Chapter

“Against My Estimation”: Ciceronian Decorum, Stoic Constancy, and the Production of Ethos

Joel B. Altman

in The Improbability of Othello

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226016108
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226016122 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226016122.003.0003
“Against My Estimation”: Ciceronian Decorum, Stoic Constancy, and the Production of Ethos

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This chapter pursues the historical development of ethos and tracks the interlocking destinies of Iago and Othello to the site where Shakespeare is most likely to have encountered them in their most complex form—the writings of Cicero, which combined elements of Peripatetic, Stoic, and Academic philosophy, and were part of the sixteenth-century English grammar school curriculum. More particularly, it suggests that Shakespeare was also influenced by the neostoic writings of his contemporaries. By following this itinerary, a new insight is developed into why Iago could seem “a man that's just”—and why “Othello's occupation's gone” when he answers “yes” to his own rhetorical question, “false to me?”

Keywords: ethos; Iago; Othello; Cicero; Shakespeare; Stoic constancy; English grammar; neostoic writings

Chapter.  13768 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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