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Feldman, A.B. (1952). Othello's Obsessions. Am. Imago, 9(2):147-164.

(1952). American Imago, 9(2):147-164

Othello's Obsessions

Abraham Bronson Feldman, Ph.D.

FOR three centuries Shakespeare's tragedy of the Moor of Venice has served as a lesson in jealousy. Mainly upheld as a warning to passionate husbands, the play's portrayal of the effects of jealousy received infinitely more attention than its picture of the causes. Except by the poet and metaphysician Samuel Coleridge and his disciples, the motives of the cruel husband were examined with the abrupt empirics of the law office, according to the letter of the text. Coleridge denied that jealousy afflicted Othello; to him the guilt of the Moor consisted of a kind of idolatry, a private religion of wife-worship. This conception attracted few thinkers on the drama. Outside the thin Coleridge current the tragedy is everywhere taken as a study in jealousy. As such I propose to examine it, with a view to testing the theories of Freudian science on this disease of marriage. Psychoanalysis will hardly find in literature a richer field for its verification than the drama which William Wordsworth called one of the “most pathetic of human compositions,” and which Thomas Macaulay hailed as “perhaps the greatest work in the world.”

At first glance Othello appears to be a man self-possessed, in whose mind reason—the ego—governs desire or the id. We see him calmly greeting the summons from the rulers of Venice, who call him on the midnight of his marriage to a council of war.

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