Silence, Speech and Gender in Shakespeare’s Othello: A Presentist, Palestinian Perspective

Bilal M.T. Hamamra


This paper follows the critical lines of feminism and psychoanalysis to argue that Othello is a conflict between female characters' moral voices and male figures' treacherous voices. Drawing on the concepts of Jungian and Freudian psychoanalysis, I argue that the association of female speech and silence with sexuality is a projection of misogynist and racist discourses. I read Iago's projection of his evil onto Othello as a verbal intercourse of homosexuality.  The cause of tragedy emanates from the fact that Othello weds his shadow, Iago and ignores his anima, Desdemona. While the verbal marriage between Othello and Iago results in Othello's accusation of Desdemona of being a whore, I argue that Desdemona escapes this category because a boy actor impersonates her physically and vocally. I argue that Othello stages for audiences in contemporary Palestine male figures’ deafness to feminist views. While Othello’s marriage to Desdemona symbolizes his integration into Venetian society, his murder of Desdemona signals the loss of his heroic identity and the dissolution of his link to Venice. In contrast, killing the supposedly aggressive female figures in Palestine marks the public respect of the killer. Furthermore, I use the romance of Antar (525-608) as a Palestinian literary intertext to scrutinize the significance of female figures in constructing male figures’ heroic identity and the racial discourse that the Romance of Antar and Othello embodies.

Key words: Racism, Misogyny, Projection, Honour Killing, Gender Difference, Boy Actor

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