Othello: Early Modern English as a Different Langauge

May 11, 2010
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Emilia is pacing the floor that lies in between the two staircases that end at the fourth floor. Iago snarls at his imaginary spouse while Othello is digesting what he just did to everything, but I am watching. I have not transformed into Cassio as my peers in the scene have transformed into theirs yet, for he arrives later in the scene. Emilia utters the lines “'Tis proper I obey him, but not now; perchance, Iago, I will never go home!” exasperated and confused, and then something clicks. I run to her and tell her what Emilia is thinking at the moment. The fact that she is openly realizing she is not following the common law by ignoring her husband for he is such a wicked person makes it shown that she is now confident in her accusations to Iago. The fact that she is saying to Iago that she is leaving him is also extreme, for she once was willing to do what her husband had told her. From then on, Kathryn embraced that and made an aside to the audience as she said the lines “Tis proper I obey him, but not now”.

In a book called “The Drifters” by James A. Michener, the main character to runs into all these much younger people learns how to speak conversational French in less then two weeks. He did this by listening to a woman speak only French to him, saying long grand monologues about French things she loved to talked about. He knew some words, but most of the time in the beginning he had no clue what she was saying. Then when she was speaking of French cinema and he recognized a movie “Les Enfants du Paradis”, he then was getting the hang of the language. The sounds and feelings of the French woman’s speeches were falling together and creating a language. After he did that, she told him to memorize a couple of short prepositions and then in two weeks he was ready to speak the language. The same thing happened with or between Shakespeare’s works and me; I finally heard the lines in a fluid and expressive way and then I discovered the meaning of them from its fluency and expression.

That was the beginning of 4th period and my day so far had been boring. I had nearly slept through the period before and I am hungry to eat during the period ahead. I was automatically assuming that that was what I am going to feel throughout the rest of the period and that I would just have to shuffle through to the start of lunch like this. I sat down in front of my friends in the scene so I could watch what they were doing before I entered. I had always been interested in Shakespeare but still had trouble understanding what the lines meant. They sounded cool and poetic, but the meaning seemed somewhat lost in them. We were just starting to memorize a little bit and were now settling into the acting, very different from just speaking from the book of the play. Kathryn was the best one by then, her role was so dynamic in the scene with a burst of realizations and reactions that it was beautiful to watch if you understood it.

It was as my peers were acting so well with the lines that they had spoken, with movements and facial expressions that I clicked, now understanding the lines as she was saying them. The poetry and the fluency of the lines were not hiding the meaning but rather making the meaning stronger. Shakespeare could easily just have written down what the characters were saying directly, but what made him a genius was that he took simple human ideas and phrased them in ways people never imagined before. It was so fun to watch and to be a part of after that now-not like it wasn’t in the beginning-but now it was easier to listen to because I understood what they were saying. And they were saying it very nicely.

When we went to perform, we had some rough patches, but what we achieved in rehearsal was a lot more valuable. We all connected in working with each other and telling each other what our lines meant to us and discovering Shakespeare. There are some things that I still do not understand about or in Shakespeare, as he used words that we do not use anymore, and the change in the amount of syllables in a word, but now I at least am able to hear the expression and direction the playwright wants to get across to the actors performing his work. I am not fluent in Shakespeare, and the man in “Drifters” is not fluent in French, but both of us can appreciate a very poetic speaking of the languages.

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