O(ld-ass manuscripts of)thello

I’ll be completely honest: when I first looked at this blog prompt, I rolled my eyes a little. “Really? Haven’t we dissected this play enough over the past two weeks?” I wondered to myself. But, perhaps unsurprisingly to you, Mr. Wilson–I address you directly because I know no one else would regularly read this wonderful blog unless they were getting paid to do it–I actually kind of enjoyed looking at the older versions of Othello. It is easy to forget how English has evolved over the centuries into what we read and speak today, as well as how the language is cast on the page. The first thing I noticed as I perused the First Folio was simply how different the words look. “W” was “VV”, and the letter “s” often seemed to resemble the integral symbol “∫” that tends to torment me in BC Calculus the period before I visit your class, for example. What’s more, the difference between the First and Fourth Folios was dramatic: the spelling of words was so much more familiar in the more recent text, even though only sixty or so years elapsed between the publication of the First and Fourth.

Furthermore, the suggestion in the prompt to ponder the inclusion of the first word of the next page on the bottom right-hand corner of each page immediately seemed obvious to me. Since, in effect, the manuscripts we read were scripts of the play, having the next word up makes it much easier to turn the page and not have a break in the dialogue.


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