Chapter

Emptying the Human: <i>Othello</i>

Andy Mousley

in Re-Humanising Shakespeare

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652211 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623181.003.0003
Emptying the Human: Othello

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This chapter investigates the unacceptable version of scepticism that is represented by nihilist and instrumentalist Iago in Othello, first taking up the play's implied questioning of nature and human nature, and then exploring Iago's distortions of critical consciousness. It argues that, for Iago, questioning human nature is reduced to emptying it. Questions about the use of the concept of humanity as an ethical norm are implied by the play because of its positive treatment of the black Othello and the female Desdemona. They both demonstrate faith in a faithless world. Othello suggests a need not only to be sceptical of self/other, human/inhuman taxonomies, but also to be sceptical of a scepticism that homogenises all foundationalist appeals to the human.

Keywords: scepticism; Othello; Iago; human nature; humanity; Desdemona

Chapter.  6342 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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