Robert Heilman, Magic in the Web: Language and Action in Othello (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1956)
Summary from the Publisher:
In his earlier work on King Lear, Mr. Heilman combined a number of critical procedures to form a new and important approach to Shakespearian criticism. His study of Othello displays the maturity of insight and skill in analysis the years have brought him in developing his critical method. Mr. Heilman takes account of stage effects; he traces out literal and symbolic meanings; he analyzes plot relationships; he examines characters in terms of both their psychological and their moral situations, and style in relation to both character and meaning. He traces some effects due to historical meanings which have now been lost by certain words, and he tries to measure the impact of the drama upon, and its significance for, the modern consciousness.
Mr. Heilman argues that Othello is at once “a play about love” and “a poem about love,” and endeavors to find out how the poetry modifies and even helps determine the nature of the whole. He looks at numerous aspects of action (physical activity, psychological movement, intellectual operations) and language (speech habits, image types, recurrency in both literal and figurative language), and examines the essentially dramatic function of all of these. He finds the dramatis personae interwoven in relationships which may be seen, from one point of view, as plot and, from another, as the embodiment of complex themes. He treats Othello and Iago as figures that are not only fitted to a given stage but also represent permanent aspects of humanity–Iago with his “strategies against the spiritual order” and Othello with his “readiness in the victim.”