Shakespeare’s play “Othello” both obstacles and shows the worths and beliefs of his Elizabethan context. To please his audience Shakespeare’s discussion of Venetian society replicates English society and for that reason the audience is positioned to see the Venetians as maintaining English Christian beliefs. Yet Shakespeare also challenges Elizabethan audience’s understanding of ethnic culture and race through the characterisation of Othello as being foreign in appearance but having status in the militaries. Elizabethan audiences were highly formed by their socially determined functions and birth right.
Shakespeare utilises his audience’s belief in “The Great Chain of Being” in his building and construction of Venetian society and for that reason promotes their belief in the racial superiority of the English or other white European societies. The play opens with Iago mentioning “I know my rate, I am worth no even worse a location”. Shakespeare’s duplicated use of the very first individual “I know”, “I am” foregrounds Iago’s belief in not challenging his place within society, however he also presumes that he will be rewarded with his rightful place.
The rigorous social structure of this society reflects the Elizabethan’s view of their supremacy and how they thought their race to be more civilised than others. Elizabethan society is also reflected in Shakespeare’s characterisation of Iago, yet the order of society which Elizabethan thought in is then challenged through the intro of the character Othello who threatens the social order of Venetian society. The audience is placed to decline a character that does not stick to social practices and foreshadows the Elizabethan belief that condition in the “Excellent Chain of Being is inappropriate.
Difference in race in Elizabethan times was facing and d challenged their understanding of everyday life. Shakespeare’s engaged his audience by depicting the ‘Black’ Othello as being smart and powerful through his actions and words. Othello is characterised by his highly appreciated status as an army General and this challenges the Elizabethan’s understanding of race in that a black guy should not rise in status above his white counterparts.
Shakespeare likewise challenges the Elizabethan’s understanding of race when it comes to him falling in love with the high status Desdemona, that is considered as wrong and challenges the Elizabethan’s understanding of order with the racially inferior Othello as exceeding his place. Shakespeare restores the Elizabethan English audience’s sense of racial supremacy in his representation of Othello as a stereotypical animal and this is shown in Iago’s severe words “black ram”. This negative language portrays Othello as being animalistic and practically less than human.
The audience is positioned in a position to turn down the out of place character and to view him as having no place in their Elizabethan society, thus supporting their sense of racial supremacy. Elizabethan audiences had strong beliefs in their society’ structure and if everybody did not conform to these beliefs then the ‘Terrific Chain of Being’ was interrupted. Shakespeare’s play Othello reflects on all of these Elizabethan problems and his context reviews their beliefs to do with ethnicity and race.