Point out some of the conflicting interpretations of Othello which critics have offered.
Othello offers more textual and editorial problems than most other Shakespearean plays, although it presents a semblance of simplicity to the interpretative critic. Compared with the dazzling complexities of Hamlet, the cloudy sublimities of King Lear or the delicate poetic symbolism of A Winter’s Tale, there seems to be, in Othello, nothing much to dispute about. The play makes its terrific impact on us, we respond deeply or shallowly according to whether we have deep or shallow natures and there, it may seem, is an end of it.
Variety of Opinions
In reality Othello is a difficult play to interpret, and this fact is endorsed by the great variety of conflicting interpretations which have been proposed: If one goes through the representative criticism of this play, one feels like walking placidly down a quiet corridor, opening a door and suddenly coming upon a crowd of people arguing at the tops of their voices. One faction praises Othello, attributing to him a generous share of every virtue under the sun ; another is busily destroying his character, offering a view of him as a coarse, vain, lustful and brutal ruffian who would be very apt, Iago or no Iago, to murder his wife on some delusory grounds. Hands are held up in horror at the wickedness of Iago, some of those most shocked professing at the same time an involuntary tremor of admiration at his unsurpassed brilliance and the coolness of his villainy in another corner, he is dismissed as a mere creature of the plot, a shallow liar and braggart who could never have taken in anyone less stupid and self-centred than his master. Others, again, dwell on his wrongs and murmur that revenge is, after all, a kind of wild justice At the mention of Desdemona’s name, some eyes fill with tears of pure adoration ; others become narrow and suspicious. Not only the characters, but the play as a whole, comes in...