Othello's Sacrifice: Essays on Shakespeare and Romantic Tradition
In these essays, John O'Meara re-assesses both the tragic limitations and inherent promise of Romantic tradition in the interpretation of Shakespeare. The philosophical theory of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, is brought forward as consummating that tradition. Building on concepts which Anthroposophy supplies O'Meara proceeds to a fresh reading of Shakespeare's work. A wide range of plays is covered from Richard II to The Tempest, with special focus on Othello and King Lear. The endings of these plays, O'Meara sees as pivotal to Shakespeare's evolution into a final phase prophetic of the Romantic experience to come which Steiner fulfils.
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“[O’Meara’s] later study called Othello’s Sacrifice begins [by]...noting the similarity between the archetypal story of the sacrifice of Isaac (who is saved at the last moment) and the sacrifice of Desdemona (who comes alive momentarily after Othello smothers her only to die). O’Meara notes how difficult this Shakespearean scene is for Romantic critics and looks throughout the later Shakespeare canon for ways in which other characters, at times as inarticulate as Othello, manage to express inward passion to themselves and to Shakespeare’s audiences....Othello’s Sacrifice—this time Othello’s need to understand sexuality, confront revenge, and contemplate death—is both a richer work, philosophically deeper and clearer than its predecessor [Otherworldly Hamlet] and more comprehensive, stretching from Hamlet to The Tempest as it wrestles with the problems of imagination and cognition before matters of life and death.” “[The book’s] third essay argues the revelations awarded to the late Shakespeare by the Anthropo-Sophia (wisdom of man) advanced by Rudolf Steiner, a philosophy whose central purpose is to inform the imagination with cognition and to ground the imaginary in acts of reason. What follows...is a thesis of evolution in which Shakespeare’s concern with the ego and libido in a play like Hamlet is freed by the use of imagination and, in later stages, by inspiration and intuition, releasing the mind into a liberated acceptance of events. Such a development...argues, as O’Meara’s earlier work did, from close reading of key lines and original interpretations of key scenes of the later, major Shakespearean works....O’Meara concludes these paired books as a staunch champion of Anthroposophia, and it is clear that Steiner’s latter-day philosophy answers many of the issues Luther raised (and which concerned O’Meara in the book on Hamlet).”
Arthur F. Kinney, English Language Notes, Volume XXXVI, Number 1, September, 1998.
“O’Meara’s voice speaks for a tradition of Romantic criticism that has now almost completely vanished from our profession and from public life more generally…[His book] raise[s] questions that even the most aggressively ‘dissident’ critics have not been willing to ask.”
Michael Bristol, Studies in English Literature, Volume 38, No. 2, Spring 1998.
***The following appreciations have been documented and authenticated by ENGLISH REVIEW SERVICE:
“Very interesting stuff. Particularly where you parallel the break through the tragic dead end to the transcendental redemptive solution—that I follow from Macbeth through Lear to the last plays—with the Steinerian view of the same progress.”
Ted Hughes, in a letter to John O’Meara, dated 21 November, 1996.
On Othello’s Sacrifice and Otherworldly Hamlet:
“They have the interest proper to well-written books, and are clearly committed to deeply held views of the world as well as of literature, tragedy and romanticism.”
Frank Kermode, in a letter to John O’Meara, dated 11 December, 1996.
Shakespearean Tragic Representation
The Coming of Rudolf Steiner and Romantic