Full-text resources of CEJSH and other databases are now available in the new Library of Science.
Visit https://bibliotekanauki.pl


2016 | 25/3 | 69-80

Article title

Seeing the Spider: The Jealous Rage of Exchange in The Winter’s Tale and Othello



Title variants

Languages of publication


A venerable critical tradition has long flavoured the reception of Shakespeare’s plays with psychology. Characters are read as real people, and as a consequence, the plays are analysed from the starting point of an individual character’s inward personality. However, this literary reading of the plays fails to take into account not only the performance of character on the Renaissance stage but also the theatrical culture that predetermines forms of characterisation for that audience. The playing of roles within this drama needs to be continually re-investigated, and in the case of The Winter’s Tale and Othello, fully reimagined. The conventional ascription of the plot development entirely to the jealousy of both Leontes and Othello can accordingly be reworked. The modern obsession with psychology obscures a field of semantic forces that goes well beyond the purview of any individual to a social encoding of possible behaviours. This restores multiple potentialities to the plays in performance, freeing them from a narrow insistence that meaning is rooted entirely in the individual. This in turn provides a context for deeper analysis of gender roles and how they intersect with the impetus generated by patriarchal modes of inheritance.


  • University of Gloucestershire


  • Breitenberg, Mark. 1996. Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dorsch, T. S., ed. 1963. Aristotle, Horace, Longinus: Classical Literary Criticism Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Hawkes. Terence. 1992. Meaning by Shakespeare. Routledge: London and New York.
  • Jardine, Lisa. 1996. Reading Shakespeare Historically. Routledge: London and New York.
  • Sinfield, Alan. 1992. Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Palfrey, Simon. 1999. Late Shakespeare: A New World of Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Richards, Jennifer. 1999. “Social Decorum in The Winter’s Tale.” Shakespeare’s Late Plays: New Readings. Ed. Jennifer Richards and James Knowles. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Shakespeare, William. 1997. Othello. Ed. E.A.J. Honigmann. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Shakespeare, William. 2010. The Winter’s Tale. Ed. John Pitcher. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Weimann, Robert. 2000. Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare’s Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Worthen, W.B. 1997. Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.