Othello Comparisons: Old v. New

As we have recently finished reading the Shakespearean Tragedy Othello in class, this week we were assigned to examine old versions of the same play. Some of the versions I chose to examine were The First Folio, Second Folio, and Othello, Quarto I. The first version I looked at was The First Folio. This version was perhaps the most interesting one to me because The First Folio was the first collection of Shakespearean plays compiled into one volume. Though quartos preceded The First Folio, it is The First Folio that seems to be the more valuable one as it is a large compilation of plays instead of just single, separately-printed plays as Quartos are.


Though the storyline and character dialogue are the same between the modern and First Folio versions, there are still noticeable differences between the two, particularly in the style or printing of the writing. Upon first reading, the most noticeable change that stood out to me was the shortening of the character names. Once the characters were introduced by their full first name, they were subsequently referred to through shorter versions of their name. For instance, Roderigo was introduced in Act I Scene I, but after his full name was mentioned, he was then referred to as “Rod.” The shortening of the names of the characters in the First Folio was probably due to the method of printing. When the First Folio was published, there were still rudimentary techniques of printing. To reprint a book, the workers would have to place each individual letter stamp together to create a word. Though not as time intensive as handwriting, this process still required much labor compared to our modern mass-printing techniques. All in all, this shortening of character names was probably due to the printers’ desires to save time and energy.
Another aspect I found interesting within the First Folio was the differences of spelling of the time The First Folio was printed in comparison to modern-day spelling. The most consistent change of spelling was the use of “ie” for “y.” For instance The First Folio contains the word “Familie” instead of “Family.” As aforementioned, the printing techniques when The First Folio was first printed were not as easy as the printing techniques of the 21st century. However, this version of spelling the word “family” with an “ie” ending takes more time and labor. As with everything else, language also evolves with time. Now we spell “family” with a “y” which is a slightly shorter spelling. This shortening of the word “family” could be an example of the English language evolving over time into a more efficient language. Within this version of the tragedy are other examples of the English language evolving over time; this includes examples such as “Moore” instead of the modern-day spelling “Moor,” “Proclaime” instead of the modern-day spelling “proclaim,” or “doores” instead of the modern-day spelling “doors.”


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