Summer 1985 • Vol. VII No. 3 1985 Ohio Shakespeare ConferenceJuly 1, 1985 |

Rereading “Othello”, II, 1

Despite Heminges's and Condell's good advice at the beginning of the First Folio—"Reade him therefore; and againe, and againe: and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him"1—almost everyone still hates the interchange between Desdemona and lago in Othello II, 1,96-181.2 M. R. Ridley, the Arden editor, said that Thomas Rymer "hit the nail on the head" in this seventeenth-century tirade: "Now follows a long rabble of Jack-pudding farce betwixt Jago and Desdemona, that runs on with all the little plays, jingle, and trash below the patience of any Country Kitchenmaid with her Sweetheart."3 Ridley calls the scene "cheap backchat , . . one of the most unsatisfactory passages in Shakespeare," and infers from it that Desdemona probably spent some time flirting with lago on the ship from Venice; his view is representative.4 The least offended commentators excuse it as "an illustration of the familiar game of wit-combat as practised in Sha

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