Othello Context Essay

In this sense, stories compensate for an unknown or unnatural deviance that begs for an explanation.

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a deviance marked as abnormal or improper in a social context" (20).

In this way, Mitchell and Snyder suggest that the schematic of a prosthetic narrative structure is frequently four-part: "1. narrative calls for the origin of deviance and formative consequences; 3. there is rehabilitation or an effort to fix the deviance in some manner, shape, or form" (22).

One way we might engage this concept of prosthetic narrative in terms of otherness within a Shakespearean framework is to turn to stems most generally in a visual sense from the way in which a majority Venetian culture handles its invited "others." Indeed, the play's representation of the Moorish Othello at the center of either a frustrated conventional marriage-plot or a successful conventional battle-plot, and the simultaneous overt racism and war heroics that ensue, suggests as much.

What is not so apparent is the way we might treat such concepts as, in any sense, While Othello and Desdemona's marriage frustrates Roderigo and Brabantio at the play's outset as one of deviance, and while Cassio and Desdemona's supposed relationship subsequently frustrates Othello as one of deviance, Iago complicates these views of deviance over the course of the play.

There are two ways narratives grapple with such devices: since "Disability cannot be accommodated in the ranks of the norm(als), …

there are two options for dealing with the difference that drives the story's plot: a disability is either left behind or punished for its lack of conformity" (23).

This formulation has come to be known as the "cure or kill" phenomenon of difference as it engages such narratives.

While any number of early modern narratives present themselves as fruitful for such analysis, we face two immediate problems in doing so: the first is Lennard Davis's suggestion, among others, that disability fails to constitute a discrete identity category until the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries3 ; and the second, closely related, is the truism that the early modern English humoral theory of psycho-physiology implicitly presents a version of normalcy — that of a static, humoral equipoise — which is essentially and practically unattainable.

Drawing upon classical, medieval, and early modern views that correlate a medical relationship between wine and the black bile of humoral melancholy, the essay engages Shakespeare's numerous representations of drunkenness, especially Hamlet's formulation (in the context of his uncle, Claudius) of the disease-model of drunkenness we today term alcoholism.

The most valuable contribution Disability Studies has yet made in the field of narratology has been David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder's concept of the prosthetic narrative.


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