Trends in the discussion of Shakespeare’s characters: Othello

  • E. A. J. Honigmann
Part of the Contemporary Interpretations of Shakespeare book series


I start with a quotation. ‘Modern criticism, by and large, has relegated the treatment of character to the periphery of its attention, has at best given it a polite and perfunctory nod and has regarded it more often as a misguided and misleading abstraction.’ It could be a statement about modern Shakespeare criticism, but in fact it comes from W. J. Harvey’s Character and the Novel’ and refers to what is called ‘the retreat from character’ in discussions of the novel. Professor Harvey found that modern commentators grew shy of ‘character-criticism’ because of several converging forces, which included the influence of the ‘New Criticism’, with its commitment to close verbal scrutiny, and of Shakespeare criticism, which had veered in the same general direction a little earlier.


Historical Critic Sexual Inversion Dramatic Character Tragic Hero Shakespearian Drama 
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  1. 1.
    W. J. Harvey, Character and the Novel (1965) p. 192.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Patrick Murray, The Shakespearian Scene (1969) p. 1;Google Scholar
  3. Christopher Ricks, English Drama to 1710 (Sphere Library, 1971) p. 313.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For Stoll see J. I. M. Stewart, Character and Motive in Shakespeare (1949), p. 79ff.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    M. C. Bradbrook, Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy (1960) pp. 64–5.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    F. L. Lucas, Literature and Society (1951) p. 76.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See F. R. Leavis, The Common Pursuit (1952).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    C. J. Carlisle, Shakespeare from the Green Room (Chapel Hill, NC, 1969) p. 205.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (1953) p. 130.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Bernard Beckerman, Dynamics of Drama (New York, 1970) p. 219.Google Scholar

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© E. A. J. Honigmann 1989

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  • E. A. J. Honigmann

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