Othello the Play Takes Place in Venice Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1575 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Military


The play takes place in Venice and Cyprus during the wars between Venice and Turkey in the 16th century. Cyprus is a Venetian outpost, which was attacked and seized by the Turks in 1570 and the following year. The English in those times hardly saw other people with a different skin color than their own. Records show that in 1596, Queen Elizabeth I ordered that 10 "blackamoors: be banished from her country. These "blackamoors" were traded off with English prisoners then held in Spain and Portugal. Aside from these transients, people of color in England were very rare. In 1600, however, the Moorish ambassador of Queen Elizabeth, Abed el-Quahed ben Messaoud Anoun, and his entourage visited here in England. Besides this breakthrough, she also communicated with the colored king of Barbary Coast. They explored ways in which the English and the North Africans could work together. The play was published around this time when color people were just making their way into the British scene.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Othello the Play Takes Place in Venice Assignment

Othello is the only person or character of color in the cast. As a Christian moor and general of the armies of Venice, he is eloquent, powerfully built and respected by everyone in the place for his prowess and military accomplishments (Sparknotes editors 2006). This is clearly demonstrated by the favor shown him by the Senate when Desdemona's father complains that Othello has taken his daughter by witchcraft. The British at that time had yet to learn how to incorporate the value of color people into their psyche. Brabanzio cannot conceive of how Othello could have won his young daughter, considering his dark skin. Brabanzio could only imagine he has used witchcraft to entice Desdemona to overlook Othello's color. This racial discrimination could have been the unconscious motivation of Iago in plotting against Othello who favored Cassio for the position of lieutenant, which Iago has desired. Roderigo, a rich man from Venice, without doubt has these sentiments as well and feels that with all of his money, he should be able to get Desdemona as his wife (Sparknotes editors)..

Othello's powerful accomplishments do not escape the discriminatory racial epithets by which Roderigo and Iago refer to him. They call him "the Moor," one with "thick lips," "an old black ram," and "a Barbary horse. Common citizens in Venice and Cyprus have not yet learned to view him with value because of his race. They still consider him an outsider. And despite his accomplishments and position as general of the armies of Venice, Othello feels he is removed from the society of his time. This sense of separateness opens him up to Iago's tricks to trip and strip him of power, prominence and his wife. He enjoys the overwhelming confidence of the Duke and the Senate. He has been great demand for his capabilities. Yet he succumbs to the greater power of jealousy over the imagined infidelity of his wife and, eventually, to her destruction (Sparknotes).

Shakespeare very capably represents the people of that time and in that place among his characters who seem alive. Despite the racism already prevailing then, they are drawn to Othello for his exemplary qualities. Othello tells the Duke how Brabanzio often invites him because of their friendship. Othello is also a captivating speaker. These are how he gains power over them. But, at other times, Othello perceives and presents himself as an outside and becomes self-conscious about it. If his color affects the general population despite his military heroism, it affects Othello himself more. After he smothers Desdemona out of blind rage and jealousy, he laments that he is more a victim of a culture that is foreign to him and his own willingness to torment himself than Iago's superior tricks.

The quest for power dwells most maliciously in the villain Iago. His utter lack of convincing motivation for his deception makes him quite wicked. He is the paid sleuth of Roderigo to gain Desdemona. At the same time, he works for Othello as ensign. He hates Othello not only for preferring an inexperienced Cassio as lieutenant but also because he (Iago) desires the power and honor possessed by Othello himself. If he can't have the power and glory, he will want Othello destroyed instead. And Iago discovers the surest way to destroy Othello, Desdemona and their faithful friend Cassio, of whom Iago is also jealous and envious. Iago works for the interest of the rich Roderigo and his self-interests. He even uses his wife to steal Desdemona's handkerchief for his act. Not many people of his time may be as villainous as Iago, but they would do what lay in their power to secure what they wanted. The few who are like him will deceive and destroy even the lives of those close to them for these malicious ends. Iago also shares the love and lust of Roderigo for Desdemona in order to level up with Othello for winning Desdemona. Iago not only keeps the favor of Roderigo for whom he works but also satisfies his malice towards Othello. The only unintended twist is that Othello kills Desdemona instead of Desdemona falling for Cassio.

In their collective desire to obtain or assert power over others, Othello, Roderigo and Iago actually display their weakness and cowardice. Othello's military invincibility gives way to his insecurity towards Desdemona's and Cassio's fidelity. Roderigo's wealth and influence render him vulnerable to twists by relying on a villain to pursue his goal for him. And Iago's cunning falls because of his lack of moral conviction and control of the situation. He fails to foresee that his machinations will end in Desdemona's death rather than her abandonment of Othello.

As a product of her time and circumstances, Desdemona should be a typically and stereotypically weak and submissive daughter to Branbanzio and wife to Othello. She is the young and sexual daughter of a prominent Venetian citizen who falls for the marvels and tales of courage of Othello. Her comfortable life allows her to pursue a dream husband and also assert her independent will and influence over him when she wants to. Women in those days, as represented by Shakespeare's characters in this play, are subjugated to men. Desdemona says that with her marriage to Othello, she has passed from her father's rule to that of her husband. Despite her subjugation, Desdemona is able to express her own will. She says that she does not deserve to be stricken by Othello. She tries to convince him to restore Cassio to his lost position as lieutenant. Even as she dies, she covers up for Othello by telling Emilia that she has chosen to commit suicide. It is something that only strong-willed persons can do at the point of death. Desdemona shows that she has strength beneath and within her protected gender, assumed to be weak. In her dying moments, she manages to instruct Emilia to put on her wedding sheets on the bed and to bury her in these sheets if she dies first. And before Othello smothers her with a pillow she also has the strength to sing a song she learned from her mother's maid. Desdemona is able to perform these three brave actions, all of which exhibit her husband's vulnerability to jealousy. Despite his courageous exploits at war, he loses out to his own insecurities and credulousness. People of a different color lost in a foreign culture are not unlikely to feel deceived and ganged-up on at times like this. Othello is not an exception.

Shakespeare has been regarded as the greatest playwright of all time. His characters are so real that they leap out of print and live like rest of mankind. Cultures change but human nature does not. There are Roderigos today as there were in Shakespeare's time and fantasy. There are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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