Jason's Reviews > Othello

Othello by William Shakespeare
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really liked it
bookshelves: for-kindle, 2014, reviewed

Othello is the weakest of Shakespeare’s four major tragedies. Not only does its body count pale in comparison to that of the others, but also its plot is not nearly as complex, nor its themes as broad. At the heart of Othello lies a false accusation—Othello is duped into believing his woman has been unfaithful to him. Sound familiar? Except that, this being a tragedy, there is no kissing and making up at the end. Acts of suicide and murder instead take their positions of prominence here.

Othello himself is a pretty gullible character. I appreciate what Shakespeare tries to do here, which is to say that often only a single seed of well-planted doubt is enough to fuel our jealousy, enabling it to attain heights it otherwise might never have reached, clouding our judgment and making it nearly impossible for us to grasp the perspective needed to see reason or logic in a situation. But still, Othello is just a little too gullible for my liking, not once pausing long enough to consider any alternative other than that which his manipulator presents to him. That deeply flawed nature makes him not a very likeable hero in my estimation, aside from the fact that he also beats his wife (which is kind of a no-no, too, Daffy).

So why did I rate this so highly if I seemed to take issue with it? Well, I don’t know that I really did take issue with it. I just don’t believe it hits the same level of brilliance that King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth do. Those plays have characters and plot intricacies that Othello cannot match, although—if truth be told—I actually did like Iago. I know I wasn’t supposed to, but his diabolical mind is almost too fun not to have enjoyed reading about.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2011 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 16, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Peto When are you going to post the videos of you reading your favorite lines?

Jason Probably right after I post that video of me singing in the shower.

message 3: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Peto Jason wrote: "Probably right after I post that video of me singing in the shower."

Okay, will keep checking back.

David Sarkies Maybe the reason the plot of Othello is not as complex is because it is a lot more focused. Maybe we are exploring the nature of the barbarian, and how when we move from the centre of civilisation to the fringes the barbaric nature begins to take hold of us. I do agree with you though that the other plays tend to be much more complex with multiple interweaving plots.

message 5: by Jason (last edited Jun 19, 2014 05:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jason Hmm. Maybe. But I don't know that Othello was really barbaric. I think Iago imagined him to be barbaric, convincing himself as such probably to make it easier to destroy him, and he certainly was successful at manipulating him into behaving in a barbaric way, but was Othello inherently barbaric? And if so, was it a result of his alien status or being at the fringes of society, as you say? I don't know how convinced I am about that. He seemed to treat his wife well and act in a pretty civilized manner until the seeds of jealousy are planted in him. I agree they seemed able to be planted a bit too easily but I'm not sure what that could be attributed to other than weakness of character. But I'm still not sure about the barbarism, you know?

David Sarkies I probably am using the term barbaric a little too loosely. I guess what I mean by barbaric is not so much the lack of decorum and decency, but rather unfamiliarity with the norms of the culture in which he is participating. Since Venetian society was very cut throat (much like the political sphere of our day), it is quite believable that an honest Moor is unlikely to understand the way people behave.

Jason Ohhh, you are saying Othello is too innocent for his own good? Which more easily leads to him being manipulated by Iago? And that if he had been more accustomed to Venice and its ways that he might have been more cognizant of Iago's untruthfulness, etc.?

I might buy that.

I guess I thought at first you were saying that Othello behaves outside cultural norms by doing what he does to his wife, which I don't buy, but I think I see what you're saying now.

message 8: by Alex (last edited Jun 19, 2014 06:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Oh shit, are you doing a Shakespeare thing this year? Awesome.

I agree, Othello is my least favorite of the big tragedies. And it's actually because of your point*, David: yeah, I think Othello is kindof a naif. He's so easy to manipulate that Iago barely breaks a sweat. I don't get a handle on Othello as a believable dude; the only really great character in this play is Iago. Who, yeah, is one of the greatest characters of all time, and this is a very good play, but still.

* by the time I got done with it, it may not be your point anymore - sorry

Jason, I stopped by here to see where the hell you've been because you haven't been saying much in Bookish and it made me sad.

Jason Hi, Alex!

Yeah, the Shakespeare mini-marathon was impromptu but I'm loving it. I don't know how it is for you, but when I first get back into him again there's a bit of a struggle. I had to re-read parts of King Lear several times to get it. Then, once I've found the groove, it's pretty great and I don't want it to stop, ever.

the only really great character in this play is Iago.

WORD. I was afraid to say that as boldly as you just did because I think we're supposed to hate Iago, but sometimes a really well-portrayed villain makes the whole thing work, and I really enjoyed Iago's schemin'.

Jason And also, don't be sad! But thank you for saying that. I've been really bogged down with work lately and then I see all the new comments I've missed in Bookish and I panic.

message 11: by El (new)

El Jason wrote: "And also, don't be sad! But thank you for saying that. I've been really bogged down with work lately and then I see all the new comments I've missed in Bookish and I panic."

Oh, yeah, don't look at what you've missed or you'll have a nervous breakdown. Just jump back in and start talking. It's always nice to have literate, interesting people talking in there.

Also, I don't think I've read Othello. I did see the movie though.

Jason Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles! Oh man that looks awful. I will add it to my list.

message 13: by El (new)

El I saw in the theater. For... some... reason.

message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex El wrote: "It's always nice to have literate, interesting people talking in there."

But, I mean, it's nice to have Jason too.

(Sorry, but that's El's fault. She can't set up a shot like that and not expect me to take it.)

I can't remember if I saw O or not.

My whole strategy is to read at least a couple Shakespeares a year in order to keep my skills up, and it...sortof works. But, I mean, he's hard for me. Always hard. He was hard for people back then, too; if you compare him to like Marlowe, he's just...he writes weird sentences. Dude never met a simple action that he couldn't turn into a three-line metaphor. That whole "re-reading several times" thing - I just accept that that's how I do Shakespeare.

It's possible that it is easier for literate people.

Jason Alex wrote: "But, I mean, it's nice to have Jason too."

Ha! You guys are great. I'm glad you have a similar reading experience to me. Literate people can go suck it.

message 16: by Helene (new) - added it

Helene Your review closely matches my experience with this piece! I love Iago just as much as the ultimate scheming villan Richard III :)

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