Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2021

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English Literary Renaissance


This essay revisits Othello’s jealousy to detail the politico-theological significance of this dramatic affect. In the Hebrew Bible, jealousy maintains a covenant between God and a holy nation. When Pauline teaching defines marriage as an index of Christ’s love, this redefinition promises to replace exclusivity with a supposedly universal truth. Yet jealousy persists to reveal a clash between individual realities and corporate truths. Jealousy performs this by underscoring the fictive nature of the identification of a husband with Christ. Before The Winter’s Tale relates the problems of jealousy to a hereditary monarchy, Othello locates them within a republic. The Venetian state sidesteps the effects of tragedy because its perpetuation exists at a remove from marriage. Yet for this reason, it cannot assist Othello in occupying the fictions of Christian marriage. Othello shows us how politico-theological meaning can be communicated artistically, and in a way that thwarts any interpretation that locates real meaning in a forward-looking trajectory of state power. This essay concludes by arguing that Othello helps us to pinpoint the deficiencies in Carl Schmitt’s reading of Hamlet—and, more generally, in the way Schmitt conscribes the power of Shakespearean tragedy for his tendentious view of political history.


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