Read Along,  Shakespeare,  Show Notes

Episode 163: Introduction to Shakespeare’s “Othello”

On this episode of The Literary Life Podcast with Angelina Stanford, Cindy Rollins, and Thomas Banks, our hosts introduce their new series on Shakespeare’s play Othello. They share some tips and strategies for those new to Shakespeare, both as independent readers and for reading along with children. Angelina also talks more specifically about how to approach reading a Shakespearean tragedy. Finally, our hosts respond to the idea that Shakespeare plays should be watched, not read. Join us back here next week to dive into the discussion of Othello!

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Commonplace Quotes:

The devils come because the half-gods go,

But in the end the gods, the gods return.

Humbert Wolfe

I was rereading chapter 14 of Surprised by Joy, and there it was, the opening quote from George MacDonald:  “The one principle of hell is – ‘I am my own’.”

Andrew Johnson

A convention is a form of freedom. That is the reality that the realists cannot get into their heads. A dramatic convention is not a constraint on the dramatist; it is a permission to the dramatist. It is a permit allowing him to depart from the routine of external reality, in order to express a more internal and intimate reality. . . .

But as Shakespeare had the liberty of a literary convention, he can make Macbeth say something that nobody in real life would say, but something that does express what somebody in real life would feel. It expresses such things as music expresses them; though nobody in those circumstances would recite that particular poem, any more than he would begin suddenly to play on the violin. But what the audience wants is the emotion expressed; and poetry can express it and commonplace conversation cannot. . . .

The realist is reduced to inarticulate grunts and half-apologetic oaths, like an apoplectic major in a club.

G. K. Chesterton


by Walter de la Mare

A dark lean face, a narrow, slanting eye,
Whose deeps of blackness one pale taper’s beam
Haunts with a flitting madness of desire;
A heart whose cinder at the breath of passion
Glows to a momentary core of heat
Almost beyond indifference to endure:
So parched Iago frets his life away.
His scorn works ever in a brain whose wit
This world hath fools too many and gross to seek.
Ever to live incredibly alone,
Masked, shivering, deadly, with a simple Moor
Of idiot gravity, and one pale flower
Whose chill would quench in everlasting peace
His soul’s unmeasured flame — O paradox!
Might he but learn the trick! — to wear her heart
One fragile hour of heedless innocence,
And then, farewell, and the incessant grave.
” O fool! O villain! ” — ’tis the shuttlecock
Wit never leaves at rest. It is his fate
To be a needle in a world of hay,
Where honour is the flattery of the fool;
Sin, a tame bauble; lies, a tiresome jest;
Virtue, a silly, whitewashed block of wood
For words to fell. Ah! but the secret lacking,
The secret of the child, the bird, the night,
Faded, flouted, bespattered, in days so far
Hate cannot bitter them, nor wrath deny;
Else were this Desdemona. . . . Why!
Woman a harlot is, and life a nest
Fouled by long ages of forked fools. And God —
Iago deals not with a tale so dull:
To have made the world! Fie on thee, Artisan!

Books Mentioned:

Othello by William Shakespeare

London Sonnets by Humbert Wolfe

The Soul of Wit by G. K. Chesterton, edited by Dale Ahlquist

Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit

Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield

Stories from Shakespeare by Marchette Chute

Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov

The Meaning of Shakespeare by Harold Goddard

The Elizabethan World Picture by E. M. Tillyard

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