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FOREWORD

‘Othello – A Bestiary (with Floral Additions)’ is a reworking of William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ as an illustrated collection of common, rare and fabulous animals, hand-cut from paper by Ian Whitmore.

“Everywhere animals disappear”, writes John Berger. Receding into the dark fume shadows of human consumption and environmental devastation, animals are no longer evidence of nature’s plenty, but traces of the earth’s withering resources. While philosophy has convinced man of his sovereignty, decisively separating humanity from animality on the basis of language and reason, the fauna with which we share our land has been rendered progressively marginal. All nature has grown faint in our consciousness, becoming only a backdrop to our central human drama. In Othello – A Bestiary (with Floral Additions), the play’s dramatis animalia emerges from the periphery to claim centre stage. In the time of Shakespeare, animals surrounded man, sharing his property, sustaining his labour, and participating in his daily life. Othello dramatises the entwined nature of relations between man and animal. Yet despite the text’s menagerie, the word “animal” is not used once.

All faunal forms inhabiting the speeches of Shakespeare’s human characters are shown. References to monsters and undefined creatures and beasts are marked with shapely offcuts. The red dots represent devils. Based (structurally) on a 1968 version of the play edited by Kenneth Muir and published by Penguin Books. ILLUSTRATION Ian Whitmore DESIGN & LAYOUT Matt Fleming and Lee Shearman FOREWORD Anna Fewster SCREENPRINTING Chris Ratcliffe LETTERPRESSING Lampyridae Press

Set in Baskerville Assembled at University of Portsmouth Published by Borbonesa Copyright © Borbonesa 2011 Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Dedicated to Felix

BOOKBINDING Lucy May Schofield

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In reworking the codex into concertina folds, Othello – A Bestiary (with Floral Additions) releases the animals from the captivity of traditional structure, and exposes nature’s scenery as dynamic and dramatic. Rendering the play one continuous surface, the eye’s motion gestures freely across the volume’s expanse, being broken and unbroken by cadences of images rather than controlled sequential lines of text. Though these images follow an encoded framework of invisible language, the substance of the play is represented as zoological and botanical. That which traditionally furnishes the anthropocentric action with locational scenery and metaphorical context is reconfigured as the focal foreground. This exchange disrupts, fragments, and deconstructs Othello as a tragedy of humans. Suggestive of offstage action, the blank reverse side of the concertina reminds us that Othello is a performance. Exeunt. The book itself becomes the theatre.

As Laurie Shannon explains, Shakespeare rarely clusters together the plurality of creatures we call “animals” under that name. Instead, he favours the vivid articulation of detail, diversity, and difference. Although “animal” was an uncommon term in early modern English, it has since settled as widespread. In The Animal That Therefore I Am, Jacques Derrida suggests that our common usage of this singular category for all non-human living things - for moths, baboons, worms, lions, guinea-hens - enables us to overlook the systemic and violent domination that we exercise over them. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. Reserving for ourselves the exclusive entitlement to language and the power to name, every time we use the word “animal” we, like Adam, assert our supremacy. The result of this conceptual simplification is speciesism; an assumption of human primacy related to the malignant presumption of male authority and white superiority.

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Everywhere animals disappear into a linguistic wilderness where they are defined simply as Other. Despite the historical kinship of man and animal, and Shakespeare’s interest in species multiplicity, the language of Othello appropriates the Otherness of animals as an expressive implement with which to marginalise humans.

constructed. When Othello and Desdemona are described as “making the beast with two backs”, the word “beast” (specifically indicating a cloven-hoofed quadruped) at once demarcates their difference, and expediently affirms Iago’s mastery. Bestiaries, like fables, customarily exhibit their subjects as moral specimens, borrowing animal characteristics to explain and describe the human. In these anthropomorphic representations, man imaginatively projects nothing but his own reflection. But Othello – A Bestiary (with Floral Additions) diverges from this tradition. Here, beasts and creatures are not simply conduits for human meaning or metaphors that dramatise human values. The removal of the text of Othello frees the animals now alone on the page - from the confinement of man’s likeness and the twists and tamings of figurative speech. Understanding animals as animals requires us to think beyond words.

IAGO: Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe. (Othello, I.i.88–9) In every Act, the play’s dramatis personae are figuratively associated with animals. Characters distinguish themselves as the possessors of rational thought and autonomous agency, and delimit others - through animal metaphors as being motivated by instinctual urges and corporeal desires. Snared in a network of power machinations, they continually cast each other as animalised humans. This association is uncomfortable, but it obliges us to uncover the category of Other as politically and culturally

DESDEMONA: Sing willow, willow, willow; (Othello, IV.iii.51)

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Othello - A Bestiary with Floral Additions