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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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(p.143) 8 Shakespeare
The Strangeness of Tragedy

Paul Hammond

Oxford University Press

The superficial strangeness of Othello is evident from the start of the play; his deeper estrangement is brought about in the course of the tragedy; indeed, this is his tragedy. Othello is a drama of displacement, in which first Othello and then Desdemona are translated into a fictionalized time and space, estranged from and unreachable by the other characters. Gradually he is drawn by Iago, and draws himself (the agency is hard to determine in places, so closely are the two men linked) into an imagined world in which his wife Desdemona is adulterous. Notoriously, Iago works on Othello by making him construct the narrative of Desdemona's adultery himself out of hints which Iago supplies. Instead of any actual allegation, any charge relating to specific times, places, and people, Othello deploys a rhetoric which enlists heaven, moon, and wind as players in his fiction. This is an appropriately troubled form of agency and selfhood with which to conclude Othello's story, for his tragedy has entailed the blurring of the boundaries between his self and Iago.

Keywords:   Othello, Iago, Desdemona, adultery, tragedy, estrangement, selfhood, agency, time, space

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