Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2020: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 17 - Aug. 19

June 17:
Troilus and Cressida

June 24:
Titus Andronicus

July 1:

July 8
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 15:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 22:
Timon of Athens

July 29:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 5:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 12:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 19:
Pastoral and Romance


Of the nine items in this year’s curriculum, this is perhaps the only one that would be classed among the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays. It is raw, intense, and emotionally exhausting, and a good performance of it shows dimensions that won’t easily emerge during a reading. If you can find and see one, you will almost certainly find it to your advantage.

Othello has of course been a kind of lightning rod for issues of race relations, especially in the twentieth century: while Othello is not ultimately undone by anything to do with his race, but rather by a subtly provoked jealousy by Iago, his race is always a present issue in view.

Somewhat more problematic (especially for those who prefer to see in a tragedy some evidence of a tragic flaw) — what actually is Othello’s failing here? At the end, it is said that he “loved not wisely but too well” — but does that really cover it? Is there a failure here on his part, or is the main point of the play to enable us to look unflinchingly as the suffering mounts up without letup?

Things to consider while reading Othello

Othello and what has come before

Shakespeare’s Sources

The sources for this play are not terribly well known to the wider world, but they have been reasonably well established. They include:

Themes that emerge in the play (and perhaps a few thematically significant facts)

Symmetries in the play

Problems in the play