Paul A. Kottman asks us to entertain an unnerving possibility at the end of Othello: “In the murder scene are we not tempted by Shakespeare to imagine Othello doing something else with Desdemona in bed” (137)? What else would he do? If, as Stanley Cavell argues in “Othello and the Stake of the Other,” Othello’s murder of Desdemona is born of his attempt to avoid intimacy with a spouse who reputedly possesses independent sexual desire, and if Othello experiences this avoidance as disgust, then why insinuate that the bedroom scene of act 5 might eventuate in sex? Kottman goes farther by depicting Desdemona as the more proactive sexual partner: “What was Desdemona thinking, as she lay in bed under Othello, as he put his hands on her?” After all, she does invite him: “Will you come to bed, my lord” (5.9.23)?1 Even when he threatens her, Desdemona...
Love as Human Freedom
Matthew J. Smith is associate professor of English at Azusa Pacific University. He is author of a monograph tentatively titled Performance and Religion in Early Modern England: Stage, Cathedral, Wagon, Street and coeditor of a volume tentatively titled Face to Face in Shakespearean Drama: Ethics, Philosophy, Performance. He is also associate editor of Christianity and Literature.
Matthew J. Smith; Love as Human Freedom. Modern Language Quarterly 1 December 2018; 79 (4): 445–448. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-7103436
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