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Shakespeare, 'Othello' and Domestic Tragedy

Sean Benson

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555465

ISBN: 9781441194701

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Often set in domestic environments and built around protagonists of more modest status than traditional tragic subjects, 'domestic tragedy' was a genre that flourished on the Renaissance stage from 1580-1620. Shakespeare, 'Othello', and Domestic Tragedy is the first book to examine Shakespeare's relationship to the genre by way of the King's and Chamberlain's Men's ownership and production of many of the domestic tragedies, and of the genre's extensive influence on Shakespeare's own tragedy, Othello.

Drawing in part upon recent scholarship that identifies Shakespeare as a co-author of Arden of Faversham, Sean Benson demonstrates the extensive-even uncanny-ties between Othello and the domestic tragedies. Benson argues that just as Hamlet employs and adapts the conventions of revenge tragedy, so Othello can only be fully understood in terms of its exploitation of the tropes and conventions of domestic tragedy. This book explores not only the contexts and workings of this popular sub-genre of Renaissance drama but also Othello's secure place within it as the quintessential example of the form.

"Sean Benson's Shakespeare, Othello and Domestic Tragedy is a sensitive rereading of a curiously neglected topic in Shakespeare studies.Benson's lucid and convincing investigation makes a series of important arguments about contemporary domestic tragedies and their relation to Othello.In the process, the author sheds fresh light on Othello itself and on the question of textual and generic influence in general."

"Sean Benson's exploration of Othello is the first full-length study of the play in the context of domestic tragedy. It presents an invigorating challenge to established readings, showing how Othello focuses on issues present in other domestic tragedies of the period ... All in all, a critical work which makes you think again about things you took for granted."

Benson rightly argues against a conception of a genre as a "static norm" (p. 28) in favor of a view that leaves room for experimentation and change over time. Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

The book argues convincingly for 'Shakespeare's conscious engagement with domestic tragedy', and this work will be of interest to those considering [that theme] The Year's Work in English Studies