othello social issues

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  • social issues
    • Race
      • Racial stereotype, associated with devil and black magic.
        • "devil" - Iago (1.1)
        • Brabantio accuses him of using black magic to seduce his daughter. Refers to "nature" as if their union is unnatural.
      • Belief that black people were more animalistic.
        • "old black ram" (1.1)
        • "Barbary horse" (1.1)
        • Iago wants Othello to strangle Desdemona as it is more barbaric. he wants him to fit into the racial stereotype of the violent one - G K Hunter
      • Venice sees him as his skin tone but they need him and so tolerate it.
        • Senator calls him "Valiant Moor" when he isn't in the room. Shows they need him. Had they respected him they would have called him "valiant Othello" behind his back as well as to his face when he enters.
        • Duke seems to think there is something fictional with Othello's account of how he seduced Desdemona, "this tale." Uses rhyming couplets, suggests insincerity.
      • "your son in law is far more fair than black"
      • Othello internalised race complex
        • "now begrimed and black / As mine own face" acutely aware of his race - weakness
        • Valerie Taub - Othello internalises Iago's negative views about black men, black meundermines his self worth. "Haply for I am black"
    • Gender
      • women seen as property
        • "we can call these delicate creatures ours" - Othello. initially seems to hold progressive views but conforms
        • "fathers ... trust not your daughters" daughters were seen as a device to improve status by advantageous marriages.
        • when Cassio welcomes Emilia he asks Iago's permission to kiss her
        • "use Desdemona well"
        • "stolen from me" (1.3)
        • "thieves, thieves, thieves ... your daughter and your bags" (1.1)
        • Context: women were seen as property of fathers and husbands
      • "we are all but food: they eat us hungerly, and when they are full they belch us" - Emilia
      • Progressive?
        • Othello progressive with how he treats her as his equal "send for the lady"
        • "our great captain's captain" - Cassio
        • When Desdemona enters she is strong, saying how she will now serve her husband not father. She stands up for herself but just to serve someone else, subverting societal norms?
        • Iago speaks unkindly about Emilia, Desdemona protects her - Strong? could just be because he is of lower class.
        • Emilia talks of cheating men and how women also have desires. (4.2)
          • "let husbands know their wives have sense like them"
          • "have we not affections, desires for sport ... as men have?"
        • Cassio places Desdemona on a pedestal, over exaggerated, very patronising.
          • "divine Desdemona"
          • "that paragons description and wild fame"
        • Lisa Jardine suggests the whole stage world of Jacobean drama only allows for male points of view. Desdemona who tried to break this barrier was destroyed.
      • Iago
        • "fair and wise" mentions beauty above all else
        • "bells in your parlours, wild-cats in your kitchens" crude manner angers audience. modern will react far more strongly
      • can Othello be blamed for holding societies views?
    • Class
      • "preferment goes by the letter and affection"
      • Context: Venice had a very rigid class structure in those times, more rigid than England
      • different classes can be seen through how Cassio treats women
        • Desdemona - "divine"
        • Emilia - "welcome mistress" he kisses her hand
        • Bianca - he treats her in a curt manner "take me this work out"
      • Iago calls Bianca "trash" because she is lower class and prostitute


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