Othello A-Level English Literature Quotes From Critics

Richard Mallette 1 “Iago’s polemics is modelled on and distorts methods prescribed by sixteenth-century sermon theory. His warping of contemporary preaching makes him even more diabolical than hitherto recognised. He seizes on discourses that the Shakespearean audience was accustomed to as salvific, and he deforms them toward an evil end.”
Richard Mallette 2 “The early modern affiliation between Reformed pastor and sinner clearly foretells the modern relationship of analyst and patient, an association carefully reproduced in Iago’s treatment of Othello. But the therapy Iago practices will bring his listener neither comfort nor the assurance of salvation, but instead the assurance of torment, indeed torment itself.”
Madeleine Doran In Shakespeare slander is one of the worst of evils; it is a vice that I do not recall ever being excused. When Iago declares at the end of the play that ‘From this time forth I never will speak word’ (V, ii, 301), the very means by which he avoids self-incrimination becomes an assurance that he will not repeat his offence.
Valerie Wayne 1 Shakespeare’s Venice looks like some accounts of his plays, since it is not a place that can tolerate difference: the only characters left alive on stage are white men.But all of the white men left on stage are not the same, and it is important that Iago’s misogynist discourse is specific to his character and then spreads, through a kind of oral/aural abuse, to Othello.
Valerie Wayne 2 Because the handkerchief serves as proof of married chastity, it cannot be copied by Emilia and Bianca. It is an emblem of Desdemona’s body that does not circulate because her body is not supposed to circulate: the regulated passage of the handkerchief is along family lines, not elsewhere.
John Bayley “No one in Othello comes to understand himself or anyone else. None of them realize their situation.”
Samuel Coleridge 1813. “Shakespeare had portrayed [Othello] the very opposite to a jealous man: he was noble, generous, open-hearted; unsuspicious and unsuspecting; and who, even after the exhibition of the handkerchief as evidence of his wife’s guilt, bursts out in her praise. . . . He was a gallant Moor, of royal blood . . .whose noble nature was wrought on . . . by an accomplished and artful villain . . .” (report of a lecture)
A C Bradley 1904 “The Othello who enters the bed-chamber with the words, ‘It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul’, is not the man of the Fourth Act. The deed he is bound to do is not murder, but a sacrifice. He is to save Desdemona from herself, not in hate but in honour; in honour, and also in love.”
T S Eliot 1932 “I have always felt that I have never read a more terrible exposure of human weakness – of universal human weakness – than the last great speech of Othello.”
William Empson 1951 “The fifty-two uses of honest and honesty in Othello are a very queer business: there is no other play in which Shakespeare worries a word like that . . . Everybody calls Iago honest once or twice, but with Othello it becomes an obsession; at the crucial moment just before Emilia exposes Iago he keeps howling the word out.
Anthony Brennan 1986 Many explanations have been given for the recovered stature which Othello achieves at the end. In spite of all the bizarre behaviour Iago has induced in him the dignity of his ending is impressive . . . In his final speech and his suicide he is able, as he was before the Senate of Venice, to express his nobility and to manifest himself rightly.”
Helen Gardner ‘He is monstrous because, faced with the manifold richness of experience, his only reaction is calculation and the desire to manipulate … Ultimately, whatever its proximate motives, malice is motiveless; that is the secret of its power and its horror, why it can go unsuspected and why its revelation always shocks.’