“What, in a Town of War … to Manage Private and Domestic Quarrel?”: Othello and the Tragedy of Cyprus

MACCROSSAN, Colm (2020). “What, in a Town of War … to Manage Private and Domestic Quarrel?”: Othello and the Tragedy of Cyprus. Shakespeare, 16 (3), 239-257.

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    This essay reconsiders the significance of Cyprus as the location of Othello, arguing that awareness of the island’s capture by Ottoman forces in 1571 will have been central to the play’s early reception. This context broadens the significance of the tragedy beyond the original domestic focus of a plot borrowed by Shakespeare from an Italian novella by Cinthio–one that, significantly, plays out during a period of peace rather than war. Beginning with an analysis of the affective power of the alarm bells that ring out in the riot scene (2.3), it argues that through a combination of internal and external contextual signs, Shakespeare’s original Jacobean audiences will have become united in perspective with the people of Cyprus. The significance of the loss of Othello as the island’s most capable defender, combined with the inadequacy of Cassio as his replacement, is highlighted throughout the play. This enables the specific tragic potential of Cyprus as a location to be exploited by Shakespeare in a way that was simply unavailable to Cinthio, and that may not be automatically understood by later audiences.

    Item Type: Article
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Cinthio; Ortelius; Turks; bells; maps; sensory; 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media; 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing; 2005 Literary Studies
    Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/17450918.2020.1792538
    Page Range: 239-257
    SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
    Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
    Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2020 17:18
    Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 21:01
    URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/27524

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