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'The Look of Othello': interiority, colour and the lying body

2 Apr 2009

The Departments of English and History


'The look of Othello': interiority, colour and the lying body


Professor Michael Neill

Emeritus, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Venue: Boole 3, 2pm, Thursday, 2 April 2009

Under the auspices of the Irish National Institute for Historical Research

Funded by PRTLI Cycle 4


Unlike tongues, bodies, we think, cannot lie; and the face, as the body's most eloquent surface, is often credited with similar truthfulness -- the eyes, for example, being seen as 'windows to the soul,' offering unmediated access to the inner self.  Yet, as often as we assume the communicative transparency of faces, we can be troubled by their seeming opacity: indeed there is a whole somatic vocabulary – 'putting a good face on matter', 'saving face', 'on the face of things'—that imagines the human countenance as a kind of mask, as though 'visage' and vizard' were one and the same. It is not for nothing that Renaissance drama's the most famous alliance in fraud links two characters named Subtle and Face; and Shakespeare's writing exhibits an especially tormented preoccupation with the contradictory semiotics of the face.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF