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The Issue of Time in Othello

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Essay title: The Issue of Time in Othello

Since the middle of the 19th century, many critics have analysed the double time scheme in Othello. This time scheme involves proceedings happening in both short and long time.

There is no doubt that there are discrepancies in the way time is presented within the play.

Shakespeare uses short time to heighten the intensity of the drama and to give us an impression of the reckless nature of the tragedy. Short time is basically just the action of the play taken literally.

To add plausibility to his play Shakespeare uses a longer time to establish and reinforce the idea that a sufficient period, of time has elapsed during which the supposed affair between Desdemona and Cassio could have taken place and for Iago to plant Othello with his deceptive lies so Othello’s jealousy evolves creating the tragedy itself.

That is… It appears that the dissolution of Othello’s mind and marriage occurs at a rapid velocity. In addition, Iago himself realises that he must move promptly if his plots are to remain veiled, but at the same time there are references suggesting that time is moving slower than the action suggests. Let us look at long time a little closer we will come back to short time shortly… Can anyone think of some examples of where the time mentioned does not match the action in Othello, examples time contradicting itself? of long time?...

Here are a few overt examples:

In act 3 scene 3 Iago describes Cassio’s lustful dream which we are told occurred lately when the ensign shared the lieutenants bed.

In act 3 scene 4 Bianca complains that Cassio has stayed away from her a week and in act 5 scene 2 Othello himself says he believes Desdemona has actually committed adultery with Cassio ‘a thousand times’

To me it also seems exceedingly unlikely that Lodovico would be sent from Venice to install Cassio as governor, within just a week of Othello’s arrival in Cyprus.

Shakespeare’s intended purpose for long time in Othello was to make Othello’s jealousy conceivable to the captive audience.

It is also necessary for Shakespeare to illustrate the poisoning of Othello’s mind, occurring swiftly without a substantial interval in time; as it would be un-dramatic if Iago were to loosen his grip on his prey once the Othello was already in his callous clutch. This brings us to the question of short time…

The first act takes place in just one night, and then after travelling we see the characters arrive in Cyprus, time seems to move very swiftly heightening the intensity of the drama and increasing the sense of what some critics like to call the claustrophobia.

The characters land just before ‘this present hour of five’ the wedding celebrations also take place that very night.

On the same night, Cassio is used for his money, and at dawn the next morning, we see Iago sending Roderigo to bed.

This same day Desdemona meets with Cassio in the morning and then beseeches for him, to Othello, with this Iago sees his chance and moves into the action immediately

It is only between act 3 scene 3 and act 4 scene 1 that there might perhaps be a short interval in time, but after that the action is even more jam packed an there is no break until at the end of act 5 when the curtain falls.

This relentlessness holds us captivated in its passion, so we perhaps do not notice the inconsistencies and discrepancies in the structure of the play, ultimately how time is presented within Othello

In addition to generating urgency and tension, short time makes the plot credible because if Iago’s plot does not work fast, then it will not

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