Broken Speech: A Nietzschean Perspective of Shakespeare's Othello

Daniel Bergman


“Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth,” writes Friedrich Nietzsche, “through words and concepts we shall never reach beyond the wall off relations, to some sort of fabulous primal ground of things.” As he suggests in his characteristically aphoristic style, language cannot articulate truths. In his essay Daniel Bergman brings the proto-deconstruction Nietzsche puts forth in “Truth and Falsity of the Ultramoral Sense” to bear on Shakespeare’s Othello. A play that is, as Bergman writes, rife with “tragically mistaken meanings,” Othello enacts the degrees to which language shapes and creates our realities. Reading Othello through the linguistic theories of Nietzsche, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Jacques Derrida, Bergman deftly argues that the play is ultimately a microcosm in which we encounter the limits of signification. 

Dr. Erin Wunker

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