"Kolin's article is a masterful survey and in itself makes the book worthwhile. He is especially comprehensive and even-handed with the most recent era. Anyone undertaking the study of this play should begin here."William Procter Williams, Shakespeare Bulletin
"...unlike many collections of Shakespeare criticism, this volume does not include well-worn essays, but rather new, thought-provoking selections that extend the critical discourse; open up the play's connection to such diverse concepts as feminism, Marxism, new historicism, and semiotics; consider the play's relevance to broad cultural issues; and examine challenging new stagings. . .This title will be the go-to book on the play for scholars and theater practitioners, offering value for both students at the beginning of their Shakespeare study and scholars at an advanced level of study."Choice
"Professor Kolin has given us more than yet another addition to Shakespeareana. This volume of essays is stimulating and sound both in its scholarly conclusinos as well as in its noteworthy considerations of both the critical and the theatrical. These complementary assessments increase its value as a resource to both critics and producers of Shakespeare."Sidney Berger, University of Houston/Houston Shakespeare Festival, Journal of Drama Theory and Criticism
"Put together these essays are complementary rather than competing, the sign of an editor with a wide vision and critical horizon."Rodney Stenning Edgecombe, University of Cape Town, The Shakespeare Newsletter
"In this exceptional collection of essays on Othello, twenty authors range across a vast landscape of critical practice, regularly startling us with insights about this play and performances of it. Where else can one read in side-by-side essays a lucid account of the textual intricacies of the quarto and folio editions of the play and then a compelling study of stage violence, citing actual productions? Roderigo, a dangerous guide for the audience; Iago, a master actor in a metatheatrical allegory; and Desdemona, caught in conflicting matrimonial models, all emerge in astute new critical understanding. Philip Kolin deserves our thanks for initiating and producing this volume that will compel every serious student of Shakespeare to think anew about the joys and terror of this spare and frightening tragedy."David M. Bergeron, University of Kansas
"This is a well-organized, comprehensive, and often innovative account of issues in current Othello criticism. The volume includes a refreshing array of critical and ideological perspectives in essays which are uniformly scholarly and thorough in their treatment of the subject matter. The collection makes clear that while Othello may well be a play for all times, it is especially a play for our times when questions of racial and religious difference and the relation between the private individual and the state beset us with renewed and ever-more urgent intensity."Dympna Callaghan, Syracuse University
"In this fascinating collection, some of today's liveliest and most distinguished Shakespeareans engage with Othello from across a broad spectrum of historical and theoretical perspectives. Along with Kolin's substantial introductory survey of the play's critical and performance history, this book is bound to reinforce Othello's extraordinary current appeal, not just to scholars and students of Shakespeare but to non-academic readers, theatrical audiences and moviegoers as well."Edward Pechter, Concordia
Shakespeare Quarterly 54.3 (2003) 340-342
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Othello: New Critical Essays. Edited by Philip C. Kolin. New York and London: Routledge, 2002. Pp. xii + 458. Illus. $110.00 cloth.
In his general editor's introduction to Routledge's Shakespeare Criticism series, Philip C. Kolin asserts that each volume in the series "strives to give readers a balanced, representative collection of the most engaging and thoroughly researched criticism on the given Shakespearean text" (xii). The volume he has edited on Othello offers some useful insights, especially in regard to performance, but it nevertheless fails to meet this exacting standard.
Let me begin with the most mundane. Kolin's anthology is marred by sloppy copyediting and inattention to detail, including numerous typographical errors—"suprising" for "surprising" (14), for example, and "realty" for "reality" (48)—and the omission of a word on page 39 that conflates Paul Robeson Jr. with his father and thus makes two sentences totally incoherent. Consistent misspelling of Barbara Hodgdon's name as Hodgson is bad enough, but Kolin also attributes one of her most important essays, "Kiss Me Deadly; or, The Des/Demonized Spectacle," to me (86). Kolin's responsibility for these errors aside, Routledge should have realized that an expensive volume intended for libraries should set a better example for our students. [End Page 340]
A few of the essays collected here are indeed engaging and thoroughly researched, including Kolin's own introduction. Although his useful overview of Othello in criticism and performance cannot possibly be comprehensive, and the discussion of critical views is sometimes perfunctory, Kolin's analysis of Othello's performance history on stage, film, and television is masterful. His attention to the telling details of particular productions, gleaned from experience as well as wide reading of reviews and other accounts, is as remarkable as his scope, which includes accounts of Japanese Kabuki and Noh Othellos.
In addition to Kolin's introductory essay, the anthology includes twenty essays, some by scholars already recognized for their work in this area, some by newcomers. Like the introduction, the essays are most interesting when they take a fresh look at performance. Hugh Macrae Richmond on Iago's special relationship to the audience, Sujata Iyengar on the racial dynamics of blackface performance, and John R. Ford on Roderigo as the key to space and place all provide new insights into Othello as a performance text. Francis X. Kuhn's discussion of ways of staging the text's violent episodes—drunken brawl, collaring, and murder—originates from theatrical practice, as does Kolin's interview with Kent Thompson, artistic director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Scott McMillin provides a careful analysis of the copytexts for the Quarto and Folio texts, which he believes to have originated from performance scripts. Together, these essays help us to reconsider Othello as a play to be realized in the theater.
Essays that purport to be on the "cutting edge," such as Bryan Reynolds and Joseph Fitzpatrick's analysis of "transversal power," are not as effective as more traditional essays. For example, David Bevington's view of Othello as the portrait of a marriage, James Schiffer's exploration of the Sonnets as a context for Shakespeare's tragedy, and Jay L. Halio's consideration of Shakespeare's recrafting of Cinthio's original story combine old-fashioned close reading and good sense that continue to yield fresh insights.
Interdisciplinary approaches sometimes work well, too. Peter Erickson's discussion of black-and-white images in Renaissance painting as a frame for Othello's color-coded language beautifully demonstrates the imbrication of sexual and racial meanings in this period. John Gronbeck-Tedesco explores distinctions between morality and ethics, and how that distinction affects Iago's placement within the play. But Mary F. Lux, who looks at the text from the biologist's viewpoint, seems off the radar screen when she claims that Desdemona's pallor indicates anemia and that Othello's fit suggests malaria.
Several essays successfully rehistoricize Othello. Thomas Moisan sees the workings of state power in the Duke's presence in Act 1, more so in his absence in Act...