Too Gentle : Jealousy and Class in Othello

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1 Too Gentle : Jealousy and Class in Othello Rebecca Olson Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Number ...

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“Too Gentle”: Jealousy and Class in Othello Rebecca Olson

Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Number 1, Winter 2015, pp. 3-25 (Article) Published by University of Pennsylvania Press

For additional information about this article http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jem/summary/v015/15.1.olson.html

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“Too Gentle”: Jealousy and Class in Othello rebecca olson

abstract Seventeenth-­century writers were fascinated by the emotional turmoil that jealousy provoked, and their jealous characters feel darker and more psychologically realistic than earlier representations. What needs more scrutiny is the relationship between violent jealousy, gender, and class in the early modern period. We have, for example, largely overlooked the fact that Shakespeare’s most jealous husbands are married to the only children of important men. This essay argues that Desdemona’s social location—­that is to say, her position as the female heir of a senator—­provides a powerful catalyst for the kind of intense jealousy her husband develops. As the play dramatizes the tragic consequences of sexual jealousy, it also registers anxieties about the spectacular potential of the noble body—­anxieties that would become increasingly urgent in the first half of the seventeenth century.

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mid the hubbub of the first act of Othello, it is easy to miss an intriguing narrative detail: Iago and Roderigo’s boisterous claims awaken Brabanzio from a prophetic dream. Upon being told that Desdemona has made a “gross revolt” and married the Moor, the Venetian senator says, “This accident is not unlike my dream; / Belief of it oppresses me already” (1.1.43–44). Shakespeare thus presents Desdemona’s father as a character with some access to foresight, something that may matter when, in his final words to Othello, he adopts a prophetic tone: “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see / She has deceived her father, and may thee” (1.3.291–92). However, Brabanzio’s dream also suggests that on some level he has feared or anticipated the loss of his daughter: that he is—­by early modern definition—­jealous. As I will explain in more detail, jealousy was the fear of losing possession, either of household the journal for early modern cultural studies vol. 15, no. 1 (winter 2015) © 2015

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property or of people. In its most commonly represented form, jealousy was the fear of cuckoldry, or losing exclusive possession of one’s wife to another man. For the play’s early audiences, Brabanzio’s jealous possessiveness toward Desdemona would help to underscore Othello’s own vulnerability to this dangerous emotion. Iago, surely, sees the risk. For modern readers and audience members, however, the scene is best remembered for Iago’s racist images of Othello (as the “old black ram”), images that do set the scene for the tragedy that ensues. Yet critical attention to race in Othello has obscured, to our detriment, the way the operation of jealousy in the play also highlights issues of gender and class. When we attribute Othello’s jealousy either to his race or to Iago’s masterful psychological manipulation, we inevitably minimize the play’s preoccupation with Desdemona’s political agency and social importance. I argue that Desdemona’s social location—­that is to say, her position as the female heir of a senator—­would have been understood to be a potential catalyst for the kind of intense jealousy her husband develops. To marry someone like Desdemona—­who is, as the early scenes involving Brabanzio make clear, socially valuable—­was to put oneself at risk of developing jealousy, a tormenting state that many believed to be incurable. As Erika Milburn points out, Latin has no word for jealousy (580). By the early modern period in Europe, by contrast, it was one of the most commonly narrated themes of poetry and drama. Despite fine historicized accounts of early modern jealousy from critics such as Mary Floyd-­Wilson, Natasha Korda, and Mark Breitenberg, we still know very little about how jealousy was understood in the early modern period, no doubt because, as Werner Gundersheimer explains, there seems to have been no “general consensus” about its representation (322).1 Shakespeare, however, was relatively consistent in his portrayals of the “green-­eyed monster.” With the exception of The Merry Wives of Windsor’s Mr. Ford, his jealous male figures are Italian or soldiers surrounded by Italians—­a pattern that corroborates Floyd-­Wilson’s observation that jealousy was understood “primarily as a state of paranoid suspicion born out of a corrupt inwardness that the English typically associated with Italians and, surprisingly enough, neo-­Stoic control” (132–33). Yet we could—­ and should—­draw lines of comparison not only between Shakespeare’s jealous characters, but also between the women they accuse. When we consider Othello’s jealousy in light of other Shakespearean portraits of jealousy—­not only The Winter’s Tale’s Leontes, to which he has been fruitfully compared,2 but also Much Ado About Nothing’s Claudio and Cymbeline’s Posthumus, we see an

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element of Shakespearean jealousy that has been largely overlooked: Shakespeare’s most jealous male characters are married or betrothed to the only children of important men. The possible exceptions—­Merry Wives’s Mistress Ford (whose background is unknown) and The Winter’s Tale’s Hermione (who is a ruler’s daughter but perhaps not his only child)—­are noteworthy for the fact that their heroines are married from the start of the play. In Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and Cymbeline, by contrast, Hero, Desdemona, and Innogen are presented not only as their (soldier) fiancés’ social superiors, but also, and explicitly, as their father’s heirs. Indeed, the overwhelming focus on Othello’s personal predilection to jealousy, and relative disregard of the object of that jealousy, may suggest that despite increasing critical attention to the nuances of female status within early modern patriarchy, modern critics have yet to fully consider the potential implications of those nuances when it comes to Shakespeare’s heroines. Carol Thomas Neely, in a groundbreaking reading of Desdemona’s significance, distinguished between what she called “Othello critics” and “Iago critics,” but argued that both camps “badly misunderstand and misrepresent the women in the play” (“Women and Men” 212). In the critical tradition, she points out, Desdemona is either accused of being passive or instead damned for her forthright behavior, but in either case is treated as “virtually an afterthought to the analysis of the men” (“Women and Men” 212). Unfortunately, the tendency to see Desdemona as ancillary to Othello and Iago obscures the importance of her class identity in relation to the jealousy plot. Nor has this problem been remedied by a number of feminist readings of Desdemona’s character: scholars including Neely, W.D. Adamson, Ann Jennalie Cook, and Irene G. Dash have done much to increase awareness of Desdemona’s rich complexity, but fail to explicitly address the significance of her position as her father’s heir.3 This, I believe, is a mistake. Desdemona is crucial to our understanding of jealousy in Othello largely because she is so conspicuously rendered valuable in the play. To some extent, Shakespeare’s depiction of jealousy as something that disproportionately afflicts husbands or husbands-­to-­be of high-­status daughters supports important work on cuckoldry, with which it is commonly associated, in early modern drama. Douglas Bruster, for example, has argued that the “myth of cuckoldry” was a powerful trope in the period’s drama, one that reveals the status of women as capital: cuckoldry, he explains, provides a metaphor for “labor and economic relationships defined by gender” (198). In Shakespeare’s plays, however, the link between jealousy (a man’s conviction

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that he is a cuckold, whether or not he is), gender and class appear to be more literal than metaphoric. Furthermore, whereas Bruster’s primary focus is cuckoldry and the middling classes, and especially the merchant class, I am interested in the way Shakespeare instead situates jealousy in the courtly sphere. In fact, I suspect that if Shakespeare’s repeated use of Italy as a backdrop for jealous characters is, on the one hand, in line with racist stereotypes of his age or with the fabliaux tradition, it may, on the other hand, point to his plays’ adherence to an Italian convention of jealousy represented by Benedetto Varchi’s fifteenth-­century treatise (translated into English as The Blazon of Jealousie in 1615), to which I will return, as well as the famous literary works cited therein, including Orlando Furioso and Petrarch’s sonnets.4 Again, the more familiar account, especially in recent criticism, is that Othello’s vulnerability to Iago dramatizes some of the period’s racial stereotypes of Moors. For example, Frances E. Dolan, discussing the “complex interrelations between discourses of domesticity and those of difference” in the play, identifies race as the most significant difference between Othello and Desdemona—­and the source of Othello’s “ambiguous social position”: “In focusing on a black hero, Othello draws on several distinct, even competing, cultural constructions of domestic threat, of the difference that can undermine domesticity from within” (111–12). Yet race was only one of many cultural differences that could threaten from within. It is true that some in the early modern period believed that people from warm climates, especially Italy and Africa, were more vulnerable to jealousy’s torments, as were women—­according to this logic, nearly every character in Othello would be at risk.5 In Othello, however, Shakespeare seems to go out of his way to establish that the Moor Othello is not predisposed to jealousy. Desdemona, for example, suggests that “the sun where he was born / Drew all such humours from him” (3.4.28–29). Though we could read her statement as tragically naïve, Floyd-­Wilson has explained that it is supported by geohumoral logic, whereby Africans would actually be less prone to “sexual excess” (thought to be a cause of passionate jealousy) (140). Desdemona’s observation is, moreover, backed up by the events of the play: Othello’s jealousy is certainly slower in coming than that of other Shakespearean figures, such as Leontes. Therefore, although critics such as Korda are right that elements of Othello—­including Othello’s overvaluation of the handkerchief—­would speak to contemporary racial stereotypes (Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies 149), I agree with Ruth Vanita that the play ultimately presents Othello’s jealousy as “not at all different from any white husband” (342).

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The issue of class in Othello—­and specifically, the contrast in station between Othello and Desdemona—­is something that scholars have tended to address obliquely, sometimes within discussions of other differences between the pair. Neely, for example, explaining Othello’s function as a mestizo, does identify Desdemona’s “higher status” as one source of tension in the play: From the perspective of white Venetian culture within which the now-­ Christian Othello resides . . . the marriage is transgressive because Othello’s maleness gives him higher status, whereas Desdemona’s cultural insiderness (in which skin colour becomes suddenly salient) gives her higher status, and because she elopes. (“Circumscriptions” 306)

For Neely, though, Desdemona’s “cultural insiderness” appears to be the result of her status as a Venetian, as opposed to the result of her specific position in her society (i.e., a senator’s only child). Virginia Mason Vaughan, in one of the most comprehensive historical readings of Othello’s jealousy, acknowledges that Othello marries a “younger woman of a different social station,” but goes on to discuss only the age difference between him and Desdemona (75). Vaughan is more interested, that is, in elements of Othello that correspond with contemporary marital discourse, as well as Thomas Wright’s The Passions of the Minde in Generale (1601 and 1604), which, as she puts it, Shakespeare “probably knew” (77). In Wright, Vaughan finds a potential source for the “sudden pathological transformation of a man’s love into hate” (77). According to Wright, “inordinate” passions “rush in” upon a man and lead him to “unbridled” desires. As Vaughan observes: Even if Shakespeare did not know Wright per se, he would have found in the texts he did use abundant descriptions of sudden, seemingly inexplicable changes in a husband’s personality. These “perturbations of the mind” center on the husband’s desire for his wife, his ensuing jealousy, and his subsequent murder of the woman who aroused such passions in the first place. (78)

This is certainly right, for although Shakespeare does not explicitly identify jealousy as a “passion” in his works, characters like Mr. Ford and Leontes (who are, as I stated earlier, the jealous figures whose marriages are established at the start of the plays) certainly enact the dynamic Wright describes. At the same time, Shakespeare’s most violently jealous characters share more than a seemingly inexplicable personality change; they also “marry up,”

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so to speak. Thus, if Shakespeare’s jealous figures are not exactly the middling merchants found in contemporary comedies, they may nonetheless be at risk of being perceived as class aspirants. As Floyd-­Wilson explains, the jealous merchants’ economic power “blurred the aristocratic social order and cast them as anxiously liminal” (135). Claudio, Othello, and Posthumus occupy a similarly liminal position, especially in the interim between their betrothals and the consummations of their economically advantageous marriages. All three of these plays foreground the heroine’s status as heir in early scenes, dramatize the hero’s vulnerability to villains and subsequent descent into jealousy in the middle acts, and then resolve that jealousy, in their distinct ways, in the plays’ final scenes. Considered in light of representations of jealousy in other Shakespearean drama, particularly Much Ado About Nothing and Cymbeline, Othello suggests that the treasured heroine’s transition from her father’s keeping to her husband’s is rife with danger and consequently open to exploitation by those who would take advantage. A brief description of early modern jealousy provides important context for these examples. In the early modern period, to be jealous of something was to guard or watch it carefully; we retain this sense of the word today in the phrases “ jealous God” or “ jealous of one’s time.” The connection between jealousy and guardianship helps to explain its distinction from the deadly sin of envy: in the early modern period to be envious of something was to want something you did not have, and to be jealous was to fear losing something that you did.6 In Othello, Iago provides us with the opportunity to appreciate such distinctions. He is envious, rather than jealous, of Cassio, who holds the position of lieutenant that Iago had wanted for himself (1.1.7–32). Iago may be sexually jealous of his wife Emilia, who he tells us is rumored to be sleeping with Othello, yet for a jealous husband he seems remarkably unconvinced: “I know not if ’t be true, / But I, for mere suspicion of that kind, / Will do as if for surety” (1.3.369–72). Later in the play Iago does explicitly identify himself as jealous, but he uses the word in the more general sense of “watchful” or “attentive,” veering toward “suspicious”: “I confess it is in my nature’s plague / To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy / Shapes faults that are not” (3.3.151–53). Given jealousy’s association with guardianship, surveillance, and general “husbandry,” the boundary between household jealousy—­fear of losing one’s possessions—­and sexual jealousy—­fear of being cuckolded—­was hazy: it was expected that a man would be jealous of his property, which would have included his wife or daughter.7 In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s reported

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equation of Jessica and his wealth—­“My daughter! O, my ducats! O, my daughter!” (2.8.15)—­expresses his failure to jealously attend to such responsibilities. As Korda has explained, the discourses of early modern jealousy depended on the institution of private property, and often aligned women with objects, property, or commodities exchanged between men (Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies 138). In Edmund Tilney’s The Flower of Friendship (1593), for example, sexual jealousy is explicitly described as the desire for exclusive possession: “The stoike philosophers saye, that jealousie is a certain care of mans minde, least another shoulde possesse the thing, which he alone would enioye” (122). In short, to “possesse the thing” was to have something that others could take or share, and the fear of losing exclusive rights led to the state of jealousy. This may be why in Shakespeare’s main source for Othello, Giraldi Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi, daughters are represented as dangerous burdens: as a character points out, fathers pay large dowries to be rid of them (Bullough 239). In Othello, Shakespeare quickly establishes the play’s fictional world as one in which desirable women are liabilities to those who possess them: Cassio, for example, is introduced in an apparently erroneous line as a man “almost damned in a fair wife” (1.1.20). We might compare this statement with Polixenes’s observation regarding Leontes in The Winter’s Tale: “This jealousy / Is for a precious creature. As she’s rare / Must it be great” (1.2.451–53). These characters suggest that “precious” women potentially increase the suffering of the men responsible for them. Valuable or precious women were possessions, or perhaps resources, that must be conserved and kept from circulation among other men; the anxiety that such high-­stakes custody can provoke is, again, illustrated by Brabanzio’s troubled awakening at the start of Othello. In his jealousy plays, Shakespeare foregrounds this problem by emphasizing the high status of Desdemona, Hero, and Innogen. In Much Ado About Nothing, characters repeatedly allude to Hero’s status as her father’s heir, something that stands out all the more for the fact that there is no comparable discussion of what the fatherless Beatrice may or may not bring by way of dowry. In the play’s first scene, Claudio—­who is later described as a “start-­up” by Don John (1.3.52)—­confesses his love for Hero. One of the first things he asks Don Pedro is whether her father Leonato has any sons, to which the prince replies, “No child but Hero. She’s his only heir. / Dost thou affect her, Claudio?” (1.1.240–42). Claudio’s first bout of jealousy (Beatrice will identify it as such) occurs in Act 2’s masque scene; while Don Pedro woos Hero in his name, Don John convinces him that in fact Don Pedro wants Hero for himself,

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and that such a union would be inappropriate, for Hero is “no equal” for the prince (2.1.143). Yet Hero’s own male relatives, who are given an entire scene to discuss the potential of this very match, never express overt surprise or anxiety regarding the prince’s status; rather, Leonato takes the news that the prince intends to marry his daughter in stride: “we will hold it as a dream till it appear itself,” he says, adding that he “will acquaint [his] daughter withal” (1.2.17–18). Later, Leonato emphasizes his daughter’s high status when he confers his blessing on her match with Claudio: “Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes. His grace hath made the match, and all grace say amen to it” (2.1.263–65). It is not until the wedding, at which he intends to humiliate Hero by revealing her alleged promiscuity, that we see Claudio himself address the potential imbalance in “worth” between the pair. He asks Leonato, “What have I to give you back whose worth / May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?” (4.1.25–26). The answer, interestingly, comes not from Leonato, but rather the man who made the match: “Nothing,” Don Pedro says, “unless you render her again” (4.1.27). Claudio, of course, has been led to believe that someone has already attempted to fulfill his function, and at this point launches into his accusations, telling Leonato to take back his “rotten orange” (4.1.30). When, at the play’s conclusion, Claudio is presented with the opportunity to take a “new” wife (supposedly Hero’s cousin), she is described not only as “almost the copy” (5.1.274) of Hero, but is also said to be the heir of both Leonato and his brother. In this way, any perceived social imbalance between Claudio and his wife remains at the end of the play. It may therefore be important that she is received as “another Hero” (5.4.62); in a strange way, Claudio’s slander has “rendered” her again, which was how Don Pedro said he could pay for the “gift” of his wife. In Cymbeline, the social disparity between Posthumus and Innogen is an important element of the plot; Innogen’s status as the only known heir of the king, and the fact that she has married a “poor but worthy gentleman,” is presented as the first conflict (or “matter”) of the play (1.1.4–7). Innogen’s high value is often represented onstage in the form of the valuable diamond ring Posthumus has received from Innogen and which provides a metaphor for Innogen herself.8 In his initial attempt to convince Posthumus of his wife’s capacity for infidelity, Giacomo also compares her to valuable property: “You may wear her in title yours; but, you know, strange fowl light upon neighboring ponds” (1.4.77–78). The potential thieves or “strange fowl” are, tellingly, presented as in-­the-­know noblemen: “A cunning thief or a that-­way accomplished

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courtier would hazard the winning both of first and last” (1.4.80–83). In Act 2, Giacomo is then able to convince Posthumus that he is just such a courtier. In Cymbeline, however, Innogen does not remain her father’s heir, but is happily dispossessed of her status upon the revelation of her brothers’ survival in the final act, which helps to level her standing with Posthumus. This is made clear by the soothsayer’s interpretation of Posthumus’s prophetic tablet, which effectively reverses the play’s initial representations of Innogen as born heir and Posthumus as the poor but worthy husband; the soothsayer identifies Posthumus as “leo-­natus” or lion-­born (thus conferring upon Posthumus his own birth status), while Innogen, once heir, is now “mollis aer” or “mulier”—­the pun underscores her transition from valuable daughter to “constant wife” (5.6.445–49). Part of the tragedy of Othello, then, is that (unlike characters in Much Ado About Nothing or Cymbeline) Othello and Desdemona are not able to mitigate the disparity in their social positions before Othello’s jealousy escalates to murder. In Othello, Desdemona’s monetary value is emphasized from the start, as when Iago refers to her as a “land-­carrack,” or ship loaded with goods (1.2.50). One could argue, however, that unlike Claudio or Posthumus, Othello explicitly announces that he is his beloved’s social equal. When he hears Iago’s report of Brabanzio’s fury over his marriage he says: Let him do his spite. My services which I have done the signory Shall out-­tongue his complaints. ’Tis yet to know—­ I shall promulgate—­I fetch my life and being From men of royal siege, and my demerits May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune As this that I have reached. (1.2.17–24)

In this speech, Othello anticipates that it is his social position—­and not his race—­to which the senator would object. He also seems confident that this particular objection will be “out-­tongued” not only by his good standing with the Venetian government, but also by the revelation of his background. Othello does not ultimately “promulgate” this personal information, however, and his lineage and “demerits,” or deserts, remain unadvertised in the following scene. We might assume that, in light of Brabanzio’s charge of witchcraft, Othello deemed such information irrelevant after all. It could be, too, that in 1.3

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Othello comes to understand that his social status will be difficult to translate into Venetian terms. In any case, although Othello initially claims that he owes his “life and being” to “men of royal siege,” thus emphasizing his connections, other characters in the play characterize the match as an unbalanced one. One of the first things Iago does in his attempt to accelerate Othello’s jealousy, for example, is to remind him that his wife married outside her “clime, complexion, and degree” (3.3.235, emphasis mine). Some of Othello’s most famous later speeches, including the “Haply I am black” speech (3.3.263–81), betray more of a preoccupation with class than has been acknowledged. If such speeches reveal that Othello has internalized Iago’s racist and sexualized vision of him, as Arthur Kirsch maintains, they also provide evidence that by the end of Act 3, he has come to view his wife’s class position differently, for he no longer maintains that he is equal to the fortune he has “reached” (734–35). At first, it looks like Othello will indeed avoid jealousy, not least because, rather than possessively supervising Desdemona’s actions, he insists on her agency, even beseeching the Venetians to be “free and bounteous to her mind” (1.3.264). When initially confronted with Iago’s suspicions in Act Three, he boldly rejects the imputation that he possesses a jealous disposition: Think’st thou I’d make a life of jealousy, To follow still the changes of the moon With fresh suspicions? No, to be once in doubt Is once to be resolved. Exchange me for a goat When I shall turn the business of my soul To such exsufflicate and blowed surmises Matching thy inference. ‘Tis not to make me jealous To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well. Where virtue is, these are more virtuous (3.3.181–90)

At the start of the passage Othello is confident that he will not fall into the folly of continual suspicion: to be jealous is to “follow still the changes of the moon,” an image associated with the feminine and inconstant. Yet even as he denies his susceptibility to jealousy in this speech, Othello simultaneously calls attention to his high degree of risk, beginning with the fact that Desdemona herself—­both her beauty and her behavior—­warrants obsessive safe-­ keeping. According to Varchi’s The Blazon of Jealousie (1615), jealousy

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“encreaseth and decreaseth, according unto the Party for whose sake we are jealous” (27)—­a statement that recalls Polixenes’s observation that Leontes’s jealousy will be “great” because Hermione is “rare.” Varchi goes on to list the qualities in a woman that might make her especially rare and therefore provocative of jealous desire: Not alone in respect shee is well bred, is pitifull of nature, proper of Personage, constant, wittie, discreete, modest, of few words, tender of her owne Reputation and Honour . . . but (withall) likewise consider and have an eye even unto her own Mother, her Nurse, her Sisters, and Kindred, her Familiars, Acquaintance, and such Neighbors as she converseth withal. . . . (27–28)

When Othello says that it will not make him jealous to say that Desdemona “is fair, feeds well, loves company, / Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well,” he on one hand acknowledges her attractions and, on the other, underscores the fact that although Desdemona is desirable, she is not entirely the kind of “modest” woman “of few words” and “tender of her reputation” that Varchi associates with jealous husbands. Either way, her freedom of speech and sociability are, by Othello’s account, further evidence of her inherent trustworthiness (“Where virtue is, these are more virtuous”). Then, just as in The Blazon of Jealousie, which moves from the qualities of women to those of their jealous husbands, Othello’s focus shifts from Desdemona’s attractions to his own character: Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt, For she had eyes and chose me. No, Iago, I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; And on the proof, there is no more but this: Away at once with love or jealousy. (3.3.91–96)

Othello’s claim to masculine self-­control emphasizes his difference from the jealous husband mold: “Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw / The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt.” This too is in accordance with Varchi, who explains that if the woman’s merits increase a man’s risk of jealousy, his own condition “importeth very much in this business” (29). Whereas a man “given to choler” or generally “discontent and displeased” will overact in anger toward

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his lover, a temperate and “well conceited” man who has a high opinion of his beloved is instead “not troubled at all” (29). Yet within the same scene, Othello delivers a soliloquy in which he appears to enact the very process of self-­conscious paranoia he earlier rejected—­the “weak merits” that were presented as irrelevant in the light of Desdemona’s affection for him suddenly become the objects of greater scrutiny: Haply for I am black, And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberers have; or for I am declined Into the vale of years—­yet that’s not much—­ She’s gone. I am abused, and my relief Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage, That we can call these delicate creatures ours And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad And live upon the vapour of a dungeon Than keep a corner in the thing I love For others’ uses. Yet ‘tis the plague of great ones; Prerogatived are they less than the base. ‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. Even then this forked plague is fated to us When we do quicken. (3.3.267–81)

Here, we see Othello turn the appraising gaze at himself and begin to doubt Desdemona’s attraction to him. By Othello’s logic, Desdemona’s infidelity would be directly related to what suddenly seem deficiencies: his blackness, his lack of “soft conversation” and his (apparently negligible) advanced age. Although the statement “Haply I am black” receives more attention, I suggest that of these three potential deficiencies, it is the “soft conversation”—­a skill directly related to social station—­that Othello appears least able to dismiss as the speech goes on. When he says he lacks “soft conversation that chamberers have,” Othello is observing his inability to engage in a very particular kind of speech. He is clearly eloquent—­his storytelling is, after all, what he claims initially attracted Desdemona. But his almost bewitching eloquence would be different from that of courtly chamberers. A “chamberer” in the period was one who wooed ladies, or a courtly gallant—­perhaps the kind of “that-­way accomplished courtier” Giacomo refers to in Cymbeline or, more relevant, one of

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the “wealthy curlèd darlings” (1.2.69) Desdemona rejected prior to her marriage. The word “chamberer” was also used to refer to chamber maids, valets, and officials in charge of a noble or royal household (OED, s.v. “chamberer”). A chamberer, in short, was someone well versed in courtly protocol that attended to—­and had access to—­a noble body. They were, moreover, a fixture in early modern courts, and one that needed to be accommodated: in Holinshed’s Chronicles, Cardinal Wolsey is said to have “kept his great chamber a continuall boord for the chamberers and gentleman officers” (3.762). Othello’s horror at the prospect of “keeping a corner” for other’s uses, in this context, would mean designating space for such courtly attendants. This complicated speech is in fact easier to follow when we recognize its preoccupation with aristocratic custom. It is likely the thought of his wife’s status—­the fact that she is “well-­bred,” to use Varchi’s term, and would attract “chamberers”—­that leads to Othello’s subsequent explanation of why he now finds himself in torment: “Yet ’tis the plague of great ones / Prerogatived are they less than the base.” This line is difficult to unpack, largely because it is not entirely clear what the “ ’tis” refers to. Most likely he means the plague of cuckoldry—­the horned or “fork’d” plague referred to again at the end of the speech. Cuckoldry, in other words, is the plague of great ones, who are, ironically, less privileged than “the base,” or lower born, for reasons that he does not explain. But who are the “great ones” who must give way to prior claims of ownership? If we presume they are the men who are cuckolded, it would appear that Othello is simultaneously claiming his wife’s infidelity and his own exalted class status. A baser man, apparently, would not be as likely to have to share his wife, whereas a noble man is guaranteed to suffer: “ ’Tis destiny unshunnable, like death.” It is Othello’s fate, he reasons, to be cuckolded, an idea somewhat ambiguously reinforced by the speech’s final line: “Even then this forked plague is fated to us / When we do quicken.” The Norton editors gloss the line as “The ‘plague’ of horns (imagined to grow from the forehead of a cuckold) is our fate as soon as we live,” a reading that makes sense given the use of the word “quicken” to refer to the emergence of life elsewhere in the play.9 But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “quicken” in this period could also mean to restore or resurrect the soul, a definition that might make more sense here if the sentence’s initial “even then” refers back to death in the previous line. In other words, rather than saying he was fated from birth to be a cuckold, Othello could be saying that the torment of cuckoldry follows a man even after

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death. Cuckoldry is a “plague” that refuses to remain buried with the mortal flesh. What seems most important here, whether Othello is lamenting cuckoldry’s inevitability or its durability, is that he identifies himself as a cuckold (“I am abused”); however, I would argue that the line’s potential ambiguity is indicative of the entire speech’s confusing or confused contemplation of class. If we read the line as the Norton editors do, Othello is saying that the “great ones” like himself are fated to be cuckolds from birth. This would suggest that he continues to see himself as his wife’s social equal (or even superior). Yet if we follow my alternative reading and assume that Othello is lamenting cuckoldry’s persistence after death, the afflicted “great ones” (a social group to which he sees himself belonging) need not have be born great—­they could, one assumes, have had greatness thrust upon them. The distinction may be significant, for as he processes his wife’s supposed infidelity, Othello appears to also come to terms with the discomforts of participating in Desdemona’s social sphere. Here, it is helpful to recall Kenneth Burke’s account of Othello as one who sees himself as “parvenu”: For ennoblement through love is a new richness (a notable improving of one’s status, a destiny that made love a good symbol for secretly containing the political aspirations of the bourgeois as novus homo). Hence, in breaking the proprieties of love into their components, in dramatically carving this idea at the joints, we should encounter also in Othello as lover the theme of the newly rich, the marriage above one’s station. And misgivings (which could be dramatized as murderous suspicions) would be proper to this state, insofar as the treasured object stands for many things that no human being could literally be. So, in contrast with the notion of the play as the story of a black (low-­born) man cohabitating with (identified with) a the high-­born (white) Desdemona, we should say rather that the role of Othello as “Moor” draws for its effects upon the sense of the “black man” in every lover. (181–82)

As I have argued, Othello’s “ennoblement” through marriage to Desdemona appears to be more literal than a universal construct or “theme”: technically, Othello may not be “newly” rich or “low-­born,” but the play does represent Desdemona as belonging to a different “degree,” a difference that deserves attention and should not be assumed to be equivalent to that of racial difference. Burke’s reading, in which new love is itself a kind of “ennoblement,” is helpful

Olson • “Too Gentle”

insofar as it is ultimately Othello’s own understanding of what he has gained, as opposed to the other characters’, that makes him most susceptible to jealousy or “misgivings.” In the speech from act three, scene three, quoted earlier, in which he apparently includes himself among the “great ones,” Othello rather triumphantly acknowledges that they simply have more to worry about than those who have less to lose. Othello’s speech certainly reveals the inherent frustrations in “possessing” a wife: “O . . . that we can call these delicate creatures ours / And not their appetites!” In this way, the passage provides a particularly good example of Peter Stallybrass’s account of class and early modern patriarchy. According to Stallybrass, the dominant social class had a vested interest in emphasizing the class distinctions between women, as opposed to emphasizing gender, which would construct “women-­as-­the-­same”: Insofar as women are differentiated, those in the dominant social classes are allocated privileges they can confer (status, wealth) . . . those privileges can only be conferred back on men, so the differentiation of women simultaneously establishes or reinforces the differentiation of men. The deployment of women into different classes, then, is in the interests of the ruling elite, because it helps to perpetuate and to naturalize class structure. (133)

In such a system, Stallybrass explains, the class aspirant—­someone who, like Othello, marries someone of a more elite social group—­has an interest in preserving such differentiations, or “closures,” but must ensure that they include him. This results in behavior that sounds very much like Othello’s own throughout the play: “[The aspirant’s] conceptualization of woman will as a result be radically unstable. She will be perceived as oscillating between the enclosed body (the purity of the elite to which he aspires) and the open body (or else how could he attain her?), between being ‘too coy’ and ‘too common’” (Stallybrass 134). For Othello, Desdemona comes to represent all women (“these creatures”), even as he asserts his own privileged status, which was largely conferred on him by his wife. As Stallybrass observes, “As an acquirer, [Othello] is totally successful. But as possessor, he lives with the imminent fear of loss” (136). Although Stallybrass’s focus is not jealousy specifically, his reading illuminates a cultural context for the representation of jealousy: the “fear of loss” is, as I have explained, one of the prevailing definitions of jealousy in the early seventeenth-­century. Critics are therefore right to see early modern sexual jealousy as a patriarchal crisis. Lena Cowen Orlin, for example, succinctly states

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that Othello’s “acquisition of the trappings of a household reverberates with his discovery of the anxiety of possession” (185). She further observes, “the psychology of jealousy is compounded by the patriarchal logic of place” (185). Valerie Traub identifies jealousy as a disruption resulting from “the anxieties of a masculinist culture in which women’s bodies possess enormous powers of signification” (44). Again, what interests me is the idea presented by Shakespeare’s jealousy plays that some women’s bodies possess more “powers of signification” than others. Given the early modern theories of jealousy that I have described, what we might call the “value” of a woman like Desdemona would make their husbands especially prone to its torments: if to be jealous was to fear losing something that was yours, a woman coded as socially valuable would present a greater risk of loss. What Iago effectively makes visible to us, then, is what would have been taken for granted in the period: that anyone married to Desdemona, or a woman of similar socio-­economic value, would be at risk for developing jealousy. In fact, when they accuse their wives of infidelity, we might see Shakespeare’s characters as working to adjust the inherent social imbalance in their relationships. Juliet Dusinberre, discussing the double standard of chastity in the period’s plays, explains: A whore is always lower-­class [. . .] Claudio rejects in Hero, in Much Ado About Nothing, loss of caste as much as loss of virtue [. . .] To call a woman a whore, as Othello does Desdemona, or Leontes Hermione, not only casts aspersions on her morals, but takes away her position in society. (52)

With this in mind we might reconsider the role of Bianca, the character in Othello who is most frequently called a whore, both within the play and by critics.10 As Edward Pechter has pointed out, the idea that Bianca is a prostitute comes primarily, and rather suspiciously, from Iago, and it is a charge she herself denies (134).11 Interestingly, Bianca is also the only character in Othello who is accused of being jealous to his or her face. When Cassio gives her Desdemona’s handkerchief to copy, she immediately suspects he has taken a new lover, which to her mind would also explain his recent absence from her (3.4.175–76). Cassio responds: “Throw your vile guesses in the devil’s teeth, / From whence you have them. You are jealous now / That this is from some mistress, some remembrance” (3.4.179–81). He goes on to explain that this is not the case, and although the exchange ends with Bianca less than satisfied with their future plans (“I must be circumstanced” [3.4.196]), her jealousy

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seems either nonexistent or sufficiently abated. Her later reappearance, in which she continues to accuse Cassio (4.1.147), is easy to read as jealousy, but to what extent does Cassio’s earlier “You are jealous now” influence such an interpretation? And to what extent would we blame Bianca for drawing conclusions, especially since she seems to have more reasonable grounds to do so than Othello? When they call her either a whore or jealous, Iago and Cassio cast Bianca in a lower-­class position, despite her protestations and behavior to the contrary. In the romances, Shakespeare’s heroines seem highly conscious that the accusation of infidelity is also a kind of power play, one that, ironically, reflects poorly on the husband. In The Winter’s Tale, for instance, Hermione resists her husband’s attempt to unsettle her position by accusing her of adultery, and she does this by emphasizing her equal status as a “fellow of the royal bed” who owns “a moiety of the throne,” as well as “a great king’s daughter” (3.2.36–37).12 Later in the scene, perhaps in an aside as Cleomenes and Dion enter with the oracle, she reveals that she is in fact an emperor’s daughter (3.2.117). Cymbeline’s Innogen, by contrast, devastated by her husband’s accusatory letter, shrewdly and immediately observes that her value is precisely why he wants her destroyed rather than simply discarded: “Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion / And for I am richer than to hang by th’ walls / I must be ripped. To pieces with me!” (3.4.50–53). This statement presents Innogen’s “worth” as comparable to that of a commodity—­not unlike the household possessions that a husband would also need to be jealous of—­and is reminiscent of other moments in Shakespeare when a high-­born spouse (or potential spouse) is compared to an expensive garment. In Much Ado About Nothing, for example, Beatrice rejects the prince’s offer of marriage on the grounds that he is “too costly to wear every day” (2.1.287). “Costly” spouses, like costly garments, would require a degree of vigilant responsibility that could prove challenging. At the end of Othello, Othello similarly likens Desdemona to a valuable (and wearable) commodity when he describes himself as “one whose hand / Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away / Richer than all his tribe” (5.2.355– 57). Although here Othello claims that he was ignorant of his wife’s value, earlier in the play it is clear that he is fully aware of her worth. In fact, Iago exploits Othello’s appraisal of Desdemona by convincing him that he has not watched her with the vigilance required; he has watched her with loving pleasure when he should have been watching her with fear of loss. In Act Four, we see Othello struggle to adopt this new way of “seeing” Desdemona:

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The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies  •  15:1 Othello:  A fine woman, a fair woman, a sweet woman. Iago:  Nay, you must forget that. Othello:  Ay, let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned to stone . . . O, the world hath not a sweeter creature! She might lie by an emperor’s side, and command him tasks. Iago:  Nay, that’s not your way. Othello:  Hang her, I do but say what she is—­so delicate with her needle, an admirable musician. O, she will sing the savageness out of a bear! Of so high and plenteous wit and invention. Iago:  She’s the worse for all this. Othello: O, a thousand, a thousand times! And then of so gentle a condition. Iago:  Ay, too gentle. Othello:  Nay, that’s certain. But yet the pity of it, Iago. O, Iago, the pity of it, Iago! (4.1.172–87)

Iago’s quiet “Ay, too gentle” is a strategic double entendre, presumably meant to bring the conversation back to Desdemona’s alleged promiscuity, but the pun may also reflect the idea that a man whose wife was “too gentle”—­in both senses of that word—­was a man susceptible to jealousy. Shakespeare may have imported this idea from Gli Hecatommithi, in which the character Ponzio says that a man must use judgment when choosing a wife, and should not “let himself be prey to appetite” or “let [his] eyes be dimmed by greed for possessions or greatness of blood, nor beauty of body,” lest “murmurings and discords” plague the marriage (cited in Bullough 7.239–40). Certainly, in the discussion between Iago and Othello quoted above, the thought of Desdemona’s status—­ her suitability for an emperor, her highbred skills (delicate needlework, admirable musicianship)—­appears to escalate Othello’s distress.13 Tellingly, even Othello’s positive remarks about Desdemona in the passage quoted indicate his inability to enjoy his wife: she is conceived as someone who would make an emperor happy. Like a valuable garment, Desdemona deserves or even requires careful attention. The problem, for Othello and other Shakespearean husbands, is that their wives can also inspire tormenting imagined narratives that, in extreme cases such as Othello’s, lead them to destroy what they most feared to lose. We might think of jealousy as operating on a sliding scale: whereas some men

Olson • “Too Gentle”

might be inherently more prone than others to jealousy, any man’s susceptibility increased in accordance with his wife’s status. It therefore seems possible that to marry a woman like Desdemona was to simultaneously claim resistance to this emasculating peril. Part of the tragedy of Othello, then, is that even someone as self-­governed as Othello is not, ultimately, resistant enough. Nor is he alone: the jealous Claudio and Posthumus also exhibit self-­discipline and martial fitness. The role of class in the operation of jealousy in Othello may also cast a pall on the so-­called happy endings of many Shakespearean comedies. In the first place, many of Shakespeare’s heroines, from Juliet to Miranda, are their father’s presumed heirs—­a fact that may not diminish this connection to jealousy so much as underscore jealousy’s pervasive threat to married love. Furthermore, I agree with Neely, who observes Othello’s structural similarities with Shakespeare’s comedies: “The play is a terrifying completion of the comedies. In them, realism and romanticism, lust and love, desire and illusion, love and friendship, cuckoldry and marriage, masculinity and femininity are held in precarious balance” (“Women and Men” 215). If Othello can be seen as a “terrifying completion” of a Shakespearean marriage plot, we would do well to pay attention to the way some of the play’s early “warning signs” of domestic tragedy—­and perhaps early indications of jealousy, especially—­might also be found at the conclusion of plays like Henry V or The Merchant of Venice. In the former instance, Queen Isabel of France explicitly identifies jealousy as the most pressing threat to the union between her royal daughter and England’s Henry V, whose military prowess is certainly more impressive than his lineage. She prays: So be there ‘twixt your kingdoms such a spousal That never may ill office or fell jealousy, Which troubles oft the bed of blessed marriage, Thrust in between the paction of these kingdoms (5.2.332–35)

Jealousy also threatens, more subtly, in The Merchant of Venice, in which there is a conspicuous financial disparity between Portia and her husband Bassanio. The fact that Portia’s father has remained jealous of his daughter and only heir from beyond the grave heightens the audience’s sense of her social and capital value. One of the main differences between Portia and Desdemona, of course, is that Portia’s betrothal does not fly in the face of her father’s wishes. Even so,

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at the resolution of the ring plot in the play’s final scene, in which she advises Bassanio to “watch [her] like Argus” and claims that she will “have that doctor for [her] bedfellow” (5.1.229–32), Portia could be seen by some audience members as playing with fire. Portia also encourages her husband’s jealousy—­in its more technical definition—­when she transfers the “sum” of herself, including her financial assets, to her husband’s safekeeping (3.2.149–76). When she elopes with Othello, Desdemona similarly puts her husband in a new position as guardian. Yet to propose that his wife’s social position increases Othello’s vulnerability to jealousy is not to concur with Desdemona’s final assertion that she is responsible for her own demise (5.2.134). I am not, in other words, suggesting that it is Desdemona’s fault that her husband kills her in a jealous rage; however, I do think that Shakespeare gets a great deal of dramatic mileage from the idea—­one that may have been in larger circulation but is particularly visible in his plays—­that the female aristocratic body posed a particularly ominous threat. To put it crudely, valuable women such as Desdemona appear to have been viewed, on some level, as what we might call “hot potatoes”—­objects that could prove to be too much of a burden for those who possessed them. At the same time, being relieved of that burden brought its own torment, as Brabanzio’s reported death from “pure grief ” illustrates (5.2.212–13). In his extreme jealousy, Othello intends to prevent his wife from reentering circulation altogether: “she must die,” he says, “else she’ll betray more men” (5.2.6). In this way, although contemporary comedies present jealousy as a problem of the merchant class, Shakespeare seems particularly invested in exploring its connections to court culture, especially in the romances but also in comedies such as The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which Mr. Ford’s jealousy responds in part to Windsor’s aristocratic traffic. Courtly jealousy depicted in Shakespearean drama may in fact help explain the evolution of jealousy’s representation in the seventeenth century and specifically, its representation as a political motive. By the mid-­1600s, the word “ jealousy” was very much linked to political sabotage; the Eikon Basilike (1649), for example, uses the word “ jealousy” or “ jealousies” twenty-­one times, usually to explain what has caused the king’s subjects to turn against Charles.14 Half a century before, Shakespeare also uses the word, as a synonym for “suspicion,” in the context of political rebellion: in Julius Caesar (1599), “ jealousy” appears twice in the initial conversation between Cassius and Brutus (1.2.73 and 1.2.163). Yet throughout Shakespeare’s plays, even sexual jealousy (suspicion of one’s spouse or espoused) is intimately linked to unhappy political relationships be-

Olson • “Too Gentle”

tween men by way of its villainous instigators: Iago resents Othello for promoting Cassio; Much Ado’s Don John is embittered by his half-­brother the prince’s preferment of Claudio; and in Cymbeline, the contention between Posthumus and Giacomo is framed as explicitly nationalistic. What both sexual and political jealousy in the period may share, then—­in addition to their potential to compel violence—­is that they originate in men’s fears of losing exclusive access to a highly desirable and socially valuable body. notes The author would like to thank Vanita Neelakanta, Allison Hobgood, and the anonymous JEMCS reviewers for their feedback and suggestions. 1. I am thinking, in particular, of Breitenberg’s discussion of Richard Burton’s association of jealousy with melancholy (175); Korda’s account of jealousy and household property (Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies); and Floyd-­Wilson’s persuasive reading of geohumoral discourse in Othello. 2. See, for example, Cohen. 3. See Adamson (169–86), Cook (187–96), and Dash (103–30). 4. See Floyd-­Wilson for the relationship between jealousy, race, and the fabliaux (132). 5. For an overview, see Korda, Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies 129. 6. See Nordland 164. 7. On the relationship between jealousy and household possessions, see especially Korda, “ ‘Judicious Oeillades.’ ” 8. The ring is part of the men’s wager; if Giacamo succeeds at seducing Innogen, it will be his prize. One particularly good example of the way it becomes conflated with Innogen herself is when Giacamo returns to Rome after his attempt to seduce Innogen and Posthumus asks, “Sparkles this stone as it was wont, or is’t not / Too dull for your good wearing?” (2.4.40–41). 9. In Act 4, when Desdemona says “I hope my noble lord esteems me honest,” Othello replies, “O, ay—­as summer flies are in the shambles / That quicken even with blowing” (4.2.67–68). 10. For an overview of Bianca’s treatment by critics, see Rulon-­Miller. 11. Pechter ultimately traces the critical assumption that Bianca is a whore to the Folio’s identification of her as a “Curtezan” in the character list: “we call Bianca a whore because of a scribe’s, compositor’s, or editor’s sense of the esthetics of the printed page” (136). 12. I am indebted to one of the JEMCS anonymous readers for his or her helpful assessment of Hermione in this scene. 13. We might compare this “too gentle” to a moment in the roughly contemporary Much Ado About Nothing: When Don Pedro seeks Hero’s assistance in the plot to bring together Beatrice and Benedick, he asks, “And you too, gentle Hero?” (2.1.325). In this case, “too” could mean “also” rather than “excessively,” but it is interesting that the lines come at the end of the masque scene, in which Claudio becomes jealous when he is led to believe that the prince has wooed Leonato’s heir for himself. 14. A line in the “Meditations upon Death, after the votes of Non-­Address,” for example, reads: “I now bear the heavy load of other men’s ambitions, fears, jealousies, and cruel

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The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies  •  15:1 passions, whose envy or enmity against Me makes their own lives’ seem deadly to them, while I enjoy any part of mine” (Eikon Basilike 195).

works cited Adamson, W.D. “Unpinned or Undone?: Desdemona’s Critics and the Problem of Sexual Innocence.” Shakespeare Studies 13 (1980): 169–86. Ariosto, Lodovico. Orlando Furioso. Ed. Vincenzo Gioberti. Florence: Felice Le Monnier, 1854. Breitenberg, Mark. Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England. Cambridge UP, 1996. Britton, Dennis Austin. “Re-­‘Turning’ Othello: Transformative and Restorative Romance.” English Literary History 78 (2011): 27–50. Bruster, Douglas. “The Horn of Plenty: Cuckoldry and Capital in the Drama of the Age of Shakespeare.” Studies in English Literature 30.2 (1990): 195–215. Bullough, Geoffrey. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Vol. 7. London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul / Columbia UP, 1973. Burke, Kenneth. “Othello: An Essay to Illustrate a Method.” The Hudson Review 4.2 (1951): 165–203. “Chamberer.” Defs. n. 1–4. Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford UP. Web. August 2014. Cohen, Derek. “Patriarchy and Jealousy in Othello and The Winter’s Tale.” Modern Language Quarterly 48.3 (1987): 207–23. Cook, Ann Jennalie. “The Design of Desdemona: Doubt Raised and Resolved.” Shakespeare Studies 13 (1980): 187–96. Daems, Jim, and Holly Faith Nelson, eds. Eikon Basilike: The Portraiture of His Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings. Ontario: Broadview, 2006. Dash, Irene G. Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare’s Plays. New York: Columbia UP, 1981. Dolan, Frances E. Dangerous Familiars: Representations of Domestic Crime in England, 1550– 1700. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1994. Dusinberre, Juliet. Shakespeare and the Nature of Women. New York: Palgrave, 2003. Floyd-­Wilson, Mary. English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. Gundersheimer, Werner. “‘The Green-­Eyed Monster’: Renaissance Conceptions of Jealousy.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 137.3 (1993): 321–31. Holinshed, Raphael. Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. 6 vols. New York: AMS, 1956. Kirsch, Arthur. “The Polarization of Erotic Love in Othello.” Modern Language Review 73.4 (1978): 721–40. Korda, Natasha. “‘Judicious Oeillades’: Supervising marital property in The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Marxist Shakespeares. Ed. Jean E. Howard and Scott Cutler Shershow. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. 82–103. ———. Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002. Milburn, Erika. “‘D’Invidia e D’Amor Figlia Sì Ria’: Jealousy and the Italian Renaissance Lyric.” Modern Language Review 97.3 (2002): 577–91. Neely, Carol Thomas. “Circumscriptions and Unhousedness: Othello in the Borderlands.” Shakespeare and Gender: A History. Ed. Deborah E. Barker and Ivo Kamps. London and New York: Verso, 1995. 302–15.

Olson • “Too Gentle” ———. “Women and Men in Othello: ‘What should such a fool / Do with so good a woman?’” The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1980. 211–39. Nordland, Marcus. Shakespeare and the Nature of Love: Literature, Culture, Evolution. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 2007. Orlin, Lena Cowen. “Desdemona’s Disposition.” Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender. Ed. Shirley Nelson Garner and Madelon Sprengnether. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996. 171–92. Pechter, Edward. Othello and Interpretive Traditions. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1999. “Quicken.” Def. v. 1. Oxford English Dictionary Online. December 2013. Oxford UP. Web. 27 February 2014. Rulon-­Miller, Nina. “Othello’s Bianca: Climbing Out of the Bed of Patriarchy.” The Upstart Crow 15 (1995): 99–114. Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katharine Eisaman Maus. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2008. Stallybrass, Peter. “Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed.” Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. 123–42. Tilney, Edmund. The Flower of Friendship: A Renaissance Dialogue Contesting Marriage. 1593. Ed. Valerie Wayne. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992. Traub, Valerie. Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Vanita, Ruth. “‘Proper’ Men and ‘Fallen’ Women: The Unprotectedness of Wives in Othello.” Studies in English Literature 34.2 (1994): 341–56. Varchi, Benedetto. The Blazon of Jealousie: A subject not written of by any heretofore . . . translated into English, with speciall notes upon upon the same, by R.T. Gentleman. London, 1615. Early English Books Online. Web. 2 June 2009. Vaughan, Virginia Mason. Othello: A Contextual History. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

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