Slides in this set
· The question of Othello's race is open to some debate. The term Moor now refers
to inhabitants of North Africa who conquered Spain in the Eighth Century, but
the term was used rather broadly during the period. A 1600 translation of John
Leo's "The History and Description of Africa" distinguishes "white or tawny
Moors" of the Mediterranean coast from the "Negroes or black Moors" of the
· At the time, views in England regarding "Moors" were slightly more complex
because of a strong anti-Catholic sentiment and English fears of invasion by the
· It is difficult to know how many English people had seen someone with a
different colour skin to their own.
· E.A.J Honigmann concluded that Othello's race is ambiguous. "Renaissance
representations of the Moor were vague, varied, inconsistent and contradictory".
· It has been questioned whether a moorish Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I at
the time was one inspiration for Othello, as the play was written only a few years
· In Shakespearean time, appearance was supposed to indicate
what lies within (good or evil). A physical deformity was
considered to be a mark of the devil. Deceptive appearances
torment tragic heroes, for example Othello assumes that Iago
is honest because he looks so.
· Black was traditionally the colour of evil and of the devil
according to both biblical and mythological sources.
Interracial marriages would have been shocking, and frowned
upon, at the time.
· Women were viewed as possessions who were financially
dependent upon their fathers until they were `handed over' to
· A woman's valued virtues were chastity, modesty, obedience
and faithfulness to their husbands.…read more
HISTORICAL CONTEXT CONT.
· Women lacked rights and were considered subordinate and
· In contrast to her sister Mary, Queen Elizabeth's reign
resulted in a Jacobean society where Catholics were feared
· England was a superstitious country and people believed in
omens and portents. Witches and Witchcraft were the object
of morbid and fevered fascination throughout the reign of
· Black people were regarded as exotic, but potentially savage,
threatening or dangerous.…read more
· The story of Othello is derived from another source: an Italian
prose tale written in 1565 by Cinthio, which contained the
bare bones of Shakespeare's play.
· In Cinthio's earlier version, Iago's motive for revenge against
Othello is that he formerly loved and was rejected by
· One suggestion for the inspiration of the character Iago is a
character from many morality plays called Vice. He was a
trickster who portrayed evil (an enemy of mankind and an
agent of the devil) and tempted young men away from virtue.
His humour and trickery endeared him to audiences.…read more