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George Washington University

"Othello": New Critical Essays by Philip C. Kolin


Review by: Virginia Mason Vaughan
Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 340-342
Published by: Folger Shakespeare Library in association with George Washington University
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SHAKESPEARE
QUARTERLY
SHAKESPEARE
QUARTERLY
modate their needs. At this
point,
we seem far
away
from the
sonnets,
and
Schalkwyk
risks
losing
his readers here in the critical morass
surrounding
these
plays.
But his
point
is
finally
to connect Hamlet's and the
sonnets"'representations
of the
debilitating
effects
of a world in which the
personal
or the
private
can find no
space
for itself within the
public
or social world"
(130).
The final two
chapters
return to less
polemically charged,
more
philosophical
dis-
cussions of how
proper
names function in the sonnets and Romeo and
Juliet,
Troilus and
Cressida, and Othello; and of how
speech
acts
produce
what he calls "transformative rec-
iprocity"
in the sonnets and All's Well That Ends Well.
Although
rich
readings appear
in
both of these
chapters, they
seemed anticlimactic after the
intensity
of the
pages
on
interiority;
and the decision to end with a discussion of All's Well that felt rather close
to the first
chapter
on
performatives
was
strategically misguided.
Indeed,
the structure
of this book often feels somewhat
arbitrary,
and there is no real momentum or narra-
tive drive. For someone so
engaged
with
performance,
the book is
surprisingly
unthe-
atrical. And
yet,
the rewards of this book lie not in its drama but in its
rigorous
intelli-
gence
and
persistence. Anyone
interested in the
relationship
between
early
modern
poetry
and drama needs to read this
study
and confront its
argument,
for
Schalkwyk
succeeds
absolutely
in
dismantling
the critical barriers between
Shakespeare's
sonnets
and the
plays. By
the end of the
book,
the
"player-poet"
of the sonnets and so
many
of
Shakespeare's major
characters-Viola, Antonio, Helen,
Juliet,
Iago,
Cordelia, Hamlet,
to name
just
a few-have
begun audibly
to
rhyme.
Othello: New Critical
Essays.
Edited
by
PHILIP C. KOLIN. New York
and London:
Routledge,
2002.
Pp.
xii + 458. Illus.
$110.00
cloth,
Reviewed
by
VIRGINIA MASON VAUGHAN
In his
general
editor's introduction to
Routledge's Shakespeare
Criticism
series,
Philip
C. Kolin asserts that each volume in the series "strives to
give
readers a
balanced,
representative
collection of the most
engaging
and
thoroughly
researched criticism on
the
given Shakespearean
text"
(xii).
The volume he has edited on Othello offers some
useful
insights, especially
in
regard
to
performance,
but it nevertheless fails to meet this
exacting
standard,
Let me
begin
with the most mundane. Kolin's
anthology
is marred
by sloppy copy-
editing
and inattention to
detail,
including
numerous
typographical errors-"suprising"
for
"surprising" (14),
for
example, and"realty"
for
"reality"
(48)-and
the omission of a
word on
page
39 that conflates Paul Robeson
Jr.
with his father and thus makes two
sentences
totally
incoherent. Consistent
misspelling
of Barbara
Hodgdon's
name as
Hodgson
is bad
enough,
but Kolin also attributes one of her most
important essays,
"Kiss Me
Deadly;
or, The Des/Demonized
Spectacle,"
to me
(86).
Kolin's
responsibili-
ty
for these errors
aside,
Routledge
should have realized that an
expensive
volume
intended for libraries should set a better
example
for our students,
modate their needs. At this
point,
we seem far
away
from the
sonnets,
and
Schalkwyk
risks
losing
his readers here in the critical morass
surrounding
these
plays.
But his
point
is
finally
to connect Hamlet's and the
sonnets"'representations
of the
debilitating
effects
of a world in which the
personal
or the
private
can find no
space
for itself within the
public
or social world"
(130).
The final two
chapters
return to less
polemically charged,
more
philosophical
dis-
cussions of how
proper
names function in the sonnets and Romeo and
Juliet,
Troilus and
Cressida, and Othello; and of how
speech
acts
produce
what he calls "transformative rec-
iprocity"
in the sonnets and All's Well That Ends Well.
Although
rich
readings appear
in
both of these
chapters, they
seemed anticlimactic after the
intensity
of the
pages
on
interiority;
and the decision to end with a discussion of All's Well that felt rather close
to the first
chapter
on
performatives
was
strategically misguided.
Indeed,
the structure
of this book often feels somewhat
arbitrary,
and there is no real momentum or narra-
tive drive. For someone so
engaged
with
performance,
the book is
surprisingly
unthe-
atrical. And
yet,
the rewards of this book lie not in its drama but in its
rigorous
intelli-
gence
and
persistence. Anyone
interested in the
relationship
between
early
modern
poetry
and drama needs to read this
study
and confront its
argument,
for
Schalkwyk
succeeds
absolutely
in
dismantling
the critical barriers between
Shakespeare's
sonnets
and the
plays. By
the end of the
book,
the
"player-poet"
of the sonnets and so
many
of
Shakespeare's major
characters-Viola, Antonio, Helen,
Juliet,
Iago,
Cordelia, Hamlet,
to name
just
a few-have
begun audibly
to
rhyme.
Othello: New Critical
Essays.
Edited
by
PHILIP C. KOLIN. New York
and London:
Routledge,
2002.
Pp.
xii + 458. Illus.
$110.00
cloth,
Reviewed
by
VIRGINIA MASON VAUGHAN
In his
general
editor's introduction to
Routledge's Shakespeare
Criticism
series,
Philip
C. Kolin asserts that each volume in the series "strives to
give
readers a
balanced,
representative
collection of the most
engaging
and
thoroughly
researched criticism on
the
given Shakespearean
text"
(xii).
The volume he has edited on Othello offers some
useful
insights, especially
in
regard
to
performance,
but it nevertheless fails to meet this
exacting
standard,
Let me
begin
with the most mundane. Kolin's
anthology
is marred
by sloppy copy-
editing
and inattention to
detail,
including
numerous
typographical errors-"suprising"
for
"surprising" (14),
for
example, and"realty"
for
"reality"
(48)-and
the omission of a
word on
page
39 that conflates Paul Robeson
Jr.
with his father and thus makes two
sentences
totally
incoherent. Consistent
misspelling
of Barbara
Hodgdon's
name as
Hodgson
is bad
enough,
but Kolin also attributes one of her most
important essays,
"Kiss Me
Deadly;
or, The Des/Demonized
Spectacle,"
to me
(86).
Kolin's
responsibili-
ty
for these errors
aside,
Routledge
should have realized that an
expensive
volume
intended for libraries should set a better
example
for our students,
340 340
This content downloaded from 147.91.1.41 on Wed, 7 May 2014 04:32:55 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
A few of the
essays
collected here are indeed
engaging
and
thoroughly
researched,
including
Kolin's own introduction.
Although
his useful overview of Othello in criticism
and
performance
cannot
possibly
be
comprehensive,
and the discussion of critical views
is sometimes
perfunctory,
Kolin's
analysis
of Othello's
performance history
on
stage,
film,
and television is masterful. His attention to the
telling
details of
particular productions,
gleaned
from
experience
as well as wide
reading
of reviews and other
accounts,
is as
remarkable as his
scope,
which includes accounts of
Japanese
Kabuki and Noh Othellos.
In addition to Kolin's
introductory essay,
the
anthology
includes
twenty essays,
some
by
scholars
already recognized
for their work in this
area,
some
by
newcomers. Like the
introduction,
the
essays
are most
interesting
when
they
take a fresh look at
perfor-
mance.
Hugh
Macrae Richmond on
lago's special relationship
to the
audience,
Sujata
Iyengar
on the racial
dynamics
of blackface
performance,
and
John
R. Ford on
Roderigo
as the
key
to
space
and
place
all
provide
new
insights
into Othello as a
performance
text.
Francis X. Kuhn's discussion of
ways
of
staging
the text's violent
episodes-drunken
brawl,
collaring,
and
murder-originates
from theatrical
practice,
as does Kolin's inter-
view with Kent
Thompson,
artistic director of the Alabama
Shakespeare
Festival. Scott
McMillin
provides
a careful
analysis
of the
copytexts
for the
Quarto
and Folio
texts,
which he believes to have
originated
from
performance scripts. Together,
these
essays
help
us to reconsider Othello as a
play
to be realized in the theater.
Essays
that
purport
to be on the
"cutting edge,"
such as
Bryan Reynolds
and
Joseph
Fitzpatrick's analysis
of"transversal
power,"
are not as effective as more traditional
essays.
For
example,
David
Bevington's
view of Othello as the
portrait
of a
marriage,
James
Schiffer's
exploration
of the Sonnets as a context for
Shakespeare's tragedy,
and
Jay
L. Halio's consideration of
Shakespeare's recrafting
of Cinthio's
original story
com-
bine old-fashioned close
reading
and
good
sense that continue to
yield
fresh
insights.
Interdisciplinary approaches
sometimes work
well,
too. Peter Erickson's discussion
of black-and-white
images
in Renaissance
painting
as a frame for Othello's color-coded
language beautifully
demonstrates the imbrication of sexual and racial
meanings
in this
period. John
Gronbeck-Tedesco
explores
distinctions between
morality
and
ethics,
and
how that distinction affects
Iago's placement
within the
play.
But
Mary
F.
Lux,
who
looks at the text from the
biologist's viewpoint,
seems off the radar screen when she
claims that Desdemona's
pallor
indicates anemia and that Othello's fit
suggests
malaria.
Several
essays successfully
rehistoricize Othello. Thomas Moisan sees the
workings
of state
power
in the Duke's
presence
in Act
1,
more so in his absence in Act 5. The late
James
R. Andreas Sr. frames Othello and The Merchant
of
Venice in the context of
Renaissance attitudes toward
Judaism.
Sarah Munson Deats outlines the Puritan doc-
trine of
conscience,
shows how it
challenged
traditional
patriarchal
doctrines of female
submission in
early
modern
England,
and concludes that Othello's and Desdemona's
adherence to the
patriarchal
model induces their downfall.
Many essays,
however,
seem
formulaic;
they
take a
word,
an
idea,
or a theme and
then
apply
it,
sometimes too
mechanically,
to
Shakespeare's
text. Clifford Ronan looks
at water and
images
of
liquidity
and relates them to the
play's religious
undertones;
Nicholas Moschovakis examines the text in relation to murder trials and
early
modern
jurisprudence;
LaRue Love Sloan
surveys
references to
"eyes," differentiating
between
the
controlling eye
of male
patriarchy
and the
wandering
female
eye
that undermines
341 BOOK REVIEWS
This content downloaded from 147.91.1.41 on Wed, 7 May 2014 04:32:55 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
SHAKESPEARE
QUARTERLY
SHAKESPEARE
QUARTERLY
male
authority;
and
DanielJ.
Vitkus
expands
on the "0"
expletive
as an orbital
loop
that
embodies the
play's turnings
and reversals. All have some
interest,
but none is
sufficiently
broad to
challenge
one's view of Othello.
Perhaps
the time has come for the
profession
to reconsider the need for
anthologies,
most of which are
planned by publishers
for a
library
market.
They
are sometimes use-
ful venues for
original scholarship,
but too often the cliche is valid: the new
parts
are
not
good
and the
good parts
are not new. A
large
volume of
essays
should illuminate
the wide
variety
of
approaches
to a
Shakespearean
text and enhance our understand-
ing.
The
present
collection has little thematic coherence and is of uneven
quality. My
university library
has
many
better
ways
to
spend
$110.
Performing
Shakespeare
in the
Age of
Empire.
By
RICHARD FOULKES.
Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press,
2002.
Pp.
x + 235.
Illus.
$65.00 cloth,
Reviewed
by
SUSAN CARLSON
It seems natural now to think of
Shakespeare
in connection with nineteenth-centu-
ry imperial
Britain,
a
towering playwright
emblematic of a world
power.
In
Performing
Shakespeare
in the
Age of
Empire,
Richard Foulkes
specifies
the fit between the two
by
interweaving
several historical narratives: the colonial extensions of Britain's
Shakespeare,
the
emerging
idea of a national
theater,
and the
conscription
of
Shakespeare by high
culture. The
complex relationships
he describes
(covering
the
peri-
od from 1832 to
1916)
are,
as he
argues persuasively,
most
profitably
read
through
the
lens of
performance.
The first half of the book takes a new look at
many
familiar
actor-managers,
with
chapters
focused on
Macready (chapter 1); Phelps,
Kean,
and the
managers
at
Astley's
(chapter 2);
and the
mid-century managements
of Calvert and
Rignold growing
out of
Manchester
(chapter 4). (Chapter
3
interrupts
this
sequence
with an
analysis
of the
1864
tercentenary
celebrations in
England.)
These
chapters,
then,
record the histories
of the men whose
personal agendas shaped Shakespearean production
in this
period.
Perhaps
too
subtly,
Foulkes
begins
the
argument
here that social and historical con-
texts,
not
individuals,
dictated
management
of the
stage.
The initial
chapter
on
Macready
establishes the
organizational pattern
of examin-
ing performance by moving
from one
geographic
location to
another,
tracing
Macready's
work from
England
to North America to Paris. With the
dissipation
of the
theatrical
monopoly
in
1843,
Macready
and others created the
populist Shakespeare
that would dominate the Victorian
years
Foulkes examines. In this
chapter,
Foulkes
begins detailing
the nuanced
ways
in which
performance
was
location-specific,
but
only
in later
chapters
does he
fully
establish the theoretical
underpinnings
of this
approach.
As the
subsequent chapters'
account of
performance
unfolds,
Foulkes traces the
roles of
royal patronage
and both urban and suburban
geographies
on the
spreading
commercialization of
Shakespeare.
Foulkes's elaborations on the transatlantic traffic in
male
authority;
and
DanielJ.
Vitkus
expands
on the "0"
expletive
as an orbital
loop
that
embodies the
play's turnings
and reversals. All have some
interest,
but none is
sufficiently
broad to
challenge
one's view of Othello.
Perhaps
the time has come for the
profession
to reconsider the need for
anthologies,
most of which are
planned by publishers
for a
library
market.
They
are sometimes use-
ful venues for
original scholarship,
but too often the cliche is valid: the new
parts
are
not
good
and the
good parts
are not new. A
large
volume of
essays
should illuminate
the wide
variety
of
approaches
to a
Shakespearean
text and enhance our understand-
ing.
The
present
collection has little thematic coherence and is of uneven
quality. My
university library
has
many
better
ways
to
spend
$110.
Performing
Shakespeare
in the
Age of
Empire.
By
RICHARD FOULKES.
Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press,
2002.
Pp.
x + 235.
Illus.
$65.00 cloth,
Reviewed
by
SUSAN CARLSON
It seems natural now to think of
Shakespeare
in connection with nineteenth-centu-
ry imperial
Britain,
a
towering playwright
emblematic of a world
power.
In
Performing
Shakespeare
in the
Age of
Empire,
Richard Foulkes
specifies
the fit between the two
by
interweaving
several historical narratives: the colonial extensions of Britain's
Shakespeare,
the
emerging
idea of a national
theater,
and the
conscription
of
Shakespeare by high
culture. The
complex relationships
he describes
(covering
the
peri-
od from 1832 to
1916)
are,
as he
argues persuasively,
most
profitably
read
through
the
lens of
performance.
The first half of the book takes a new look at
many
familiar
actor-managers,
with
chapters
focused on
Macready (chapter 1); Phelps,
Kean,
and the
managers
at
Astley's
(chapter 2);
and the
mid-century managements
of Calvert and
Rignold growing
out of
Manchester
(chapter 4). (Chapter
3
interrupts
this
sequence
with an
analysis
of the
1864
tercentenary
celebrations in
England.)
These
chapters,
then,
record the histories
of the men whose
personal agendas shaped Shakespearean production
in this
period.
Perhaps
too
subtly,
Foulkes
begins
the
argument
here that social and historical con-
texts,
not
individuals,
dictated
management
of the
stage.
The initial
chapter
on
Macready
establishes the
organizational pattern
of examin-
ing performance by moving
from one
geographic
location to
another,
tracing
Macready's
work from
England
to North America to Paris. With the
dissipation
of the
theatrical
monopoly
in
1843,
Macready
and others created the
populist Shakespeare
that would dominate the Victorian
years
Foulkes examines. In this
chapter,
Foulkes
begins detailing
the nuanced
ways
in which
performance
was
location-specific,
but
only
in later
chapters
does he
fully
establish the theoretical
underpinnings
of this
approach.
As the
subsequent chapters'
account of
performance
unfolds,
Foulkes traces the
roles of
royal patronage
and both urban and suburban
geographies
on the
spreading
commercialization of
Shakespeare.
Foulkes's elaborations on the transatlantic traffic in
342 342
This content downloaded from 147.91.1.41 on Wed, 7 May 2014 04:32:55 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions