The Plots of Othello: Narrative, Desire, Selfhood

Lloyd Davis


‘A very good play both for lines and plot, but especially the plot.’

Preoccupation with the plot is a feature of many responses to Othello from the seventeenth century to the present. The opinions of Abraham Wright, Caroline Vicar of Okeham, typify those of early audience members, including perhaps the newly crowned James I and Queen Anne, before whom The Moor of Venis by ‘Shaxberd’ was performed in the Banqueting House at Whitehall on 1 November 1604. Wright seems to have heartily enjoyed the performance he saw, especially the parts of ‘Iago for rogue, and Othello for a jealous husband’ and the acts which ‘shew admirably the villanous humour of Iago when hee persuades Othello to his jalousy.’ The intense scenes when the narrative accelerates and characters’ fates are decided made a great impression, and Wright contrasted Hamlet rather harshly, ‘an indifferent play, the lines but meane: and in nothing like Othello.’ His sharp sense of the latter’s narrative force is captured by the emphatic use of the word ‘plot,’ which conveys the intertwined meanings of the story’s structure and the intrigues that motivate it.

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