The Improbability of OthelloRhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood

The Improbability of OthelloRhetorical Anthropology and Shakespearean Selfhood

Joel B. Altman

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226016108

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Shakespeare's dramatis personae exist in a world of supposition, struggling to connect knowledge that cannot be had, judgments that must be made, and actions that need to be taken. For them, probability—what they and others might be persuaded to believe—governs human affairs, not certainty. Yet negotiating the space of probability is fraught with difficulty. This book explores the problematics of probability and the psychology of persuasion in Renaissance rhetoric and Shakespeare's theater. Focusing on the Tragedy of Othello, it investigates Shakespeare's representation of the self as a specific realization of tensions pervading the rhetorical culture in which he was educated and practiced his craft. In this account, Shakespeare also restrains and energizes his audiences' probabilizing capacities, alternately playing the sceptical critic and dramaturgic trickster.

Table of Contents

Part I Toward a Rhetorical Genealogy of Othello

Part II The Logic of Renaissance Rhetoric

Part III Willful Words, Christian Anxieties, and Shakespearean Dramaturgy

Part IV Tropings of the Self in Shakespeare's Scripts

Part V Performing the Improbable Other on Shakespeare's Stage

End Matter