Othello Context Essay

Othello Context Essay-32
as an example of early modern narrative prosthesis.

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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).

Cassio's drunkenness, after all, registers uniquely in that it is repeatedly identified as an alcoholic "infirmity" — the term is used three times in 2.3 alone: at 41, 127, and 140 — one that leads him to plead with Iago that "I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking.

I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment" (2.3.33-36).

True to form, Thomas Wright propounds, pithily enough, that ", the manners of the soule follow the temperature of the body."6 Within this context of the role caloric economies play in somatic health, adustion, the sudden scorching of the humors due to a range of possible causes either inwardly or externally derived, facilitates an implicitly volatile aspect to early modern humoral theory that is captured in humoral theorists' qualitative division of the humors by the terms "natural" and "unnatural." According to early modern humoral theory, each humor in its natural state tends inherently toward a specific temperature — sanguinity and choler toward the hot, phlegm and melancholy toward the cool.7 If an individual's ideal temperature becomes altered in any way, shifting the humors out of their ostensible balance, then the individual's health and emotional bearing are understood to transform in a similar fashion.

In particular, if a humor which, in its natural state, tends toward the cool (phlegm or melancholy), turns suddenly adust — producing an unnatural humor — then a terrific altering in the health and character of the affected individual results.As Brabantio and Roderigo's sense of Othello and Desdemona's deviancy is rooted in emotional spurs respectively involving explicitly racist and Petrarchan traditions, that is, Cassio and Othello's precipitancy to emotional extremes differs from theirs in that it involves a material, corporeal groundwork that Iago's rhetoric exploits.Indeed, Iago's manipulation of Cassio's precipitancy to drunkenness and Othello's to jealous rage hinges upon humorological emotional reactions that he effects within them as what we might consider an environmental contaminant.Although the manner by which alcohol affects early modern selves involves contemporary medical views that are unsurprisingly different than science and addiction specialists perceive the phenomenon today, the social effects of such drunkenness prove in many ways to be quite similar, as we shall see.The principal caution these early modern treatises present with regard to alcohol and its effects centers upon its propensity to emotional rousing through sudden caloric escalations.In this sense, stories compensate for an unknown or unnatural deviance that begs for an explanation.( 20)2 The prosthetic narrative thus involves the situatedness of the social world that fictions provide: "a narrative prosthesis evolves out of this specific recognition: a narrative issues to resolve or correct …Such contamination manifests in each case as what early modern medical theorists refer to as the sudden caloric escalations that shift the humors from formally "natural" to "unnatural" states.4 This essay will explore the way in which this proper medical concept of "unnaturalness" registers in an early modern disability framework, and specifically how Iago's insinuation at the somatic level utilizes the porousness of early modern concepts of the self to dominate Cassio and Othello by relying upon the age-old link between wine and heroic forms of humoral melancholy.Drawing on the humoralism through which the early modern medical field operates, I address questions involved with identifying the early modern distinction between what is "normal" and what is "disabled" — what is "natural" and what is "unnatural" — in terms of the prostheses that develop in the relationship between aspects of literary character and specific narrative forms.5 that is at issue in this essay.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.


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