Othello critical quotations

‘Liar, betrayer and mental torturer’ Honigmann 2001
‘The character of Iago is so conducted, that he is from the first scene to the last hated and despised’ Dr. Johnson
[regarding criminal characters] ‘We think not so much of the crimes which they commit, as of the ambition, the aspiring spirit, the intellectual activity which prompts them to over leap moral fences.’ Lamb
‘Dramatic perspective can even make us the villain’s accomplices: he confides in us, so we watch his plot unfolding from his point of view.’ Honigmann 2001
‘He is the plays chief humorist’ Honigmann 2001
‘The joker in the pack’ W.H Auden
‘A practical joker of a peculiarly appalling kind’ W.H Auden
‘His humor either intends to give pain or allows him to bask in his sense of his own superiority; very rarely is it at his own expense’ Honigmann 2001
‘He enjoys a godlike sense of power’ Honigmann 2001
‘He simply enjoys himself’ Honigmann 2001
‘Since his victims lack humor, Iago appeals to us as more amusing’ Honigmann 2001
‘Iago excels in short term tactics, not in long term strategy’ Honigmann 2001
‘Emilia’s love (of Desdemona) is Iago’s undoing’ Honigmann 2001
‘Despite his cleverness, he has neither felt nor understood the spiritual impulses that bind ordinary human beings together, loyalty, friendship, respect, compassion- in a word, love.’ Honigmann 2001
‘The noble Othello is now seen as tragically pathetic’ Leavis 1937
(concerning Othello’s final speech) ‘The speech conveys something like the full complexity of Othello’s simple nature’ Leavis 1937
(Concerning Othello’s final speech) ‘Contemplating the spectacle of himself, Othello is overcome with the pathos of it’ Leavis 1937
‘It is a superb coup de theatre’ Leavis 1937
‘Othello is both a fantasy of interracial love and social tolerance’ Loomba 1998
‘Nightmare of racial hatred and male violence’ Loomba 1998
‘Location, skin colour, and class are seen to add up to ‘nature’ itself’ Loomba 1998
‘The portrayal of Othello, the ‘Moor of Venice’ stands at the complicated crux of contemporary beliefs about black people and Muslims’ Loomba 1998
Iago’s machinations are effective because Othello is predisposed to believing his pronouncements about the inherent duplicity of women, and the necessary fragility of an ‘unnatural’ relationship between a young, white, well born woman and an older black soldier.’ Loomba 1998
‘Black-skinned people were usually typed as godless, bestial, and hideous’ Loomba 1998
‘Both blacks and Muslims were regarded as given to unnatural sexual and domestic practices’ Loomba 1998
(regarding blacks and Muslims) ‘ highly emotional and even irrational, and prone to anger and jealousy…. existed outside the Christian fold’ Loomba 1998
‘Venetian civility has been built by letting in the very foreigners who now threaten to undermine it at a different level.’ Loomba 1998
‘England was increasingly hostile to foreigners, both officially and at a popular level… London had witnessed several major riots against foreign residents and artisans.’ Loomba 1998
‘She can endure more than he can inflict’ (regarding Emilia and her relationship with Iago) Honigmann 2001
(Emilia) ‘ The power she claims then takes the form of the affectionate loyalty she feels for her mistress, which is hers quite independently’ Pechter
Absorbed…into the conventional narrative of wifely obedience’ Pechter
‘Desdemona begins with a powerful voice, trumpeting her love for Othello to the world…but she seems to dwindle away during the course of the play’ Pechter
‘Her whole character consists in having no will of her own’ Coleridge
(Desdemona) ‘Insists that the prevailing tone of the character is gentleness verging on passiveness’ Coleridge
(regarding Desdemona at the start of the play upon her marriage) ‘Showing a strange freedom and energy, and leading to a most unusual boldness of action’ Bradley
‘The terrified woman cowers down upon her pillow like a poor frightened child’ Kemble
‘There is too much violence’ Martin
‘Iago’s appalling image of an assault- not only on Brabantio’s daughter but on Brabantio himself’ (an old black ram tipping your white ewe) Martin
‘The moment of the appearance after the murder to the moment of her death is tranfigured’ Bradley
(Desdemona) ‘The pity act might serve to soften up the audience so that they would be more thoroughly affected by the butchery still to come’ Burke
‘The violence perpetrated on the female body, in Othello and elsewhere on the Renaissance stage, is understood as instrumental, serving personal or cultural needs that are defined in terms of male interests; reinforces the patriarchal order’ Pechter
Shakespeare presents an African man who negates such stereotypical views Shaw
Tormented by the endless repetition of the word honesty and honest Iago…. distracts from the main issues of the plot Jorgensen
(Othello) His fierce desire for certainty and stability portrayed in his rage for material proof of Desdemona’s innocence Stockholder
He equates love with a handkerchief Stockholder
(Othello) It is his storytelling, his ability to create and recreate his life’s narrative, that enables his success in civilian life Robison
His heroic tales of war, slavery and travel create his identity Robison
Othello characteristically responds to his experience by shaping it as a story Greenblatt
We have a fairly clean cut pattern of good and evil, that can be closely identified with the 3 main personages Berry
Symbolic drama of good overthrown by evil Berry