Othello

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  • Othello Context
    • WOMEN IN SOCIETY
      • Patriarchal rule justified women's subordination
        • ome women in the Renaissance were able to acquire an education; many managed properties as widows, or when their husbands were away
        • in the background there were the extraordinary examples of Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots--the one admired, the other feared by many.
      • In order to achieve this, women needed simultaneously to be sexually attractive yet chaste and modest
        • although coming from a wealthy background could override the first consideration
    • RACE
      • Muslims were part of a group that had invaded many lands and threatened Europe.
        • They had stretched their control across the southern end of the Mediterranean Sea and crossed into Spain with their sights set on European conquest.
          • stemmed from the growing presence of black people who posed an economic threat to the state
        • What was a Moor
          • A Moor was a Muslim of mixed Arab and Berber descent.
            • Berbers were North African natives who eventually accepted Arab customs and Islam after Arabs invaded North Africa in the Seventh Century A.D.
        • Othello is an upright and righteous Moor. The Moors were disliked by Europeans on a lot of levels.
          • Thus, Othello finds himself in a society and culture that are very much against him.
            • In an time were ethnic minorities were so unimportant that they were almost ignored
              • A black man rises and has a position of a general in Venice, and is a well respected and trusted by his white leaders
        • Untihose who discriminate people racially are the truly devious characters and Shakespeare shows this clearly through Iago and Barbantio.tled
      • The Elizabethan society fostered a general cultural hostility to strangers,
        • Venice was a predominantly white city
      • Racism leads to jealousy & insecurity
        • Although ‘jealousy’ is often referred as Othello’s “tragic flaw,” but that emotion is not self-creating. Rather, it stems from a psychology of inferiority.
        • Because of his strangeness, Othello can be perceived to be extremely insecure
        • Factors such as his age, his life as a soldier, and his self-consciousness about being a racial and cultural outsider, simply play on his un-sureness of his position.
        • The society and culture in which Othello finds himself is one where racism and ethnocentrism prevailed and prejudices abounded.
        • Racial issue may not be as important as the themes of jealousy or love are, but the different race of the hero has much role to play as the cause of tragedy in Othello.
          • though invisible in the drama, racism plays a significant part in bringing the tragedy of Othello.
        • Othello had previously lived a life free of racial discrimination, except for those few who envied and resented him, or feared he would sabotage their powers
          • when Othello committed atrocious crimes because of his unfounded jealousy, those who had previously believed him to be admirable and good condemned him, not by critiquing his character, but by criticizing his distinguishing racial characteristic: his color.
    • SETTING
      • The play is set in the 16th century, at a time when Venice was in constant conflict with the Ottoman Empire over control of the Adriatic Sea.
      • Cyprus, a small island off the coast of Greece, was a profitable location for trade and had been under the influence of Venice since Caterina Cornaro, a Venetian noblewoman, married James II, the king of Cyprus, in the late 1400s.
      • The island was strategically placed for the Venetian military to launch attacks against the Ottomans.
      • Venice was a predominantly white city
      • Venice was well known for it's prostitutes
      • Cyprus was seen in Classical literature to be an island of love
      • Venice is a city that thinks little of the moor, and Cyprus is not enough to outweigh the jealousy planted by iago
    • JEALOUSY
      • typically referred to as the negative feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something of great personal value,
      • In typical venetian society a man was greatly defined by his social status and his respect.
      • jealousy could essentially lead to the loss of all rationality and lead even the most pure of human beings into chaos

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