Audience‐Actor Boundaries and <i>Othello</i>

Laurie Maguire

in Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754203 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Audience‐Actor Boundaries and Othello

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This lecture explores the boundaries between audiences and actors, and what happens when audiences interact with actors and their characters. Its illustrative case is Desdemona's response to Othello. When Desdemona marries Othello she crosses the boundary from audience world to the world of fiction (the world of epic hero, adventure stories, travel narratives). In so doing, she initiates a structure in which things that should be kept separate merge: genre (comedy and tragedy), language (the play has more compound words and paradoxes than any other), characters, plots. The mergings are consistently coded as theatrical: this is a tragedy of theatre boundaries gone wrong. Psychologist Edward Bullough's argument from 1912 about distance in the theatre provides the theoretical framework for this lecture to explore the problems when audiences do not keep stage.

Keywords: Othello; audiences; actors; character; audience‐actor boundaries; theatre

Chapter.  8276 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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