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Context of Othello

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Context of Othello

15/09/12 Setting and Context Act 1, Scene 1 homework 1) How are Jacobean attitudes to race reflected in the treatment of Othello by other characters in the play? Shakespeare conveys the attitudes towards race in the Jacobean duration through using Iago continuously referring to Othello as ‘The Moor’. This is not a particularly bad term as it implies ‘A member of a Muslim people of blended Berber and Arab descent, now living chiefly in northwest Africa’, however Shakespeare frequently described brunette or darker than regular Europeans as black, revealing the ideology of lack of knowledge towards individuals of various races in this time period.

The fact that ‘the moor’ changes Othello’s actual name in the play, suggests that any sense of uniqueness is lost, and he is immediately prone to being categorised by his ethnic origins and any kind of stereotype that goes with it. Also, the very graphic metaphor to describe Othello and Desdemona making love of ‘an old black ram is tupping your white ewe’ that Iago says to Desdemona’s daddy, portrays the colour of Othello’s skin being viewed as destructive as it is contrasted with a ‘white ewe’, ‘white’ providing undertones of innocence.

Catherine Belsey in ‘Shakespeare: interpretative contexts’ stated- ‘imperial worths established a folklore of white civilisation and black barbarity’ supports this. Likewise, the homonym ‘ram’ can also be utilized as a verb- ‘to pound something into someone or something’ providing the explicit picture of sexual relations, and having ‘old’ and ‘black’ in the exact same sentence as this, indicates being ‘black’ has a relate to paedophilia. Also when Iago is telling Desdemona’s dad about her child and Othello, he says ‘You’ll have your child covered with a Barbary Horse’.

Being ‘covered with a. horse’ highlights the image of Othello being physically violent towards Desdemona like a horse would be towards a human if on top of them. Likewise a ‘barbary’ horse is a horse that ethnically originates from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, which would develop the effect of the black origins being the link in between the violent nature of the horse and Othello. This suggests that in the 17th century, the public would think about the black race as a vicious race.

Also the reality that Othello is described as an animal connects to how in the time the play was written, like animals, black individuals were viewed as challenge amuse the public, as Julia Briggs stated that in England, black Africans ‘were still uncommon enough to be treated as marvels’ and that the Scots had a ‘long custom of utilizing black entertainers whom they treated as little more than carrying out animals’. In addition, when Brebantio hears that his daughter has married a black guy, he says ‘Are there not charms by which the home of youth and maidhood might be abused? Brebantio immediately presumes that Othello needs to have utilized some sort of ‘appeal’– which in the 17th century suggested spells or love potions- on Desdemona for her to marry him, as she could not possibly have actually fallen for a black man of her own accord. This represents the naivety of Jacobean mindsets towards love and marital relationship in between people of opposing races because there must be some sort of sabotage or control for it to take place as it couldn’t perhaps happen voluntarily and naturally. 2) Individualism, Machiavelli and Venice: How do these shape the characterisation of Iago?

Setting the play in Venice was an intriguing option for Shakespeare as at the time, as Philip Brockbank stated, it was ‘famous for its mercantile prosperity, its happy resources of gold and treasure’. Nevertheless he likewise says ‘but it is a city where cash can be made by callous exploitation’. This conveys a style of hidden deceit in the city of Venice, which is exactly how Iago is performed in Othello. This is supported when Iago states when discussing working for Othello whom he is seen to dislike ‘I follow him to serve my turn upon him’.

The matter-of-fact declaration recommends Iago is very confident and righteous of his wish to take advantage of his employer. This characteristic is amplified through the setting of Venice also due to the fact that it is the home of the 16th century historian and thinker Machiavelli who had extremely controversial political views. He was so well-known in England that in the late 16th century, prior to Othello was set, a word was created since of him- ‘Machiavellianism’. This then suggested “the employment of shrewd and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”.

The English interest of Machiavelli’s ‘interesting intrigues and perfidious poisoners’appears to make sly plots and associates fashionable and stimulating, affecting the characterisation of Iago. Individualism is an ideology that began with the starts of Industrialism, which the character of Iago welcomes- ‘others there are who […] keep yet their hearts participating in on themselves’. This stimulates a sense of selfishness as he applauds the guys who serve their lords under false pretenses and in return ‘do well thrive by hem’ implying they get abundant. To the Jacobean audience, Venice advises them of unscrupulous commercialism where the government would leave everybody to their own gadgets economically-wise, a common ‘lessaiz faire’ method. This is a type of individualism which Iago thrives on, as he is only interested in self-interest. 3) How are Jacobean attitudes towards women obvious in the treatment of and response to Desdemona by other characters in the play? In 17th century Britain, females were seen inferior to men in all elements.

For example it was only in 1918 did some ladies begin to get the political vote, so 300 years prior to this, sexism was most evident and usually excepted. This is shown when Iago states to Brebantio ‘Thieves, burglars! Look to your house, your child, and your bags’. This gives the impression that Desdemona is a belongings of her daddy’s along with his ‘home’ and his ‘bags’. It likewise suggests she is of comparable value to these product things as she is in the exact same list as them.

Also, the truth that he refers to her as ‘your child’ and not her actual name strips away any individuality that Desdemona has and supports the idea of her status in society simply being, as Cornelius a Lapide would state ‘an exceptional ornament of guys because she is approved to man not just to procreate kids’ but for males to ‘exercise his jurisdiction and authority [over]. In the 17th century, females were expected to do as they were told from the commands of guys and the requirements of society. This is most obvious when Rodrigo exclaims to Brebantio ‘your daughter have actually made a gross revolt’. Gross’ conveys the disgust of Rodrigo that Desdemona rebelled versus her daddy’s will. The homonym ‘revolt’ provides a second meaning by giving a synonym of the adjective to describe it- (‘gross’). This magnifies the repulsion of Rodrigo of her rebellion and simulates the outrage of the Jacobean audience of Desdemona not adhering to the stereotype of women in this duration- as Sir Thomas Elyot states ‘moderate, fimorous, tractable [and] benign’ which need to be their qualities that are ‘most apparent and for this time adequate’.

Within a Jacobean audience, ladies were evaluated much more imminently than in modern society. This shows when Brebantio, on hearing that his child has wed a black guy without his authorization, states ‘O treason of the blood’. ‘Treason’ is viewed as one of the worst if not the worst criminal offense possible in the 17th century, to which penalty was likely death. In today’s society, to say that a female that has actually eloped with a male of the opposite race remains in the exact same category as treason would seem a little over-exaggerative, yet to the Jacobean audience it would seem regular and even sensible. Blood’ doesn’t just give the metaphoric sense of how family is most important in the 17th century; it likewise provides undertones of death and violence which supports the idea that it is common to want such cruelty as penalty of dishonour to the household. 4) Why is the play set in Venice? One of the factors that the play is set in Venice is that it is a place with numerous opposing views acting on it which compliments its complex plot and its contrasting characters. To start with, it is viewed as an extremely strongly Christian city, where the ‘Venetian society is orderly, obedient, and formal’.

The point of the play could be seen to rebel against this viewpoint, as the plot has lots of conceit and adjustment from more than one character. Another example of this is that the hero at the beginning of the play- Othello, becomes a male who kills his innocent better half and is presented as an ignorant, evaluating character. This could recommend that Vienna is similar because the primary view of Vienna includes innocence and appreciation, nevertheless when we look more closely, we see it is much more complex and corrupt.

When taking a look at the people of Vienna, and not the total photo, we are revealed with a lot more views of promiscuity and controversy over relationships and marriages. William Davies, a 17th century English barber-surgeon was vital of females in Italy as he said ‘Italian females were extremely salacious and wicked […] there are numerous thousands of raunchy living women that pay monthly unto the Pope for the wicked usage of their wicked bodies. This recommends that there was a popular view that even though Italy was seen to be an extremely Christian religious location, lots of women used prostitution as a kind of income. Prostitution and basic indiscrimination was disapproved of to a terrific degree by the Jacobean audience. Another example is when Thomas Coryat, another 17th century Englishman says about women of Venice ‘at the minimum twenty thousand, whereof numerous are esteemed so loose, that they are said to open their quivers to every arrow. This euphemism makes the view a lot less respectful and more inflammatory, supporting how judgmental the English opinion of the immoral women in Venice was. There is certainly one lady in Othello that fits this stereotype which is Cassius’ woman of the street Bianca; nevertheless she plays a fairly insignificant role. The two main woman roles in the play are Dedemona and Emilia. Desdemona may conform to the opposing stereotype of females in the 17th century which is a passive and feeble wife without any strength of character.

Nevertheless Emilia is thought about to be the hero at the end of the play, where she, a devoted and woman of chastity, is the just one that confronts the guy that remained in the middle of all the control and deceit, despite the fact that it was her own other half. For that reason Shakespeare utilizes the common observation of 17th century Britain of people of females of Vienna (whether the opinion might be factual or not is unimportant) as a gadget to surprise the audience with an unconventional Italian female hero. 5) Why does the play move to Cyprus?

The play transfers to Cyprus due to the fact that Othello was chosen to lead a troop to eliminate there. Already this brings in the style of dispute to the plot, where in particular Iago remains in secret conflict with Othello. It is likewise something of historic truth, where in 1570, the Turkish assaulted Cyprus which came from Venice. This caused a popular battle of Lepanto in 1571. This gave the Jacobean audience an insight of the background of why they were fighting, and it would be far more psychological and logical for the audience if they knew information about the war before-hand.

Likewise, the motion in setting mirrors the plot line because Venice is viewed as ‘crucial […] to the Christian as the protector of the Christian faith’. This suggests that Venice is a place with protection- a ‘powerful city-state’ This is comparable in the plot as Iago has attempted to control Othello and not succeeded in Venive, nevertheless when the setting moves to Cyprus, the audience feels that Othello remains in a more vulnerable position- both geographically and mentally. Cyprus is likewise the house of the Greek goddess of love- Aphrodite.

This is significant due to the fact that even though when the setting transfers to Cyprus more dispute occurs in the plot, it is the very first time where Othello and Desdemona are permitted to be together. However, the mythology of the Greek gods and goddesses imitates the romantic however idealistic development of plot, recommending that realism will quickly take control of which brings forward the more ominous side of the story. 6) What would a modern (Jacobean) audience have understood about the ‘Turks’?

Within a typical Jacobean audience, the people would mainly be relatively unconcerned to the information of events around the globe or on the ‘Turks’ as it was, due to the fact that in that duration they didn’t have the innovation that we have today to instantly publicise them. All that the Jacobean audience would have believed they learnt about the Turks would be from hearsay and literature, which would be a prejudiced, interpretative account of events. Nevertheless, through what little resources they would be exposed to, the general consensus would be of Turks as ‘the opponent’.

This is due to the fact that thirty years prior to Othello, the Turks were the ones who invaded Cyprus, and they would be advised of this by the poem on the Battle of Lepanto by their brand-new queen, King James I. This was the main piece of literature that informed the Jacobean audience of the happenings, which on page 9 of the book ‘King James VI and I Picked Works’, was described as ‘James’s initial impressive poem in fourteeners celebrating the success of Don John of Austria against Turkish forces in the Battle of Lepanto. His individual judgement of the fight and his obvious happiness of Austria winning the fight over the Turks would absolutely put the Turks in the even worse light, specifically seeing as the view was by the highly regarded leader of the nation. Nevertheless, this opinion can be seen as absolutely oblivious, as Oliver Morals, a modern day philosopher said ‘Greece threatened to take total control of Cyprus [which was made from Turks and Greeks] by a military junta […] As a guaranter power Turkey got into Cyprus to bring peace’.—————————— 2] http://www. thefreedictionary. com/Moor [3] Catherine Belsey, ‘Shakespeare: interpretative contexts’ in Literature in Context, ed. Rick Rylance and Judy Simons (2001)[ 4] http://idioms. thefreedictionary. com/ram [5] Julia Briggs, This Stage -Play World( 1983, 1997 )[ 6] Philip Brockbank, Intro to Volpone(1997)[ 7] http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Machiavellianism [8] Fintan O’Toole, Shakespear is Difficult, but so if Life (1990,2000) [9] Cornelius a Lapide, Omes divi pauli Epistolas.

Commentaria (1638) [10] Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book Names the Govenor, 1531 [11] www. croftstudycentre. freeserve. co. uk [12] A true relation of the journeys and many unpleasant captivity of William Davies, barber-surgeon of London (1614) [13] Thomas Coryat, Coryat’s Crudities (1611) [14] croftstudycentre. freeserve. co. uk [15] King James VI and I: Picked Works By James I (King of England), Neil Rhodes, Jennifer Richards, Joseph Marshall, 2003 [16] http://wiki. answers. com/Q/User: V? timeless

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