Not that I normally turn to the characters of a novel for insights into the characters of Shakespeare's plays, but . . .
Seeing as Sir Salmon (whoops - Sir loin all over again - make that Salman) has just been 'Sired', I dug out of the local British library a copy of 'Fury' - one of the more recent novels of a novelist I enjoyed reading when I lived in countries you could get hold of his books.
There, in the very first chapter, you have a 'doctoral thesis' on the importance of the inexplicable in Shakespeare - and as one character strokes the others finely wrought breast . . .
“. . . at the heart of each of the great tragedies were unanswerable questions about love . . .”
“Why did Hamlet, loving his father . . . delay his revenge while, loved by Ophelia, he destroyed her instead?”
'”and why was Macbeth, a man's man (sic) who loved his king and country, so easily led by the erotic but loveless Lady M. . . .?”
And now the really interesting one!
Othello lacked 'emotional intelligence'. “Othello's incredible stupidity about love, the moronic scale of the jealousy which leads him to murder” was because “Othello doesn't love Desdemona” - the books italics.
‘What?’ a thousand love-lorn loons honk!
But be patient – one thing experience has taught me is that quality writers putting such odd statements into the mouths of their characters usually have something hidden up their sleeves. Rushdie is no exception – he goes on:
He says he loves her “. . . but it can’t be true. Because if he loved her, the murder makes no sense. For me, Desdemona is Othello’s trophy wife, his most valuable and status-giving possession, the physical proof of his rise in a white man’s world.”
So, Othello is just a ‘Material Man’! Makes some sort of sense to me – especially at this end of the capitalist revolution, dot booms and bubbles all over the place (not to mention gold wearing Russian oligarchs, and the less wealthy, but no less ostentatious Romanian BMW-ers).
The ‘Black-eyed Peas’ song and video – ‘My Lumps’ - pops up at this point too. Although I never trust that lot to not be doing a deconstruction on the world – far too intelligent for their own good.
Rushdie’s character hasn’t finished there though:
Othello, as a Moor, is of the Islamic moral universe – “whose polarities are honour and shame. Desdemona’s death is an ‘honour killing’. She didn’t have to be guilty. The accusation was enough. The attack on her virtue was incompatible with Othello’s honour.”
And a nagging suspicion that this is a ‘true reading’ for the contemporary world creeps in – gone are the Romantics at last – get real.
And houses of cards come crashing down.
Could Rushdie have opened up a new, rich vein worth pursuing – an Islamic Othello? Forget all the Christian focused culture clash papers – turn it on its head – Othello is a modern Muslim.
Honour killings are not just taking place in the streets of
I’ll leave you with some more thoughts on Shakespeare, our contemporary’s, character – thoughts I find deeply disturbing but so potent, reflective of much of the so-called love relationships of the modern world:
“She’s not even a person to him. He has reified her. She’s his Oscar-Barbie statuette. His doll.”
All quotes from Salman Rushdie, Fury, chap 1, Vintage 2002.