ENG100H1 Lecture Notes - Jealous Guy, Anagnorisis, Cognitive Dissonance

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June 11, 2012
Drama: Tragedy
Shakespeare based many of his ideas on Aristotle
Shakespeare probably didn't read Aristotle in Greek
Johnson: a critic; says a lot about Shakespeare; says he probably didn't edit his work
Shakespeare was an actor; did a lot of workshopping of plays
Ben Johnson
Contemporary of Shakespeare
Published Shakespeare's works
Authority on Shakespeare's
According to him, Shakespeare wasn't very well educated
How Aristotle Affects Shakespeare
When we think of Othello as being a tragic figure, we see influences of Aristotle
Notion that Shakespeare is writing plays that are a response to Greek tragedy
Signs, Symbols, & Signifiers
Shakespeare's playing with signs, symbols, and signifiers
a prediction based on a sign - “The Omen”
Examples of signs: scars, his name, *riddle of sphinx (creature that's hald woman,
half lion)
Shakespeare creates a problem about how these symbols and significance relates
We get an indepth analysis of Shakespeare's characters – we know what's going on in
their minds – as opposed to Medea
Othello – signs & symbols
Handkerchief becomes the symbol of Desdemona's chastity – belonged to Othello's
mother so it has personal significance
But when Iago manipulates this, it comes to represent Desdemona's faithfulness
For Iago, handkerchief becomes the tool to manipulate – so it's something different
for Iago
Desdemona doesn't really know what the handkerchief has come to symbolize
Shakespeare is trying to get us to see that we could misread signs & symbols, the
same way Othello misreads
*Cognitive Dissonance
A misreading of one's reality
Ex: You can't believe what you see if there is an unexpected event. So what
you see vs what you expect to see – cognitive dissonance is what occurs
when unanticipated things happen.
Thsi concept is related to Aristotle's concept of Anagnorisis
Othello's suffering from a sort of cognitive dissonance
Catharsis for the audience – we too like the characters, have to confront what is real
As an audience, we want to correct Othello's cognitive dissonance
Moment of Recognition
Othello's moment of recognition – this is when the tragedy has actually been fulfilled
(even before the suicide)
Is there a coincidence of anagnorisis and climax
Recognition propels his own demise – after understanding reality, he can't live with
Aristotle's Ideal Ending to A Tragedy
Why doesn't Iago get punished
Aristotle's notion of tragedy – bad guys don't get punished – then we wouldn't
experience catharis
If Iago were caught and executed then perhaps we wouldnt feel the need to intervene in
real life situations - It would inspire a different feeling inside us.
The fact that Iago can do that and then get away gives us the idea of a lack of karma –
gives us a sense of uncertainty and insecurity.
Characters: Heroic Figure/Villain
Aristotle may not agree on Othello as the heroic figure/tragic figure – he's a bit too
According to Aristotle, Iago is not really a character – Why?
We have no background
Personfication of vice – he's just greedy, tries to get what he wants
We don't get insight into this emotional complexity
First Impression of Othello
Before reading the play you might here that he's somebody who's eaten up by jealousy –
this leads to misreading
Othello is reduced to this single description
Jealousy as sort of an infection – Iago as the contagion.
Othello is not a naturally jealous guy though, it takes 5 scenes to make him jealous
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