Welcome back to The Literary Life Podcast and our series covering Shakespeare’s play Othello. This week Angelina, Thomas and Cindy talk about the end of Act 2, review Act 3’s major plot points, and discuss the bigger ideas present in this and all Shakespeare’s stories. Thomas brings out the similarities between Don John in Much Ado About Nothing and Iago in Othello. Angelina highlights the significance of the placement of the wedding dance and the discord occurring within the form of the play. Cindy points out the importance of reputation in this section of the play. Other concepts they talk about include: the character of a warrior, the issue of race in this play, Iago’s deception of Othello, Desdemona as a picture of innocence, and so much more.
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The notion of cosmic order pervades the entire Fairy Queen and prompts such a detail as Spenser’s iteration of the phrase “In a comely rew [row]” or “on a row.” The arrangement is comely not just because it is pretty and seemly but because it harmonises with a universal order.
But the negative implication was even more frequent and emphatic. If the Elizabethans believed in an ideal order animating earthly order, they were terrified lest it should be upset, and appalled by the visible tokens of disorder that suggested its upsetting. They were obsessed by the fear of chaos and the fact of mutability; and the obsession was powerful in proportion as their faith in the cosmic order was strong. To us chaos means hardly more than confusion on a large scale; to an Elizabethan it mean the cosmic anarchy before creation and the wholesale dissolution that would result if the pressure of Providence relaxed and allowed the law of nature to cease functioning. Othello’s “chaos is come again” or Ulysses’s “this chaos, when degree is suffocate,” cannot be fully felt apart from orthodox theology.E. M. Tillyard
The world will always believe Shakespeare’s version of these events.Andrew Lang
All the men in history who have really done anything with the future have had their eyes fixed upon the past.G. K. Chesterton
Could Man Be Drunk Forever?
by A. E. Housman
Could man be drunk for ever
With liquor, love, or fights,
Lief should I rouse at morning
And lief lie down of nights.
But men at whiles are sober
And think by fits and starts,
And if they think, they fasten
Their hands upon their hearts.
Othello by William Shakespeare
The Elizabethan World Picture by E. M. Tillyard
A Short History of Scotland by Andrew Lang
The Soul of Wit by G. K. Chesterton, edited by Dale Ahlquist
The Malcontent by John Marston
The Meaning of Shakespeare by Harold Goddard
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