Othello Lecture: storms, star crossed lovers & that handkerchief!

Idealistic lovers from different backgrounds, scheming politicians. What could go wrong? Here’s a clue: it involves a handkerchief.

I’ve just tidied up an old lecture on Othello, which I’ve published in the hope that it might help some of you studying Shakespeare. A short lecture cannot do justice to the complex issues raised in the play but it can act as a series of signposts, bite size introductions to those issues, something for those who feel completely lost.

I’ve tried to address the obvious literary things: Shakespearean tragic models, the storm, good versus evil and of course Iago, the Machiavel and the handkerchief. I’ve also included some contextual material on Elizabethan / Jacobean notions of violence and revenge, race, warriors and honour.

I have used the term Elizabethan somewhat loosely. The play was written at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I but was performed before the court of James I. ‘Elizabethan’ is in some respects a term of convenience but it’s also a pragmatic choice. Cultural norms do not simply change overnight with a change in monarch. We speak of the ‘Elizabethan’ audience but of course there has never been a sole Elizabethan or Jacobean identity, simply a range of voices and experiences (many of which were rarely if ever heard in the public sphere). What we do have is a set of cultural norms which the play may reflect or problematise, revealing a society in flux, different from our own but not always as different as we’d like to think!

In these weird COVID-19 times online learning is becoming increasingly important. I hope to be able to publish more materials over the coming months but for now, like so many of you, my lockdown lifestyle is somewhat hectic.

I am considering how I can best help people so if you have any ideas please let me know via the Contact page. I’m wondering if doing short audio lectures would be helpful given that so many people have so little time to read.

For now I send you all my very warmest wishes from a very cold and wet UK!

Take care, everyone.