Intertextuality is the interrelationship between literary works whereby each text is seen as a product shaped by other literary works. The Bulgarian critic Julia Kristeva is said to have invented the term while its meaning can be traced back to the works of Russian philosopher M. M. Bakhtin (Harder, 2017). Intertextuality explains the fact that each literary text or work is influenced by some pre-exiting texts and therefore the meaning of a text is embedded in the meaning of other previously composed texts. The message in a text is understood in relation to the messages conveyed by other texts that precedes it. Thus it is commonsensical that there will always be some degree of thematic, structural, ideological similarities between texts.
The term intertextuality denotes a relationship between literary texts whereby each seem to borrowed ideas or concepts from the other, although differences in time might tell which text shows the influence of the other one. Authors are often seen to incorporate ideas from a previous text in their own works in oder to convey or pass on message to their readers. The moment when a reader senses something intertextual he or she is compelled to think about the original text (although the original one can be influenced by another) from the past either consciously or subconsciously. (Wimmer, n.d).
Numerous literary works in the world shows some level of similarity with other drams or novellas or any other form of literature. This concept is known as intertextuality in general. “The text that are interrelated or interconnected in terms of character, plot, context” or any other means are said to be an intertextual text. There are a number of textual relations that authors rely to communicate their ideas. Intertextuality comes in different forms like “allusion, pastiche, parody” etc. Allusion is “a generally implied reference to characters, scenes, plot elements, etc. that appear in another work” and a pastiche is “a collage of words, phrases, or entire passages from one or more other authors that creates a new literary work.” Pastiche is “Italian for paste” (Wimmer, n.d).
Intertextuality is considered to be one of the most conspicuous features of literary works of any given type. Intertextuality is always present in between literary texts. Texts might appear in different forms but the share some degree of intertextuality. Similarly, the voices in the texts might not complement each other at all but still they will show some characteristics of intertextuality. This will not prevent the readers from tracing back the original text that has be referred to (if they are somewhat identical with that). It can be seen quite analogous to dialogism. (Todorov, 1985, pp.61-74).
Intertextuality enables the readers to associate with the pre-existing literary works, in that way the readers do not completely feel estranged while reading a text. This further aids them to comprehend and examine the previous texts and decide what improvements should be brought in order to adapt to different contexts. Intertextuality orks between two literary work in the similar manner as the transference of ideas and principles occur between two cultures of two different eras. One culture influences the preceding culture. The people of our age can connect to their forefather in terms of norms and concepts, no matter how colossal the generation gap is.
According to Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian theorist, meaning is always taking on different connotations and undergoing radical changes. When one produces a literary work, it bears influence of previous texts. Authors do not really come up with something original. But their work is influenced by various other previously existing texts. While creating a new work, one’s mind cannot repudiate the previously learnt things. An author never comes up with something that is beyond their perception. They cannot produce something which they are not even aware of. An author is first a reader then a writer. (Buchanan, 2010).
Kristeva is the one who first coined the term intertextuality and made use of it in her works like “Word, Dialogue and Novel” (1966) and “The Bounded Essay” (1966-67). The concept of intertextuality that she inaugurated sees the text as “a dynamic site” whereby relational processes are the prime concerns of analysis rather than “static structures” and products “There are always other words in a word, other texts in a text. The concept of intertextuality requires, therefore that we understand texts not as self-contained systems but as differential and historical, as traces and tracings of otherness, since they are shaped by the repetition and transformation of other textual structures. Rejecting the new Critical principle of textual autonomy, the theory of intertextuality insists that a text cannot exist as a self-sufficient whole, and so, that it does not function as a closed system” (Alfaro, 1996).
Literary texts have a number of voices representing different characters. They bind together and set them under one umbrella. It is similar to what Mikhail Bakhtin comments about language, that language is not stable or fixed. It is a pragmatic aspect like a conversation or dialogue between more than one people. Novels thus work relying on similar idea, since it deals with viewpoints of a number of unidentical personalities.
Mikhail Bakhtin coned the concepts like dialogism and polyphony. His work called Estetika Slovesnogo Tvorchestva (1952-1953; Speech Genres, 1986), gives insight to the theory of dialogism. The idea that he iterates throughout most part of his life is that all forms of linguistic communication take place in specific social contexts and between particular groups and classes of language-users: “The life of the word is contained in its transfer from one mouth to another, from one context to another context, from one social collective to another, from one generation to another generation. In this process the word does not forget its own path and cannot completely free itself from the power of those concrete contexts into which it has entered” (Simandan, 2010).
The concept polyphony or polyphonic texts can be explained in like manner, which denotes the idea that novels consist multiple voices and perceptions. It is quite identical with the idea of stream of consciousness since one is saying something verbally but at the same time thinking about something else at the in their mind. For Bakhtin, fact is that the meaning is essentially outside the confines of utterance or expressions; it comes in many different connotations which are beyond the employed words.
Roland Barthes introduced the notion of “The death of the Author”, which stands for the idea that the moment a text is published the author loses the authority to control the readers. The author’s presence in the text omitted, it is the readers who perceive the text in ways they want to. It slightly contrasts Bakhtin’s notion in that although Bakhtin agrees on the idea of author’s death in the text, he maintains that still some essence of author’s ideas are ever present in the text. The author no longer controls the reader with his perception and idea. However his voice is there in his words. Nevertheless, the readers have their chances to perceive beyond what the text is imparting them with.
In a polyphonic literary works the characters have their own voices. The narrator (basically the author) does not have different voices all intertwined with each other, rather the ideas or notions that are reflected is his voice is spilt into pieces and distributed among the characters each of who, in turn, represent a different voice. The text thus depict a reality that is witnessed from the viewpoint of multiple characters in multiple ways. and no unified viewpoint of author is embodied in the text. It depicts a text in a manner as though it were written by a number of authors instead of one (Buchanan, 2010).
Literary works produced in different eras have shown intertextuality among themselves. Bulgakov’s novel the Master and Margarita shows a number of similarities with text produced earlier. Most notably it demonstrates a lot similarity with Gothe’s Faust. Mephistopheles, the devil makes a deal with Dr Faust that in exchange for his soul he will provide him with extraordinary powers that he can use to achieve things he aspire after. Such concept of selling one’s soul to the devil has appeared in numerous literary texts. The novel Master and Margarita deals with such theme of satanic pact. In Bulgakov’s story we see Woland granting Margarita magical powers in exchange for her slavery to him.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius is said have killed his brother and Hamlet’s father King Hamlet. The idea of fratricide present in the play has its root in the murder of Abel in the hands of his own brother Cain, the first murder of human history according to the Book of Genesis. Thus influences of other texts or previously occurring events have always been prominent in dictating the meaning of succeeding texts.
One of the most read tragedies by Shakespeare, Othello has influenced a number of plays, stories, movies over the past few decades or even centuries. The themes of deception, hypocrisy, jealousy have secured their places in many literary pieces. The American movie O, directed by Tim Blake Nelson, surfaces such themes of treachery and envy much like how Othello exposes these qualities in men. An intertextual reading of the both literary works will widen the scope of understanding each of these aspects and reveal how intertextuality works between two literary pieces. The main focus of the analysis will be on the influence of Othello in shaping the conveyed meaning of the film O.
Othello is about a black Venetian general who marries the love of his life, Desdemona much to her senator father Brabantio’s chagrin. He also choses Micheal Cassio as his right hand man over his ensign Iago who claims to be better qualified in warfare than him. An upset Iago along with Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona, plans to put Cassion in trouble and ruin Othello. Iago later tricks Othello in believing that his wife is cheating on him with Cassio which renders Othello jealous, enraged and mentally devastated. It further leads him to kill Desdemona. Only after her death does Othello get to know that Desdemona is innocent and Iago is the root of all evils. In the end Othello kills himself and Iago ends up in legal custody (Shakespeare, 1622).
The film O (2001) recounts the tale of Odin James, the only black boy in the high school he reads in. He is a star basketball player and is in a romantic relationship with Desi, the daughter of Dean Brabel. The coach of his team, Duke Goulding admires him a lot for his basketball skills and adores him like his own son. It mentally affects another player and his son Hugo who seeks to gain his attention and when he fails to do so, he plans on defaming Odin and create a rift between him and Micheal/Mike, another player and friend of Odin with whom he shares the Most Value Player [MVP] award. Hugo then deceives Odin in believing that Desi is having sex with Micheal. He also promises Rodger, another college guy who loves Desi, that he will bring Desi for him if he kills Mike. However Mike and Rodger kills each other. Meanwhile, a frustrated and emotionally vulnerable Odin kills Desi. Later when he learns that Hugo has tricked him into killing Desi, he shoots himself. Hugo ends up in jail (Nelson, 2001).
Othello is the tragic hero in the play and Odin James is the tragic one in the movie. Both of them are the main characters in their respective stories. Although both of them fall prey to an evil plot and get ruined in the end, there are some striking dissimilarities in the ways they have been portrayed. It is quite natural that two characters representing two different eras and two distinctive cultures are supposed to show a lot of discrepancies in their ways. Even though Othello and Odin embrace a similar fate and they have been tricked almost in an identical manner, they represent different personalities. Since Othello is a general who leads thousands of men in war, the responsibilities that have been entrusted in his shoulders are quite heavy. On the other hand, Odin is going to lead his basketball team towards victory. His presence and contribution is very important for both the team and the school. However there is no question of life and death involved in the victory or even in the contribution of Odin in the team. Contrarily, a whole nation relies on the decisions and contribution of Othello for their wellbeing and even their survival. Hence, Othello plays far more significant role than Odin. In order to reach such peak of success and to gain such an important role, Othello has to go through many ordeals and pass many challenging tests. Only a man of great expertise and caliber can accomplish such goal. So it is needless to say that, Othello is far more significant a figure in the Venetian society he lives in than Odin in his school or basketball team. Othello’s own strong personality speaks of his superiority over that of Odin’s. Othello is a man of valour and honor. When Iago asks Othello what he will do when Brabantio confronts him regarding his marriage to Desdemona and try to put him inside the bars, he proudly says “Let him do his spite. / My service which I have done the signiory / Will out-tongue his complains” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1). He does not seem to fear anything since he believes that his honor will stand for him and work as shield against any obstacle. He further asserts, “‘Tis yet to know / which, when I know that boasting is an honor, / I shall promulgate, I fetch my love life and being / From men of royal siege, and my demerits/ May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune / As this is that I have reached” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 2). Thus we get impression that Othello is a noble man filled with honor. On the other hand, though Odin is a dazzling basketball star, he is nowhere near Othello as long as his personality is concerned. Odin has a bad record that he has been into drugs for quite a sometime and we hear the Dean saying “Are you saying you never had any run-ins?” It exposes the fact that he has been taking drugs in the past. In addition to that, we see him taking drugs when his frustration taunts him at a great uncontrollable level. An enraged Odin hits a boy and thrushes him on the ground in front of a huge number of audience when the boy asks him to give back the ball he played with for trial. He not only refuges to give it back, he pushes him back without thinking about the consequences. To all of our surprise, we see him raping his love Desi when he is too much indulged in and troubled by the thought that Mike is sleeping with her. This is really disgraceful. Othello never engages in such heinous act. Such violence is not evident in Shakespeare’s play. Although both of them kill their respective lovers in the end, Othello never stoops as low as Odin does. It shows a great contrast between the two characters in question. The name Othello is lot more elevated than Odin. Odin hits Mike as well while practicing and when coach Duke, who treats him like his son, asks him to apologise, he pays no heed to his words and leaves the room. So it is a matter of disgrace for Othello even to juxtapose him at a parallel stage with Odin.
Treachery, jealousy, racism – the regulatory aspects both in the play and the movie overshadow few unfocused yet noticeable issues that lay somewhat hidden in the subterranean level. One such glossed over issue is the male chauvinism that the text promotes to a certain degree and the movie exposes, however to a lesser extent in its distinctive way of dramatisation. While the play renders sexism in the words employed, the movie nevertheless minimises such undertone to a great extent if not successfully eradicate it in its entirety. Perhaps this is one of the aspects where a great amount of difference can be noticed between the two works in question.
Whenever there is any argument regarding Othello, it involves in talking about the racial and ethnic aspects underlying at different levels of the text. “Many critics of Shakespeare overlook parts of Othello by ignoring or downplaying the issue of race. They argue that Othello represents otherness and humanity as a whole rather than blackness per se. While the play is not simply about race, one cannot avoid Othello’s color, or the racist remarks and attitudes of certain characters, or the plot itself” (Reitz-Wilson, 2004). The film O too displays how racial bias and prejudice create some unnecessary yet damaging rifts between the characters. Racial bias alienates people, corrupts their innocence and turns them into something that they are not.
The play Othello is full of racial commentaries. From the very beginning of the play the tensions regarding race and color are sensed. Brabantio, who really admires and respects Othello, is against his daughter Desdemona’s involvement with him. “Her father loved me, oft invited me, still questioning me the story of my life” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 3). He cannot accept the alliance even though Othello is the general of Venetian army and respected by many including him. The only reason that gives birth to such tension in him is Othello’s race and color. While complaining about Othello, he tells the duke:
“Brabantio: A maiden never bold, of spirit so still and quiet that her motion, blushed at herself. And she, in spite of nature, of years, of country, credit, everything, to fall in love with what she feared to look on? It is a judgment maimed and most imperfect” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 3).
According to Brabantio, Othello’s demeanor is fearsome to look at. This statement directly indicates Othello’s inferiority based on his skin color. Brabantio’s disapproval of Othello and disbelief in Desdemona’s choice accounts for his own racial prejudice and bias.
Brabantio, upon seeing Roderigo tells him that he is not welcome to his house and that “In honest plainness thou hast heard me say my daughter is not for thee” (Act 1, Scene 1). Brabantio never thinks of Roderigo as a suitor of Desdemona since he is nothing but something that we might call a “punk” in slang term. Roderigo does not have any qualifications to be Desdemona’s husband. However when he learns about his daughter’s affair with the moor, Brabantio says, “Oh, would you had had her!” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1). He thus prefers Roderigo, a street punk over Othello, a respected General of army only because he is a black man and Roderigo, no matter how unworthy he is as his daughter’s suitor, is a white man.
Although Iago never says anything offensive to Othello in person nor he shoots any racial commentary towards him, he, nevertheless, pronounces the most racial opinions about Othello. Iago is Othello’s ensign and he sticks to him only to ruin about ruin in his life. Since he has to show loyalty to Othello, he cannot verbally attack him or say the derogatory things he utters about him in his mind. However, he never misses a single chance to comment on Othello’s ethnicity and race whenever he gets it. When Roderigo talks to Brabantio on the issue of Othello’s involvement with Desdemona, Iago interferes and speaks his mind. “Iago: Zounds, sir, you’re robbed! For shame, put on your gown. Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise, Awake the snorting citizens with the bell Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you. Arise, I say!” (Shakespeare,Act 1, Scene 1).
Iago calls him “an old black ram.” It is directly pointing at his skin color. Similarly, Hugo likens Othello with hawk. “But a hawk is no good around other birds. It cannot fit in” (Nelson, 2001). What Hugo does here is he alienates Odin from rest of the people around. Hugo is drawing a decisive line between Odin and others including him. His commentary echoing one basic statement that Odin does not fit in the basketball team or the school or in any of their lives. His opinion about him is actually asking Othello to leave their lives, to depart from somewhere he does not belong to. His words are telling him that his is not welcome there.
Odin is also explicit about the fact that he is a black guy, someone really different from others. He addresses himself as a “nxxxxx.” However he makes it clear that no one says that to him even though he will not hesitate in calling himself “nxxxxx.”
“Odin: I pulled you ’cause I’m that kind of nxxxxx.
Desi: Uh-oh. Don’t be acting like that.
Odin: See, I can say “nxxxxx” cause I am a nxxxxx. You can’t ’cause you ain’t. Don’t be jealous.
Desi: And why can’t I say it? My people invented the word.
Odin: You can’t even think it.
Desi: You’re the one who started it.
Odin: You said I was so fine you’d let me dress you up and play Black Buck Got Loose in the Big House.
Desi: Don’t go repeating that, all right?
Odin: If another Black person knew I said that, I could get my suffering-Negro- league card revoked” (Nelson, 2001).
Even while having fun with Desi his racial tension comes up on the surface level. The idea that he is different from rest of the people in the school (he is the only black student in the high school) is buried in his unconscious mind. However it, at times, has an outlet in his conscious mind and he belches it out. He calls himself “nxxxxx” only to self-protective. He says that only to lessen the offensiveness of the racial comments that are thrown against him. It is one of those psychological tensions that he carries out wherever he goes. He says “suffering-Negro- league card” as a joke but it reflects on some of the racial biases present in the society he is part of. It gives insight to that fact that the Negros suffer in an all-white society.
Both the play and the film remain evident of racial disparities on different levels like this. Sometimes the word “devil” is interchangeable with the word black. Emilia, who addresses Othello as lord, she too talks about his racial features. When Othello calls Desdemona a liar for not telling the truth that he is the one who killed her, Emilia says, “Oh, the more angel she, And you the blacker devil!” (Act 5, Scene 2). It indicates that she always sees Othello differently because of his color perhaps as a devil and now that he kills Desdemona, she sees him someone who is much worse.
Michael calls Odin a nxxxxx even though they are best friends. In his last speech Odin expresses his frustration about the treatment he goes through. His words pronounce how ill-treated he sees himself. “I ain’t no different than none of you all. My mom ain’t no crack head. I wasn’t no gangbanger. It wasn’t some hood rat drug dealer that tripped me up. It was this white, prep school motherfucker standing right there” (Nelson, 2001). Thus Odin points out the racial tension as the major factor that leads him to mess everything up and descend to his own ultimate destruction.
In the movie, racial tension is intensified by camera focus. It puts “black hawk” against a number of “white doves.” The contrast is more vivid for Mikhi Phifer, who plays Odin,is black whereas Julia Stiles is “quite white.” Many close-ups of “Desi’s and Odin’s hands on each other’s body” and kissing scenes that give a side view of the couple renders the color-contrast “obvious” (Reitz-Wilson, 2004).
Jealousy is another theme that connects the film to the play. Jealousy evokes both Iago and Hugo to plot against Othello and Odin respectively. Othello choses Cassio over Iago for appointing as a lieutenant. Iago believes that he is “worth no worse a place” and certainly can be promoted to a higher rank than the “arithmetician” Cassio (Act 1, Scene 1). Iago is jealous of Cassio. Likewise, Hugo is jealous of Odin for his father is more fascinated with Odin than him and also because he gets the MVP award. In a conversation with Rodger he says “I’m the MVP on this piece of shit team. I’ve been banging in the paint and setting screens for the past four years” and his jealously soars even higher when Odin shares the MVP award with Micheal instead of him “he chooses Michael. Fucking sophomore! No way!” (Nelson, 2001). The fact that he is passed on by someone he doesn’t think to be better than him makes him jealous and he plans on ruining everything. He tells Odin “You are not a jealous person. But I’m. Sometimes I see things that aren’t even there” (Nelson, 2001).
The prime weapon that Iago and Hugo uses is jealousy. They evoke jealousy in Othello and Odin to go out of their mind. “Ha! I like not that” says Iago when he along with Othello sees Cassio leaving Othello’s abode (Act 3, Scene 3). He sounds as though there were something like a romantic affair between Desdemona and Cassio. He is hinting on an extra marital affair between the two only to make Othello jealous. Hugo does the same thing to Odin. He tells Odin “she (Desi) and Mike (Micheal) spend an awful lot of time together” (Nelson, 2001). So Hugo is feeding Odin with things that make him jealous.
Deception and trickery play an enormous role in moving towards the climax in both of the literary works. Iago and Hugo, in their respective fields, show mastery over the art of deception and conspiracy. Both Othello and Odin make the best prey out of themselves when Iago and Hugo sew the thread of deception in their lives. They become puppets of Iago and Hugo and their ways, their thinking and their decisions are all controlled by them. Iago has Emilia steal Desdemona’s handkerchief after which he gives it to Cassio which convinces Othello of Desdemona’s alleged connection to Cassio. Likewise, Hugo has Emily steal Desi’s scarf that Odin gives her and then he gives it to Micheal/Mike. When Odin finds out that the scarf is with Mike, he completely believes that Desi is cheating on him with Mike. Iago asks Cassio to be in good terms with Desdemona so that she will convince her husband to appoint Cassio back as the lieutenant and Cassio start constantly meeting with Desdemona. Similarly, when Mike is suspended from the team for his fight with Rodger, Hugo asks him to be close with Desi who will ask Odin to call him back in the team.
“Hugo: You’re friends with Desi, right?
Micheal: Yes, of course.
Hugo: Well, now you’re her best friend. And you’re going to get her to talk to Odin for you. Pour your heart out to her.Girls are suckers for guys who pour their hearts out. And then she talks to Odin.But listen to me.You’ve got to hang with her.That’s the only way this thing works” (Nelson, 2001).
Thus Hugo is able to increase the intensity of suspicion in Odin’s mind on the infidelity of Desi with Mike. The scarf serves as an ingredient that fosters the process of turning rumors into reality. Iago does the same thing with Othello. So the false information that he provides with are rendered too convincing to distrust. He doesn’t just manipulate the words, he manipulates the expressions and the situation as a whole.
Another overarching concept that binds these two works together is the downfall of a protagonists, the heroes who once secure a place at the top. Othello is the general of Venetian army who respected and revered by the Duke, Venetian elite, senators and all other members in the Venetian society. He has Desdemona, a beautiful, elegant and desirable maiden, for his wife. But in the end, he loses everything. He loses his name, his wife and finally he has to give up his own life. Likewise, Odin, who is a popular and star player in the team and who dates the Dean’s beautiful daughter Desi, loses everything in the end. Neither he has his beloved by his side nor he ends up with a clear record. The downfall of a hero at the peak of success is one the intertextual elements that connects the two texts together.
Hugo is a young guy whose personality and basketball skills are overshadowed by the astonishing gaming prowess and dazzling personality of Odin. Odin is brilliant, popular and a star basketball player. Not only has he secured the title of MVP (Most Valuable Player) but also engraved his name in the tender heart of Desi, the daughter of the Principal. In all respects, Odin is far more distinguished a persona than any other boy in their school. Hugo might not have been at all jealous of Odin despite all these good names that Odin have ever accomplished if it have not shaken his image in the eyes of his father. Hugo finds his “cool dad” very much fascinated with Odin, much to his chagrin. Coach Duke highly appreciates the kind of game Odin so incessantly plays and the performance he so effortlessly delivers. Impressed by Odin’s incredible success and his contribution that leads to his team’s victory, the coach adores him like his own son, to be more accurate, more than his own son. Frustrated and broken, Hugo tries his utmost to secure back the position he thinks he has lost in the eyes of his father but verily fails to meet his expectations. In the very beginning of the movie, when coach Duke is seen preparing his boys for an ensuing match and explaining gaming strategies to them, he told the team that Hugo is the “decoy,” meaning he is there only to distract the opponents while Odin and Mike will score yet another goal. Hugo feels left out partly because he is not playing as the star basketball player and partly because it is his own father who does not think that his son is worthy of playing the as the hero player. The father-son relationship that Hugo expects is never there. He hardly meets with his father. He is more of a player in his team than a son. His dad is not seemingly interested in whatever he has to say and thinks more about Odin than Hugo:
“Hugo: Hey, Pop.
Goulding: Have a seat.
Hugo: It’s been a while since you invited me in for dinner.
Goulding: What is going on with Odin?
Hugo: I don’t know. I saw him in class today. He seemed all right. By the way, I’m getting an A in English again.
Goulding: That’s great, son. Congratulations. You know I don’t ever have to worry about you, thank God. You’ve always done well and you always will, but Odin’s different. He’s all alone here. There’s not even another Black student in this whole damn place. We’re his family. I want you to keep an eye on him, find out what’s going on.
Hugo: Sure, Pop.
Goulding: All right…’cause if he’s got a problem, we’ve got a problem.
Hugo: All right, Dad.
Goulding: You know, your mother just doesn’t understand us. You stay here and finish your supper” [Goulding leaves his office].
Such ignorance from own father Hugo unwillingly swallows and it eventually ignites the fire of jealousy in his mind which seems virtually inextinguishable. In the end, after Odin is gone, we hear Hugo saying “one of these days everyone is going to pay attention to me.” Hugo believes that as long as Odin is there he is not going to get attention. When Odin is out of the picture, he is almost sure that it is his time to “fly.”
Since Hugo turns out to be “a troubled teenager” the audience most probably will “sympathize” with him. His envy and “deep desire” to gain “attention” makes him do “evil acts,” but that does not make him “evil in the audience’s eyes” (Rowland, 2016).
Both Desi and Desdemona are loyal to their beloveds and they easily submit to them. Although Desdemona seems a lot devoted to Othello than Desi is to Odin, they nevertheless agrees to do things in ways their loves ones want them to. Even though Othello kills Desdemona unfairly, she does not blame him at all. She is too blindly devoted to her husband that she conceals the fact that he killed her when Emilia asks about it: “Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. Oh, farewell!” (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2). Although Desi does not take the blame on herself, she howbeit remains silent when Odin strangles her to death. And when Emily tries to figure out whether the sex that Odin and Desi has is consensual or not Desi defends Odin by saying “Would you be so concerned if he were white?” (Nelson, 2001).
The modern counterpart of Cassio in the movie is Mike. Like his play counterpart Mike is not as innocent as he seems. He has a lot of flaws in his character. He seems to be a playboy though like Cassio he does not have any actual affair with Desi. They are best friends. Mike however is not as innocent as we might like to think. His confrontation with Roger shows how rude and aggressive he really is. Though Roger really wants a fight with him and really has the intention to enrage Mike, he has not yet start with anything at all when Mike pushes him back. He openly calls Odin, his best friend and the one who shares the Most Value Player award with him, a “nxxxxx.” Mike is also seen to bully Roger when he goes to sit in the row next to him in the basketball court. He along with his friend bully Roger to the point where he almost cries. Desi asks him to stop but Mike pays no heed to her words. “Michael Cassio’s character is a lot crueler in the film O than in the play. He is terribly mean to Roger (Roderigo) after they get in the drunken fight. In the play, he is always valiant and never really says a mean word about anyone” (Williams, 2010).
The play sings male chauvinism and the female submission in the ways men treat women and how the female characters in the play address their male counterparts. Othello, in the beginning and throughout almost half of the play is smitten with Desdemona and even at the end while strangling her feels the shiver of love in his veins. However this does not bury the fact that he exercised his male chauvinism and dominance over her. The plague he inflicts upon his wife, no matter how cruel and vindictive it seems, for Othello it is a way of punishing her for the sin she is believed to have committed. And who gives him the authority to punish her even if the allegations that are brought against her are actually true? He thinks that since he is her husband, it is his duty and obligation to punish his wife for engaging in an extramarital relationship and committing adultery. Before killing her, Othello tells Desdemona “If you bethink yourself of any crime / Unreconciled as yet to heaven and grace, / Solicit for it straight” (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2). It seems as though everything about Desdemona should be according to his will and he decides for her as though he were a god she worships. She even addresses him as “Lord Othello.” There is almost always an issue of obedience and submission excepted from the women. Even when Emilia strives to expose Iago’s ploy in front of everyone, she says “Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak / ‘Tis proper I obey him, but not now” (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2). In order to tell them the truth, which involves going against her husband, she has to ask for their permission since it is inappropriate to say something defying once husband, at least this is how it seems as long as the play is concerned. When Desdemona tries to convince her father that she has some duties towards Othello, she says, “You are the lord of Duty. / I am hitherto your daughter. But here is my husband / and … I must profess / Due to the Moor my lord” (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 3). A woman, thus has to obey her father before marriage and husband after getting married. The movie also renders male chauvinism, however far less than the play does. We see Odin having sex with Desi and still continuing even after Desi urges him to stop. Odin pays no heed to Desi’s pleas and rapes her. He is seen to call her whore much like how Othello calls Desdemona “strumpet” and Iago calls Emilia “villainous whore” (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 2). Nevertheless, there is no instance in the movie where a woman has to obey a fellow man. When Desi’s father asks if Odin has done something wrong to her, she says “Dad, it’s none of your business” (Nelson, 2001).
The play presents women in a way as though they were some commodities. When the Duke asks Othello to take Desdemona with him in his journey to Cyprus, he tells the Duke that “to his [Iago’s] conveyance I assign my wife’ (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 3). Desdemona, as Othello’s wife, is treated as a property. When Iago informs Brabantio that his daughter is gone, he tells him that he is “robbed,” as though she were some ornament or jewel (“The Role of Women,” n.d.). Even the movie participates in commodifying women. When Rodger talks to Dean Brable about his daughter over the phone, he at first says that someone “stole something from” him and then reveals the certain something is his “daughter” (Nelson, 2001).
Tragedy has always been one of the most popular genres whereby writers have laid forth scathing critique of the society that gradually destroys the individuals living in it. Over the years, the form of tragedies have changed a lot. However, the downfall of a noble figure has mostly been the key point for the tragedies to revolve around.
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