WILLIAM EMPSON QUESTIONS
Assigned: William Empson. "'Honest' in Othello" (35-49 McDonald).
"'Honest' in Othello"
1. Recall our initial distribution of critical emphases into the P-O-E-M scheme: Pragmatic (audience-oriented), Objective (text-oriented), Expressive (author-oriented), and Mimetic (world-oriented). Into which camp or combination of emphases does the current critic's work best fit, and what in the critical text makes you describe it that way? Does it fit easily, or is there something about the critic's work that doesn't make it easy to categorize? Explain.
2. What are the present critic's main claims (in order of significance) with regard to the Shakespeare play/s under study? What methodological assumptions does the critic explicitly or implicitly assert?
3. How well does the present critical essay characterize and respond to the Shakespeare play/s it addresses? What are its strengths and limitations? Is the goal mainly explication (i.e. detailed analysis of the play), or are the author's concerns more metacritical (concerned with its own or others' theoretical assumptions) or general than that? If so, what is your assessment of those metacritical concerns and how do you relate them to the play under discussion?
4. If we are reading more than one critic on the same play (as we generally will be doing) compare and contrast the approach of one critic with the approach taken by another. Which do you prefer, and why?
5. Compare and contrast your own interpretation of the Shakespeare play in question with the interpretation offered by the critic: if you find the piece lacking in some regard, explain why you find it misguided, partial, unconvincing, etc. How would your own reading and emphasis better enhance our understanding of the Shakespeare play? If you are in agreement with the critic's interpretation, what is particularly strong about it? (If you are presenting, follow up on this last point by offering at least a brief analysis of a section of the play that the author doesn't address but that responds well to his or her approach.)
Edition: McDonald, Russ, ed. Shakespeare: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory 1945-2000. Malden, MA/Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0631234883.