Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yes, I Smothered Myself With A Pillow. Why?


If you came here from Google looking for the actual Shakespeare Pillow, sorry for the confusion. You'll want to go here for the nice version with the love quotes, or here for the "naughty" version. Enjoy!


Am I the only one that sees a bit of a plot hole in the final scene of Othello?  Othello strangles Desdemona in her bed.  It’s very important for him not to leave any marks.  It’s often done by smothering her with a pillow.
But, when Emilia (why didn’t somebody tell me I was spelling her name wrong?) comes in and finds her still alive, Desdemona replies “Nobody,” has done this,  “I myself.” 
Does Emilia not then ponder, at least for a moment, “How did you smother yourself with a pillow?”
How else is the death scene handled? I’d like to talk about the Boston production I just saw, because I think there was one good thing and one bad one, but I don’t want to put in any spoilers yet.
Or is this part of it?  That Emilia never believes it, she knows exactly what happened?  I suppose that’s the most logical assumption, but if that were the case you’d think Emilia’s reaction would be more immediate, and they wouldn’t go through that whole “I have to report the truth as she told it to me” nonsense if she knows different.  Unless Emilia’s afraid of Othello as well.  But I never think of her as physically afraid of the men around her. 

4 comments:

Haley said...

What's weirder is she dies TWICE it looks.

He smothers her, she just LIES there, and then Emilia comes in, Des calls out "falsely murdered!" and then said, "Oh wait, did it myself." and then finally dies.

Stage conventions say somehow Emilia has to find her body and the audience has to REALLY know in the text she's dead.

My students duke this out: "Falsely murdered" could still be considered suicide, since it is a mortal sin. She claims suicide because it is her last act of love, affirming to the audience just how GOOD she is. The man strangled her and she professes her love with her dying breath.

David Blixt said...

Last time I directed Othello, he smothered her, it didn't take - he has the "What, still alive?" moment. So I had him cross to the bed and loveingly break her neck. She's still alive when Aemelia comes running in.

By the way, this exchange is one of my favorites in all of Shakespeare. He makes sure she's prayed so her soul will go to Heaven. But when she says she killed herself she tells a lie, commiting a sin. Thus she damns herself to Hell to protect the man who just murdered her. Heart-breaking.

David Blixt said...

Last time I directed Othello, he smothered her, it didn't take - he has the "What, still alive?" moment. So I had him cross to the bed and loveingly break her neck. She's still alive when Aemelia comes running in.

By the way, this exchange is one of my favorites in all of Shakespeare. He makes sure she's prayed so her soul will go to Heaven. But when she says she killed herself she tells a lie, commiting a sin. Thus she damns herself to Hell to protect the man who just murdered her. Heart-breaking.

Duane said...

Now that the Boston production is over it's not a spoiler to say that in this one he drowns her. There's a pool of some sort in the room (never quite made clear why it's there, other than specifically for this purpose). But he tries to smother her, she escapes the bed, then he chases her and tackles her in the water, where he holds her down. Got a little serial killer for a moment. But then he drags her back next to the bed and covers her in the sheets. That's where I think the thought didn't quite go through it -- Emilia walks in, and Desdemona supposedly drowned herself, then crawled back to the bed and wrapped herself in the sheets?

I never realized the full scope of Desdemona's confession, David. Heavy. Unfortunately I think that also shows how difficult it is to properly pull off the scene. Done wrong and she just looks stupid and naive - he doesn't deserve what she does for him. Desdemona doesn't get as much screen time as Othello and Iago, so she's really got to make the best of what she gets.