Thursday, November 17, 2016

Othello, William Shakespeare


Another free Public Domain Book from Amazon.com. Apart from King Lear and Macbeth, both of which I read and thoroughly enjoyed decades ago, the only other work I'd read by this master playwright was his Sonnets, and that was only last year. I should point out that I didn't find that collection particularly captivating.

Othello, on the other hand, is stellar. Obviously, plays are meant to be performed on a stage, but that mere dialogue on a page, without the benefits of narrative or exposition, can evoke feelings in the reader says a good deal about Shakespeare's genius. A few choice, popularized lines from the play:
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
To mourn a mischief that is past and gone,
Is the next way to draw new mischief on.
Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee.
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit and lost without deserving.

My favorite monologue is from the character Desdemona when, early in the story, her father, Brabantio, discovers her recent elopement to Othello, a Moor. Her father disapproves the union and asks her to whom she most owes her obedience:
My noble father,
I do perceive here a divided duty:
To you I am bound for life and education;
My life and education both do learn me
How to respect you; you are the lord of duty,—
I am hitherto your daughter: but here's my husband;
And so much duty as my mother show'd
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor, my lord.

Although no commentary is provided in this Public Domain version, the play is surprisingly easy to follow. The mode of speech might be rough going for the novice, but when a subtle shiver runs down your spine over the majestic monologues in Virgil's Aeneid, if you go goey over the wondrous locution attributed to the cast of Homer's Iliad, Shakespeare's diction is a pleasure to read rather than a hindrance. Plus, Kindle's built-in dictionary supplied definitions for at least half of the archaic words I didn't know. Five out of five stars. PG-13 

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