Thursday, 21 April 2016

Why Shakespeare is not 'for the ages'

Pompeo Molmenti: Death of Othello
Before he opens up a can of academic jibber-jabber, Tom Cohen introduces Anti-Mimesis (CUP, 2004) with a brief meditation on the speech made by Othello as he commits suicide. Noting the bathos of Lodovico's response to the Moor cutting his own throat, Cohen ponders whether the farewell speech itself is rather an odd thing to say on a death-bed, being a bit too rhetorical from a man who has all blood coming out of him. 

Cohen draws attention to the wordiness of Shakespeare, and the tension between the visual and verbal. Here's the speech, with Lodovico's comment.

Set you down this; 
And say besides, that in Aleppo once, 
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk 
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, 
I took by the throat the circumcised dog, 
And smote him, thus.

           [Stabs himself.]

LODOVICOO bloody period!

I defy anyone to perform that in front of a group of school-children without causing hilarity. Mind you, it probably set off the groundlings in The Globe if they weren't busy getting sucked off in the back row.

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