Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

On Othello 5: the Character and Death of Othello.

Othello clearly has issues.

It's not just critical thinking skills Othello lacks; some sausages are missing from Othello's barbeque. And he dies strangely content with the memory of a cruel act of justice he once dealt to a Turk, a non-Christian like he once was. Does Othello recognize his karma coming back as a tragedy from that act of rough "justice"? I think so.

Where Desdemona's death is the shock of the play, Othello's is a relief. I burst into tears reading Desdemona's last lines; how could I have read this play four or five times as a teenager and NOT wept, I wonder? Nothing could underline the difference in kind and degree between the teenager and the adult than the fact that only the adult who is experienced in the extremities of suffering can be adequate to comprehend the astonishing moral victory of Desdemona's last words. Desdemona reveals herself a warrior; by forgiving, she defeats Othello.

Coming back to Othello: Othello seems to recognise that his brutal nature is the true man at the end, but does that mean that the noble and sophisticated Othello of act 1 to 3 is fake? This is clearly false, but not an easy charge to avoid.

Othello of act 1 to 3 IS the real deal, but so is the completely different Othello of act 5. The intervening tormented Othello (act 4) is merely the alembic of Iago's alchemical psychiatry, not a man but a patient, a case study. What are we to make of these two different Othello's? And what are we to make of the transformations of youth and adulthood, whereby the same individual can become as different in himself as night from day?

The key lies in Iago's silence.

Is Iago the first psychiatrist? Undoubtedly.

I can't feel anything other than genuine satisfaction in Iago's total silence. Iago is complete, having returned to that avenging Element from which he arose; we feel the human aspect of the man was merely for show, and that in his silence the real man at last is revealed. We feel relieved, not of his speech, but to know him as he really is; Iago is not a human agent, and by his silence shows this is so.

Iago's silence illuminates the character of Othello as a product of primordial darkness and ignorance. Recognising the aboriginal depth of Othello in ourselves, we are humbled. How can we be sure we are just and wise? We can't, unless we become intimate with that darkness which we foolishly disown as evil in ourselves. Othello signifies that intimacy with our blackness, and the terrible cost of becoming estranged from our soul.

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