James L. Calderwood is surely among the liveliest and most insightful Shakespearean critics writing today. In this book, he offers an extended meditation on Othello, employing the concept of property as a way of examining the play.
According to Calderwood, property lines in Shakespeare's Venice divide women from men, black from white, outsiders from insiders, barbaric Turks from civilized Christians, land from money, and monologue from dialogue. Most of all, these lines draw a magic circle around the idealized identity of the Moor. Making use of theorists such as Bakhtin and Lacan, Calderwood demonstrates Othello's semiotics of self - as possessive self-capitalizer of an inviolate "I" and marital capitalist who tags Desdemona with a personal "mine" that helps materialize and mirror his inner value. Yet under the ministrations of Shakespeare and Iago, property dissolves the boundaries it draws between inner and outer, self and other, owner and owned. Chapters on barbarism and the evils of nobility, the status of women, the role of iterance in defining and destroying identities, and the mediating metadramatics of Iago suggest how the commercial associations of property - ownership, investment, exchange, alienation - not only inform the action of Othello but reveal its artistic properties as well.