Searching Shakespeare: Studies in Culture and Authority by Derek Cohen

By Derek Cohen

Original in subject and process, Searching Shakespeare offers a political-historical exploration of Shakespeare's drama, reading the performs within the context of present ideological matters - historical past, reminiscence, marginality, and nationalism. Derek Cohen predicates his argument at the supposition that the person, up to the surrounding nation, is topic to the shaping forces and equipment of the ideological surround.

Shakespeare's performs, Cohen argues, continually painting the conflict among the passionate look for individuality and the search for social concord as irresolvable. The playwright's uncanny skill to hold the reader to the sting of imaginary event - faraway from the literal international that's made seen through the textual content - deals an access into the subtextual and ironic underside of the dramas. it really is during this darkish and weird international of slavery, mutilation, sexual jealousy, and suborned homicide that the implicit political biases of the performs are most blatant and it really is the following, too, glossy political research finds why Shakespeare portrayed the search for individuation and self-expression as inevitably finishing in tragedy.

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So the ceremony is subverted and with it - but only momentarily - the notion that this monarchy is an example of a pure, flowing, sequential 'history' of an ordered medieval world. The possibility of Richard's words being an actual aside lends it the appearance of a line overheard only by the audience: this possibility introduces a note of irony; Richard knows things that have not been declared or revealed. A subtext of subterfuge, secrets, and lies is suddenly exposed. The human motive of simple distrust pierces the carapace of ceremony.

This violent act of assertion and negative national self-identification is a gesture of submission by which Othello hopes finally to insinuate himself into the culture that is, ironically, about to cast him off. The act is one of ultimate self-exile. Othello's suicide casts him violently from the nation: other suicides, like that, say, of Brutus, relocate 18 Searching Shakespeare their actors firmly within the nation's core. This violence is the physical realization of his earlier recognition of the force of Desdemona's dying look, which, he says, would hurl his soul from heaven for fiends to snatch at.

The ritualized ceremoniousness of martial suicides in Shakespeare is bluntly negated by Othello's language. The heroic aggrandizement that usually accompanies such acts is crushingly reversed. No spirit of duty or honour is invoked by the Moor here, no sense that suicide offers any possibility of redemption is given form; the last lines of the speech are the precise converse of the thrust of its opening. Having bidden his spectators to remember him well, Othello then enforces upon their consciousnesses the spectacle of himself brutally killing a brute who is the more brutal for being a malignant Turk - the opposite of everything that is supposed to be Venetian.

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