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Monday, October 27, 2014

Stuff That Stays With You

After Othello is informed of the truth, it's perfectly reasonable and expected to say things like these to express his regret and lay down some sort of defense of his actions. 

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex'd in the extreme;

And lines like these below fit the context and serves to conclude the play.

I kissed thee ere I killed thee: no way but this;
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss. 

Yet between these lines comes something weird, an intrusion of a memory of violence and sudden death, something like, "Many years ago in a foreign land, there was this guy who was talking trash about Venice and I just went up to him and stabbed him in the heart, just like this."
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him, thus.

The image is so sudden and so vivid and so violent that I don't understand it at all. I can't understand it in a rational, intellectual sense. It's just a brick that hits me between the eyes and leave me blinded and stunned.

I keep thinking about this strange insertion. If I were to write an academic analysis on this ending, I'd get an F. But then if it makes perfect sense, I would not be haunted by it now, would I? It drives me crazy trying to imagine what's going through Othello's mind in that moment, right after he has made up his mind to punish himself with death. It goes something like, oh well, I hate myself, I cannot bear it to live another moment with my guilt and shame and without her, so here we go, I'll just stab myself right there and make it quick, because I know where the human heart is, and that's because all those years ago when I was a hot-blooded young man I grabbed a guy by the throat and stabbed him, and he died instantly, his confused and vacant eyes staring at me. The sun was scorching like a nightmare, I remember, and the streets were full of people; they all looked at me with horror and shock and disgust, just like these Venetians who are staring at me now ...

This is the kind of shit that stays with you: weird but true, shocking but makes sense, out of nowhere but deep down honest. Who can do this? Almost no one.

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