Literary Lab 5: Reading for Language in Early Modern Theatre

This lab looks at how we respond to characterization. Is it possible to sympathize with a character? Why do we justify their actions? Here is the prompt:


The character Othello is a victim of jealousy; Faustus is a victim of pride. One is a deadly sin and the other is not. So how do we feel about these characters in general? Even though Faustus is affected by the temptations of Mephistopheles, is it a true statement that Faustus acted more in his own self-interest? Does it seem that Faustus is really beyond hope of the redemption he begs for in his last hour of life, or is it rather that he has still failed to repent? What about Othello? Iago is possibly the worst villain in English literature and he blatantly lies to Othello about Desdemona, but does this justify Othello’s actions? Do we feel a certain way towards Othello when he kills himself? Do we extend sympathy for these characters because they essentially were set up to fail? Defend your answer with textual support and an articulated literary argument.

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