iROC Lecture

When Tragedy Makes Us Laugh

February 06, 2014 12:45 PM - 1:45 PM
Dominican Center Library Café

When Tragedy Makes Us Laugh: The Case of the Willow Song and Othello

On Thursday, February 6, Dr. Stephanie Pietros will present the first iROC seminar of the spring semester, When Tragedy Makes Us Laugh: The Case of the Willow Song and Othello.

Critics often regard the Willow Song in Othello as a moment of heightened drama, one designed to increase audience sympathy for the unfairly maligned Desdemona. The song, like many of those used in early modern plays, is not original but rather a popular ballad lightly modified by Shakespeare. In this talk, Stephanie will explore two possible associations with the Willow Song that a given audience member might have brought to a performance of Othello when it was first performed in 1604. In both Middleton’s Blurt, Master Constable (1601-1602) and Chapman’s Sir Giles Goosecap (1601-1603), the Willow Song is invoked in a comic satire of a lovesick man. She will describe how these very different contexts for the song might color the scene in Othello, producing a sense of cognitive dissonance for an audience member when the tragedy of the play is tinged with comedy.

Stephanie Pietros, PhD, is Assistant Professor of English in the Division of Arts and Letters at MSMC. Her presentation will take place on Thursday, February 6 at 12:45 pm in the Library Café in the Dominican Center. Refreshments will be served. All are welcome.

For more information about this or any of the iROC presentations, or to volunteer as an iROC speaker, please contact Dr. Doug Robinson, Assistant Professor of Biology and coordinator of the iROC program, at 845-569-3648 or

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Stephanie Pietros