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OCR A2 F663 Drama and Poetry Pre-1800 | Exemplars

Paul Merrell | Sunday October 16, 2011

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Guide Navigation

1. Introduction
2. Section A: Shakespeare
3. Section B: Drama and Poetry
4. Exemplars
5. Conclusion

What does a good response to the Shakespeare question look like?

Here are two examples of introductions, with annotations, of work I have received from students this year. Obviously, these extracts are addressing Othello – but hopefully you can see how the particular approach I have outlined above works.

‘If the play were never to leave Venice, there would be no tragedy’. How far and to what extent do you find this to be true in the play, Othello?

For a Jacobean audience, Venice was not just a setting, but a byword for wealth, adultery and the breaking of convention: a modern day Las Vegas

. [1] Therefore with this in mind, it is somewhat ironic that Venice does, to some extent, prevent the tragedy of ‘Othello’ happening at all. It can be argued that Venice is the civilisation which prevents

Iago’s chaos and Othello’s vulnerability to surface and cause destruction, whereas barbaric Cyprus represents the undoing of civilisation completely

. [2] Some may argue that the tragic element of ‘Othello’ derives from, as Coleridge notes, Iago’s ‘

motiveless malignancy

’ [3] and undetectable manipulation and if we were to agree with this theory then Venice, not Othello, is Iago’s real enemy: in Venice, Iago is powerless. Iago is a mere trickster in Venice, “rousing [Brabantio’s] delight? informing him with animalistic imagery that his “fair maiden? has deceived him to marry a “black ram?, knowingly that his efforts in doing so

“may only lose some colour?

. [4] Unlike in Cyprus, where his scheming of the “handkerchief? provides Othello with the “ocular proof? which convinces him of Desdemona’s “whor[ing]?, we may speculate that in Venice such drastic consequences would not happen. In Venice we, and the noble Duke, are able to penetrate the facade of the “honest? Iago, as Brabantio...


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