UBC Lectures, Seminars, and Symposia

Through the Eyes of Desdemona: An Intertextual Study on Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief Jin, Lili


Born in 1951, Paula Vogel is a remarkable living playwright whose innovative work takes up significant social and cultural issues such as gender and sexual identities, the status of women, the AIDS epidemic, and pedophilia. Though Vogel started writing plays in the early 1970s, recognition of her works has been complicated largely due to the often difficult subject matters tackled in her works and the unconventional theatrical techniques applied by her in dramatizing the issues. To a certain degree, Vogel’s wrestling with the received models and moralities has marked the tenor of critical studies about her works. In her plays, almost all the major characters stepping into the forbidden territory are women, and the plot development is perceived through female perspectives. Through the interplay of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the stereotypical and the imaginative, or the farcical and the serious, Vogel’s plays invite the audience to respond to the various issues that they raise in a complex and critical manner. Although her plays are unconventional and display deviant characters, Vogel’s dramaturgy is not isolated from the dramatic tradition. This presentation focuses on Vogel’s play Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief (1979) which is a rewriting of Shakespeare’s Othello. In the play, Vogel builds a dialogical or even collaborative relationship with Shakespeare’s Othello and discusses the status of women with a historical perspective.

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