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Othello's Island 2015

at the Severis Foundation • Nicosia • Cyprus


Speaker: Professor Tim Prentki (University of Winchester, UK)

Title: ‘This Bare Island’: Insular Geographies in Shakespeare’s Theatre




The paper will explore the notion of the island in Shakespeare’s plays by focussing upon the meta-theatrical parallel between the bordered, enclosed space of an island and the confines of the stage in a theatre. Islands will be examined for their powers to act as places of enchantment; be that for good or for evil ends. The plays to be considered will principally be Twelfth Night (though not actually an island, Illyria with its sea coast is a place of enchantment, cut off from the rest of the world), Othello and The Tempest.


The analysis of Othello will look particularly at the contrast between the open, trading city of Venice and the closed, island community of Cyprus where, once the storm has seen off the Turkish threat, there is an unrelenting focus upon the intimacies of domestic relations, unencumbered by those considerations of state in which Othello excelled. The island is the instrument for placing him in territory, physically and metaphysically, where he is unsure of himself and lacks precedents for action. Typically, Shakespeare’s theatre is global; roaming over different countries and historical periods to take in the great events of human conflict. The island is the strategic choice which underpins those plays in which he opted to concentrate upon the conflicts at the heart of human relationships.   



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