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Module 1: Marriages, Tragedies and Questioning

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The End of a Tragedy and a Doll's House

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And Emelia comes in to witness this and you can also read that entire scene where the murder takes place in Othello’s and Desdemona’s bedroom and after that when Emelia comes in to witness this scene, she is horrified and she knows that the very proof that was provided, the handkerchief which was found in possession of Cassio, only she knows that she was the one who stole it and gave it to Iago and she begins to sort of understand what went wrong and Othello is saying, no, his mouth is stopped it’s Cassio. Because orders were already given to deal with Cassio but instead Rodrigo gets killed and Cassio is left alive. Honest Iago had taken an order for it. Look at how even after committing this horrifying murder, we do not find Othello having any remorse either. He continues to look at, he continues to consider Iago as an honest friend. My friend, thy husband, honest Iago. And this is extremely important to know that it is not just Iago’s villainy but there is a certain vulnerability in Othello’s own personality as well, his inability to see through things, even the basic common sense that someone like Emelia would have is absent in Othello’s demeanour and his wise ways and the wealth of experience that he has in comparison with Emelia, it has come to no good, one could say. (Refer Slide Time 15:29) But Emelia is questioning Iago about this. The way he answers is very interesting. I told him what I thought and told no more. Than what he found himself was apt and true. It is very typical of the villainous nature of Iago. He is not taking accountability for it nor do we expect him to. He is saying, I just told him what I thought, nothing else. Now he is not talking about the proof, he is not talking about how he had verified things, he is not talking about the multiple ways in which he tried to incinerate and instigate Othello and he is saying, I told him what I thought and nothing more and then it was entirely up to Othello. At some level, we find this is true as well. Othello fails to exercise his choice. He fails to exercise his rationality and in a way when we look back, when we go back and try to read those sections where Iago is trying to be manipulative, whether Iago is trying to feed his emotions of jealousy. You will find that Iago sometimes does not even have to say anything. The rest of it is there in Othello’s own mind. Mainly, his nature was already ready to believe these lies and to respond to such kind of unfounded gossip and lies. And unless this was already there, unless this flaw was already there, it would not have been this easy for Iago to work it out. (Refer Slide Time 17:10) And Emelia then talks to Othello. O thou dull Moor! This is out of desperation that she begins to abuse him. And when Emilia, someone like Emelia herself can see through the villainy and the cunningness of Iago but Othello who claims to know people, who claim to know war strategies, who claims to know how the nations are run, he fails to see through that completely. O thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speaks’ st of I found by fortune and did give my husband. For often with a solemn earnestness more than indeed belonged to such a trifle. He begged of me to steal it. We find Emilia emerging here as a woman of character. She does not choose to ignore the situation. Even though it meant her own fault, she is ready to do this and she is saying, she is trying to tell Othello, trying to tell this dull Moor that the handkerchief, the proof that he speaks of was actually handed over to Iago by Emelia herself and that Iago had begged her to steal it for him. (Refer Slide Time 18:29) It is only at this moment that this entire picture gets clear for Othello but it is too late as we know and Othello tells Iago, are there no stones in heaven But what serve for the thunder? Precious villain. I looked down towards his feet but that is a fable. If that thou is’ st a devil, I cannot kill thee. I would have thee live for in my sense it is happiness to die. O hello was heartbroken and there is no way in which he can undo what he has already done. He is wishing that stones will come and fall on him from heaven and he is now addressing Iago as a precious villain. It took him so long to realise that Iago was not what he is. Iago is not an honest friend that he claimed to be. And this imagery is interesting. I look down towards his feet but that is a fable. what serves for the thunder? Precious villain. I looked down towards his feet but that is a fable. If that thou is’ st a devil, I cannot kill thee. Here Othello is also implying that Iago is a devil and it is impossible to kill the devil but then he also says that Iago should live because after having done such things, such horrible things, the best thing left, it is happiness to die. (Refer Slide Time 19:50) And Othello is now asking Lodovico who initially had also noticed that the Moor’s nature entirely changed and this is not the all-sufficient and the efficient general that they all had witnessed in Venice. So Othello tells Lodovico, an honourable murderer if you will for nought I did in hate but all in honour. And this is his way of perhaps bailing him out of this entire situation. Not that Othello wishes to be forgiven but in his own mind, perhaps it is harder for him to continue to live if he sees him as a murderer, a vengeful, a spiteful murderer. It just perhaps gets easier to deal with all of that if he just sees this as a murder done in defence of his honour, in defence of her honour and not out of hatred. (Refer Slide Time 20:51) And Iago then refuses to say anything. We find him unbelievably calm. He remains consistent throughout as from the beginning. He says, demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak a word. Nothing comes out of him. He is not defensive. He does not try to offer any explanation. He is not remorseful and this is what makes Iago an extraordinary kind of a villain. Here we cannot help but think about the wonderful Mastercraft craftsmanship that Shakespeare had in creating such a character. (Refer Slide Time 21:33) And Othello continues to be enraged but now we also know that it is too late and there is nothing that can be done. For this slave, if there be any cunning cruelty That can torment him much and hold him long it shall be his. You shall close prisoner rest till that the nature of your fault be known To the Venetian state. We do not know whether this is the kind of punishment that would transform Iago or would affect Iago in any way but Othello is wishing the worst kind of punishment for him and he also and slave instantly was a term used in a very derogatory way to refer to prisoners. And here, Iago suddenly transforms from being this honest, respectable friend to a slave, to a cunning dog, to a precious villain. (Refer Slide Time 22:26) Othello then must you speak of one that loved not wisely but too well. This is how he wants his story to be narrated in the Venetian state. This is how Othello wants the rest of the world to look at what he has done with his life, look at how he committed the murder. Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely but too well? Of one not easily jealous but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme. But when we read through the play, we know for sure that he did not love too well and he got easily jealous. Had he loved Desdemona dearly, had he loved her too well, he would have at least bothered to check this charge once with Desdemona rather than believing Iago blindly and completely. There is not even one chance that Othello was willing to give to Desdemona but he gave multiple chances to Iago to prove that Desdemona is indeed not loyal to him. And when we go back to the play and read through those scenes where Iago and Othello are together, we even get this feeling that it seems as if Othello was desperate himself to prove that Desdemona was unfaithful and that is what got him at the end, that is what made the soil very very fertile for Iago as well. I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss. He now wants to kill himself because that is the only way out he feels and he does not want to be treated as a prisoner and he does not want to lose his reputation and then continue to live. But we also begin to wonder whether he is again valuing his own reputation, valuing his own stature more than how he valued Desdemona’s life itself. We can see some interesting parallels here with the other play, Ibsen’s play that we had taken a look at in Doll’s House where the lead character, Nora tells her husband, Torvald that a woman may not place honour above her unselfish love towards her husband but for a man, the honour, the idea of honour, the idea of preserving is an honour, seems to be everything. It is above family, it is above love, it is above everything. These succinct articulations help us to draw parallels across these time periods to see how relationships, how the institutions of marriage have always been seen and how some of these works have tried to present us with a different picture or even tried to encourage us to see through the many gaps and the many cracks which are there in the traditional articulations. (Refer Slide Time 25:23) Everyone around is of course surprised. This is something that they had never expected and Lodovico tells Iago, O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea, look on the tragic loading of this bed. This is thy work. The object poisons sight, let it be hidden. So they are now looking at this tragic sight of Desdemona having been murdered by Othello and Othello having killed himself and he also falls in the same bed where we have just these two bodies instead of the happy couple that we witnessed at the beginning of the play. And Lodovico is right to Iago when he says this is your work and we find that it is amazing how Iago took charge of this entire play. He was the one who led everyone through and this has made to wonder whether he shares the position of the protagonists alongside Othello who is, of course, the lead character. As reminded earlier, Iago in this play has more lines than Othello himself and he seems to occupy the centre stage of the play in a way that no other character could. Not only his character is very finely rounded and sketched out perfectly, but Shakespeare has also managed to give Iago a wonderful touch of originality. We have a villain whom we have never seen before and he also becomes a model for many other kinds of similar, many other similar kinds of villains in literature in various forms. And even as the play winds up, we do not find Iago trying to say anything or trying to defend him or even looking remorseful and this I guess is the greatest achievement as far as this play is concerned. The consistency with which he maintains his stature and a remarkable way in which he succeeds to remain very aloof, completely in-affected by whatever is happening around him and that is perhaps one of the many greatest things which are part of this play. I strongly encourage that you take a look at the links provided and read through the play in original and you can even take help of the modern translations to understand it better. You would find several critical references, several critical readings on Shakespeare’s plays and also on Othello. But a close reading of the play will help you to appreciate those readings in a better way because it is very important that you also get a hang of the play, to get a sense of the playwright and to get a sense of how the Elizabethan stage did wonders in the context of English literature and also in transforming English literature in ways which were not seen before. I thank you for your attention, thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next session. Hello everyone, welcome to today’s session where we will look at this iconic play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. (Refer Slide Time:0:20) Ibsen lived from 1828 to 1906, he was a Norwegian playwright, he was also a distinguished theatre director and poet. He is now considered as a father of realism and also considered as a most distinguished in the European tradition. And it is said that he is perhaps the most frequently performed dramatist after William Shakespeare. Some of Ibsen’s important works are other works include-An Enemy of the People, the Wild Duck, Ghost, The Lady from the Sea. All of his plays had literally taken the European theatre by Strom and he had written prolifically and he was one of the writers who began to be translated and widely circulated during the time. Ibsen’s influence what not limited to his contemporaries, he immensely influenced Shaw, Wilde, Arthur Miller, James Joyce, Eugene O’Neill and even today it can be said that some of the similar kinds of writings are definitely inspired by Henrik Ibsen and some of his plays. Ibsen was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1902, 1903 and 1904. Three years consecutively. Henrik Ibsen wrote most of his plays in Danish and his works were mostly published by Gyldendal. His works were considered scandalous, in fact, when some of his plays opened, premiered in England it was considered as open sewage. Ibsen completely rewrote the rules of drama and he also rewrote the rules of tradition and how different characters were categorised into different roles he encouraged his characters to defy the roles and also do things in a completely unconventional manner. A Doll’s House is one such typical play, it’s a three-act play set in a Norwegian town. It was published and premiered in December 1879in Denmark. It saidthatADoll’sHouse is based on the life of Laura Kieler whois friend of Ibsen. Laura Kieler like the main character in A Doll’s House she also had to sign an illegal loan document to save her husband but when her husband found out about this fraud that she had committed he divorced her and he also had put her in an asylum, however after two years Laura Kieler agreed to return to her family upon their urging and then she went on to become a well-known Danish writer. So this was the context which became extremely relevant for the writing and the production of A Doll’s House. In A Doll’s House, we find Ibsen questioning the traditional roles of men and women in the19th century, especially within an institution such as marriage and this become particularly important when we look at the Victorian morals in the Victoria temperament which was predominantly important especially in the English society. There is also a question of the agency that A Doll’s House begins to open up and we also are encouraged to look at individuals irrespective of their status, irrespective of their gender and look at individuals and understand the kind of actions and the kind of motivations that they may have. (Refer Slide Time:3:21) Itis said about Doll’sHouse that though this was a dramatically influential play and it was immensely inspiring for men and women who lived during those times. There’s not a single declamatory phrase in the play, there is no high dramatics and there is no drop of blood, not even a tear. And this also talks volumes about the kinds of craft that Ibsen possessed. And the ending of the play with a slamming of a door it has been said that that slammed door reverberated across the roof of the world. So that was the kind of significance that A Doll’s House had right from its first staging. But there was also the flip side, there are also certain controversies about how the ending was organized. It’s said that one of the actresses she even refused to play Nora’s character because she herself believed that I would never leave my children. So this was a play which opened itself to the 19th-century audience and which also had received different kinds of responses and reaction from 19th-century and through the out 20th century. In 2006 while celebrating the centennial of Ibsen’s death it was also found that it was the most performed play of that year in 2006. (Refer Slide Time:4:34) These are the important characters in A Doll’s House-Nora Helmer, Torvald Helmer they are also a couple, Dr Rank, Kristine Linde, Nils Krogstad, the children, Anne Marie and Helen. We will not be going into an in-depth analysis of all the characters and in this cause as we have been doing we will be introducing the text to you and we will encourage you to read that on your own, you will be focusing on a couple of characters which are very important to the shaping of this play. Nora is the most important character and the protagonists of this play. Nora has always been treated as a Doll wife and she begins to feel that she is living inside a Doll’s house, it’s that the crux of the play is about that epiphanic moment that revelation that a child, as a responsible woman, a spendthrift. If you look at the opening of the play it became very evident right at the outset. (Refer Slide Time:5:31) There is a way in which Torvald continuously refers to her as my lark twittering, the squirrel frisking, when did the squirrel get home? (Refer Slide Time5:42) My little spendthrift, my little featherbrain, my little lark, again my squirrel and then he also says you’re a strange little being! Just like your father, always on the lookout for all the money, you can lay your hands on but the moment you have it, it seems to slip through your fingers, you never know what becomes of it. Well, one must take you as you are. It’s in the blood. Yes, Nora, that sort of thing is hereditary. Interestingly throughout the play, this is how Torvald continues to treat his wife and there is not a moment of serious discussion that they engage with, in fact, when we again meet Norain discussion withherfriendKristine we begin to see another sideofNora, whois not entirely playful, who is also capable of taking big decisions in her life. But as far as Torvald is concerned his wife is only a little sweet tooth who plays pranks every other day. She also begins to behave like a child in front of Torvald. We get her in that, of course, she enjoys these playful discussions that they have but she’s also somewhere deep down scared of him. She tries to hide the thing that she had bought and she is also we get to know that she’s also putting up afaçade in front of him. Nora that we meet in front of Kristine, the Nora who is willing to confide things in front of Kristine and whois willing to lay bare open a different kind of a personality in front of Kristine is absent throughout her discussions throughout her interactions with Torvald her husband with him she’s been living for the last eight years. This is how the plot begins to unfold, it’s Christmas season, this is set in a Norwegian town. It’s roughly around 1879 and when the play opens as we have noticed we find this playful interaction between the husband and the wife and we also get to know that the husband does not think very highly of the wife, she’s always been treated as a child. And then we move on to the segment in the play where Norris interacting with her friend Kristine who is now going through a tough phase in life. And Nora also confesses to her friend about the secret debt, that she had borrowed money without Torvald’s knowledge and this is something that she hopes to keep as a secret forever. And this money incidentally was also for Torvald’s treatment, she couldn’t really afford to make him feel humiliated about the debt. or the fact that they needed family and she had to arrange for it, so she decides to keep this as a secret and we get to know this point that there is another personality of Nora that Torvald perhaps does not know about, that Nora is, in fact, a very sensible woman, who is very sensitive to her husband’s needs and she also pretends to be otherwise because she wants to cover-up these secrets in her life. The play does a turning point with the entry of Krogstad, Krogstag is an employee under Torvald and Torvald has now about to fire him because of Krogstag as engaged in some corruption, some activity of corruption. But Krogstad who is aware of the forgery and fraud that Nora had committed because Nora had forged her father’s signature on the loan document and Krogstad threatens to expose Nora’s fraud and forgery and this hate thing would be an effective way to blackmail Torvald into taking him back. We find this series of interactions between a Torvald and Nora, where Nora is trying in vain to convince Torvald not to fire Krogstad, to take him back and to forgive him. And finally, we come to a point when all the secrets are exposed Torvald gets to know about the fraud and forgery committed by Nora, he’s totally shaken and he does not know how to respond and he ends up beratingNora. We find that the language that Torvald begins to users in stark contrast with the tone that he used at the beginning of the play, we could take a look at it. (Refer Slide Time: 10:02) This is how Torvald responds on being given to understand that Nora had taken this debt and she had forged the sign of her father and as a family now they are in trouble because of that. “Oh! What an awful awakening! During all this eight years-she who was my pride and my joy-a hypocrite, a liar-worse-a criminal. Oh, the unfathomable hideousness of it all! Ugh!” And Nora says nothing, we find Nora being reduced to almost nothing throughout this interaction. And then Torvald goes on. All your fathers want of principle-be silent! -All your father’s want of principle you have inherited-no religion, no morality, no sense of duty.how am punished for screening him! I did it for your sake, and you reward me like this. Throughout this interaction we find that Nora is being very very silent, she has hardly anything to offer as a know as the play progresses that she is also perhaps processing this change in her mind, she is also becoming aware of the Doll’s House within which she’d been living. (Refer Slide Time:11:17) Nora, in her conversations with Kristine we get to know that Nora ended up taking this debt, Nora ended up doing this unethical thing only because Torvald needed that in that hour. Torvald was very very sick and there was no way in which Nora could have afforded this holiday that he deserved, that he needed for his recovery in Italy. And as a play progresses we also find Krogstag sending a letter upon the receipt of which Torvald also realizes that the blackmailing is now over, Krogstag decides not to process, does not take this any further and Torvald is obviously relieved and this is how he responds soon after. (Refer Slide Time:12:00) “And in your agony used on no other outlet but-No; we won’t think of that horror. We will only rejoice and repeat-it’s over, all over! Don’t you hear, Nora? You don’t seem able to grasp it. Yes, it’s over. What is this set look on your face? Oh, my poor Nora, I understand; you cannot believe that I have forgiven you. But I have, Nora; I swear it. I have forgiven everything. I know that what you did was all for love of me.” (Refer Slide Time:12:26) Not just this, Torvald goes on to further patronise Nora in as read further. “Only lean on me; I will counsel you, and guide you. I should be no true man if this very womanly helplessness did not make you doubly dear in my eyes. You mustn’t dwell upon the hard things I said in my first moment of terror when the worlds seemed to be tumbling about my ears. I have forgiven you, Nora- I swear I have forgiven you.” Nora says I thank you for your forgiveness. Asa plays progress and as we go, reach the end we realize that Nora didn’t really need this and Nora is also processing this entire episode in her mind, Nora is reviewing the last eight years of her life to see how she had been misjudging Torvald and she also certainly understands that whatever she was willing to sacrifice for Torvald, Torvald does not seems to reciprocate that and as Torvald continues to convince Nora that he is ready to forgive Nora, we also find him emerging as more narcissistic than ever, we find Torvaldin fact assuming an even higher moral position as he is trying to tell Nora that he is now there to take care of everything that was only her womanly weakness and helplessness that have forced him to do so and now he thinks it is a manly gesture from his side to forgive Nora. But he has also conveniently forgotten that he did not think it was necessary to show this manly gesture when they were going through that phase when Krogstag was blackmailing them, even if that was for just of a few hours, we find that Nora had to undergo that severe mental trauma and we find that Torvald wasn’t willing to share any blame at that point. (Refer Slide Time:14:29) As he says- “there is something indescribably sweet and soothing to a man in having forgiven his wife-honestly forgiven her, from the bottom of his heart. She becomes his property in a double sense. She is as though born again; she has become, so to speak, at once his wife and his child. This is what you shall henceforth be to me, my bewildered, helpless darling. Don’t be troubled about anything, Nora; only open your heart to me, and I will be both will and conscience to you.”