Othello is, like Hamlet, a story of revenge. There are two revenge plots in this play. Iago revenges himself upon Othello by inducing him to believe that his wife is unfaithful, and Othello revenges himself upon Desdemona by murdering her in their marriage bed. Instead of having a protagonist whose self-effacing tendencies paralyze him in a situation that calls for aggressive action, we have in this play two characters who behave more aggressively than is warranted by the offenses to which they are reacting. Here the tragedy arises from the hero’s taking his revenge not too slowly, but too fast.
KeywordsIdealize Image Moral Perfection Compliant Type Terrible Thing Moral Blindness
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- 1.Iago has been discussed from a Horneyan perspective by Rosenberg 1961 and by Rabkin and Brown 1973. For representative Freudian readings, see Wangh 1950, Smith 1959, Orgel 1968, and Hyman 1970. Other interesting psychological studies include Staebler 1975 and West 1978.Google Scholar
- 2.This is Bradley’s position. It has been echoed by many others and has been most eloquently defended in recent years by Rosenberg 1961, 185-205.Google Scholar
- 3.The leading exponents of the negative view have been Bodkin 1934, Leavis 1964, Heilman 1956, and Kirschbaum 1962. Rosenberg, Heilman, and Kirschbaum have bibliographic footnotes that trace the history of the dispute; and Berman 1973 summarizes the negative views. For a review of psychoanalytic studies, almost all of which see Othello’s character as responsible, in some way, for his fate, see Holland 1966. The most interesting of the recent psychoanalytic studies are Shapiro 1964, Reid 1968, and Faber 1974.Google Scholar
- 4.There have been few detailed psychological studies of Desdemona, however. Two of particular interest are Reid (1970b) and Dickes (1970).Google Scholar
- 5.In the Kittredge-Ribner text, “rites” has been changed to “rights.” I have restored the original word, which makes more sense than the emendation.Google Scholar