Monday, March 19, 2012

Obama as Othello?

While reading David Schiff’s The Ellington Century, I encountered an interesting riff on Othello, presented as part of a discussion of the Duke’s Shakespeare-inspired suite, Such Sweet Thunder.  The following passage caught my attention:

Othello is a play about race (“an old black ram is tupping yuour white ewe”) and about being and seeming.  Othello seals his doom early by believing in self-evident facts of his existence:  “My parts, my title and my perfect soul,/Shall manifest me rightly.”  Iago acts out the opposite principle:  “I am not what I am.”  Othello’s tragic pride stems from a failure to understand that his noble character is as much a product of eloquence as is Iago’s malignant fabrications;  Othello’s military and amatory success depends on the power of his discourse.

This idea of the double-edged sword of eloquence may apply very well to many (if not all) of the frustrations that Barack Obama has encountered since he took office.  One has only to “look at the record” of Republican rhetoric to warrant the hypothesis that they have cultivated an “eloquence of hatred” as powerful as Iago’s, to a point where “malignant fabrications” are a far more viable stock-in-trade than “self-evident facts.”

From this point of view, we may consider that the Republican primaries are all about which malignant fabrications are likely to provide the most effective damage to not only Obama by the Democratic Party as a whole, hardly the healthiest way for anyone to be thinking about our electoral system!

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