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  • Print publication year: 1953
  • Online publication date: March 2007

Othello’s “It is the cause . . .”: An Analysis


It is always dangerous to treat a great Shakespearian speech as an isolated piece of verse, since the greatest speech will be the most deeply rooted in the total context of the play. On the other hand, there are some speeches which are, as it were, focal, gathering up the main themes and concentrating the “extended metaphor” of the whole play. Detailed analysis of such passages, far from constituting a risky ‘academic exercise’, is in fact imperative. And it goes without saying that the speech which I have chosen (Othello’s “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul”), seems to me eminently suitable for such an analysis; for without analysis at this point there is the danger of a simple, emotional surrender, and, consequently, of a fatal misinterpretation.

I have undertaken this study as an actor, but it would be false to imagine that I am deliberately aiming to represent the 'actor's point of view', or to suggest a method of 'characterization', or to offer any opposed alternative to the academic approach. Instead, I hope to indicate not an opposition, but a fundamental uniformity. Shakespearian actor and Shakespearian critic meet in the study of the words, but the actor's 'characterization' and the critic's analysis are alike valueless, unless they are related to the play in its wholeness. There are two approaches, but there is only one end.