Othello context

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  • Created by: miaagrace
  • Created on: 05-05-16 14:34
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  • Othello context
    • Women
      • Patriarchy
        • Othello internalised the 'masculine fear' of femininity in order to be accepted into Venetian society
      • Female sexuality
        • Rejects female sexuality
        • Elizabethan women were defined by their sexual activity & relationships to men
        • Shakespeare was concerned by 'unregulated female sexuality', a common male insecurity in Elizabethan England
        • The passion between Othello and Desdemona is based on lust
        • Venetian women were seen as promiscuous
        • Othello fears female sexuality, saying that Desdemona devoured his stories
        • Othello finds Desdemona's sexuality worrying because it goes against the obedience expected of women
    • Political
      • Cyprus
        • Highly prized island due to military significance
        • Located in middle of Turkish empire - useful for attacking the Turks
        • Venetian outpost attacked by the Turks & conquered the next year
        • Due to it being a military camp, Desdemona has lost her support system in Venice - vulnerable to violence associated with men & military
      • Venice
        • One of the wealthiest sovereign states
        • Mostly white - a Moor would stand out
        • Othello was a noble figure of authority, respected and admired by the duke and senate of Venice
    • Racism
      • Othello is 'heroic and tragic', whilst other black characters were portrayed as 'villains of low status'
      • Othello transforms from being accepted in a white Venetian society to being an outsider - his marriage isolates him since it goes against social norms
      • Elizabethan society viewed black people as the 'other' & rejected different races
      • Elizabethen society viewed Moors as violent savages, and were portrayed in literature at the time as lustful, dangerous villains
      • At the beginning of the play Othello is noble & self-controlled and goes against all stereotypes
    • Religion
      • Othello's conversion to Christianity 'Christian shame'
      • Desdemona is 'divine' and associated with innocence
      • Othello is guilty of many sins - commits suicide and murder
      • Othello starts to associate himself with 'a turbanned Turk'
    • Marriage
      • Interracial marriage seen as 'nature, erring from itself' - scandalous and unusual in Elizabethan England
      • Women were financially dependent on first their father, then their husband when they marry
      • Women were expected to be virgins until marriage, and a man's honour was closely tied to his wife's (and daughter's) reputation
      • Desdemona's marriage challenges Brabantio's authority and social convention
      • Desdemona is also traditional, since she recognises that she has a duty to her father and husband
      • Her decision to marry a black man is portrayed as 'heroic rather than demonic', and challenged traditional views of interracial marriage at the time
      • Desdemona's marriage was an attempt to gain power in a society where she is ruled by men


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