How does the fact that Othello by William Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard affect how we as readers react to the events in this play?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The experience of seeing a play is quite different than that of reading a novel. Just as in everyday life, we only can know the persons of the drama by observing their external behaviours and listening to their words, unlike fiction in which the narrator can give us access to the characters internal thoughts and senses. Dramas also unfold sequentially. As we sit in the theatre watching a drama, we cannot do "backward scanning", i.e. back up as one can on a DVD or flip back to an earlier section of a novel to see if we missed something. This demands a certain quality of attention in watching live drama. Also, an audience reacts to a drama as a community, creating, de facto, the sense of the drama as social rather than individual experience. The fact that the play is experienced communally makes the theme of public reputation, as set forward in Iago's monologue, especially significant:

 

Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

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