A Comparison of Orlando and Othello comparison compare contrast essays
Orlando and Othello
In her novel Orlando: A Biography, Virginia Woolf draws upon Shakespeare's Othello to both enhance the images within her novel through allusion and further Orlando's character development using juxtaposition. Spanning about 400 years, various historical eras, and gender ambiguity in the characters, Orlando is certainly not a traditional novel. Thus, it follows that its use of historical information and literature breaks from convention as well. This is true for Woolf's use of Shakespeare's Othello. While the play is drawn upon in various contexts, from character traits to plot line, Woolf carefully places her allusions such that they support her plot line at one moment while they may be inconsistent at another. This works well within her novel because as she breaks from convention by utilizing multiple timelines and shifts in gender and sex for her characters she is able to shift in her parallels from the characters in Othello to the characters of Orlando. These shifts accent the changes she is making within her characters and plot line and also force the reader to break with the long standing views of gender and "otherness" established in Shakespeare's work.
During the first half of Orlando: A Biography, Woolf clearly draws off of the play Othello. At times this is clearer than others. In both Orlando and Othello, there is little reference to Othello by name. He is referred to instead by an ethnic background--he is the Moor. One might question the certainty of the Moor representing the figure Othello in the novel Orlando. In the case of the play, it is quite obvious that Othello is being referred to because he is the only Moor within the play. In Orlando one can infer that the term "Moor" has a direct connection to Othello because of the numerous references to the play throughout the novel. Sasha drops a "spotted handkerchief" (42) that reminds the reader of the one "spotted with strawberries"(3.3.438) that Othello gave to Desdemona. Iago uses her lost handkerchief as proof that Desdemona was being unfaithful to Othello. During the winter carnival the tragic death scene of Othello is played out before the crowd.
From the first page of the novel Orlando is set in an antagonistic light with respect to the Moor. Orlando is first introduc...