, were I the Moor I would not be Iago.?(1.1.156-157) There are several meanings for the word Moor according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Moor as a noun means a marsh or marshland in lowland England. The next meaning is a native or inhabitant of ancient Mauretania, a region of North Africa corresponding to parts of present-day Morocco and Algeria; a member of a Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arab descent. Moor to secure a boat in a particular place by means of one or more chains or ropes. There are more but not of interest to this analysis. The etymology has multiple origins ranging from partly latin: maurus French: more. Shakespeare uses the word in Hamlet, Merchant of Venice and Titus Andronicus. In Titus Andronicus and Merchant of venice has the meaning of the same as Othello but in the Hamlet it means the marshlands. To me it sounds like the English word more which means to cause to increase. I thought this could mean Shakespeare wants you to understand that Othello is a person with a complex personality and cannot be judged by appearance. Moor is a name used for Arab and Berber peoples of North Africa who inhabited medieval Spain. Othello is from the people of ?Barbary? from North Africa. Iago calls Othello a ?Barbary horse? (1.1.110), referring to horses of the Arab world, but also playing on the associations of ?barbarian? with savagery. Othello, like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice was an outcast. Although Othello is respected for his military prowess and nobility, he is in a society racial tensions are present especially with interracial marriage. Using evidence from Hamlet, he can?t reason his way out of the trap of the hisself. Neither can Othello, who is helped neither by logic or by friendship because all of these normal ways of making sense of the world have been discombobulated in a conspiracy against him by Iago. It could also be that Othello?s blackness provided Shakespeare a new way to explore questions such as What is identity, and how is it formed? There are many uses of the word black throughout the play, and there are ways that characters reference Othello?s blackness without using the word. Brabantio, Desdemona?s father, enraged at his daughter?s elopement, accuses Othello, saying, ?Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her,? because she never would?ve consented to run ?to the sooty bosom/ of such a thing as thou.? ?Sooty? refers to Othello?s skin color but, importantly, ?damned? does too. Devils in Shakespeare?s time were thought to be black. Black skin was a sign of being a devil, capable of witchcraft. Later, Iago promises to turn Desdemona?s reputation as black as ?pitch.? Against the moor means against his color and what he stands for by being accepted in to English culture. The play is asking what makes a person, what is identity, and how belonging to an identity group shapes who you are.

English 319, Fall 2016 Close Reading #2: Archaeology of a word DUE WEDNESDAY, 10/19
When Shakespeare uses a word, it almost never means only one thing. For this close reading, you are going to excavate a single word, and then explore how your discoveries change how we understand Shakespeare?s drama. If your word is a pun or a double-entendre, how does it change the force of what a character is saying? Does it reflect the themes of the play, or does it alert us to a theme or question we might have missed on our first reading?
How to proceed:
1. Select a word from either Othello, Taming of the Shrew, or A Midsummer Night?s Dream. The word might be a pun, or a double entendre, or part of an important metaphor; or it might just be something that looks like ordinary speech but that you suspect has something more going on with it. (See below for suggestions.)
2. Look up your word in the Oxford English Dictionary at www.oed.com. (If you are off-campus, you will need to log in through the UM Library web site.) Take note of: -alternate definitions that may have been present in Shakespeare?s time -the word?s etymology -other uses from Shakespeare?s time that the OED has collected.
3. Look up where else Shakespeare might have used this word, using the online Shakespeare concordance: http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/concordance/. What else does this teach you about why Shakespeare might have chosen this word to use at this moment in this play?
4. Use your own imagination: is this word a pun? Does it have any other meanings? What else does it sound like? What might those sounds evoke?
5. Locate this word for us in the play: think about the words surrounding your word ? look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary, too. What do these tell you about the kinds of associations your word might bring up? Try to paraphrase the sentence with each of the meanings and connotations you have discovered. What other possible understandings are opened up?
6. Ask yourself: What have you discovered from your digging that wasn?t immediately apparent on the surface? How do your discoveries change the meaning of this moment in the play? How do they change the audience?s understanding of the character?
English 319, Fall 2016 Now, write up what you?ve found! Make sure you: 1) Give us an account of what you?ve found about your word 2) Discuss at least two layers of meaning. Are they present at the same time, or do they seem to be in conflict in some way? 3) Reread the lines around the place where your word appears: What seems different; or, what can you see that you did not see before? 4) Consider: What do your discoveries teach us about the themes of the play? How can we see this moment in the drama differently because of what you?ve found?
Checklist: Your final essay should: -Open with a title that tells your reader what your word is and the question it raises -Begin by quoting the line from the play in which your word appears (please include a full sentence, even if it runs onto more than one line, rather than just a fragment.) -Have your name at the top of it. -Be double-spaced, include page numbers, and be no longer than two pages. -Be well-organized, clearly and fluently written, and relatively free of grammatical errors. -Demonstrate for your reader your curiosity about this word and show us why we should be curious, too. -Be emailed as an attachment to jrosenberg@miami.edu by midnight on Wednesday, October 19.
Possible words: These are suggestions for words that have a few different layers of meaning. Feel free to pick your own, if something has struck you.
CHAOS: ?But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, / CHAOS is come again?(Othello, 3.3.92-3). CREDIT: ?And by how much she strives to do him good / She shall undo her CREDIT with the Moor?(Othello, 2.3.332-3). FAIR: ?If virtue no delighted beauty lack, / Your son-in-law is far more FAIR than black?(Othello, 1.3.288-9). KATE/CATE: ?You lie, in faith, for you are called plain KATE, / And bonny KATE, and sometimes KATE the curst??(Taming of the Shrew, 2.1.183-4). MOOR: Pick one of many spots in Othello: 1.1.32 (?And I ? God bless the mark ? his MOORSHIP?S ensign?; 1.1.157 (?Were I the MOOR I would not be Iago.?) OCCUPATION: ?Farewell! Othello?s OCCUPATION?S gone?(Othello, 3.3.362). POLITICLY or LURE: ?Thus have I POLITICLY begun my reign, / And ?tis my hope to end successfully. / My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, / And till she stoop she must not be full-gorged, / For then the never looks upon her LURE?(Shrew, 4.1.168-172.) SHREWD: ?Her elder sister is so curst and SHREWD / That till the father rid his hands of her, / Master, your love must live a maid at home, / And therefore has he closely MEWED her up??(Shrew, 1.1.174-7 ? Note, ?mewed? also a great option!) TUPPING/TOPPING: ?Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is TUPPING your white ewe?(Othello, 1.1.88-9); ?Cassio did TOP her. Ask thy husband else? (5.2.145).

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