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This essay analyzes the themes of good and evil in Shakespeare’s “Othello.” It will examine the moral conflicts faced by characters, particularly Othello and Iago, and how these conflicts drive the plot. The piece aims to explore the complexity of human nature, the influence of jealousy and manipulation, and the tragic consequences of moral failings. The goal is to offer a nuanced understanding of the play’s exploration of good versus evil and its relevance to contemporary moral discussions. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Iago.
How it works
According to the Collins dictionary, the concept of ‘otherness’ is the quality that someone or something has which is different in appearance, character, etc. Shakespeare seemed to be very interested in creating this type of character in his plays, displaying a feeling of fitness for the Elizabethan audience. However, in Othello, it seems rather different than in the rest. The character of Othello is portrayed as ‘different’ for three main different reasons; his race, his religion, and his character. These last include his speech, attitudes, and own inner conflict.
Shakespeare doesn’t hide how his character is an outsider, as the title itself creates a dichotomy between the character and the rest; Othello, the Moor of Venice. Othello is displayed as a dark skin savage opposed to the refined Venice and Venetians. Despite the clear opposition, Shakespeare makes his character a great soldier and a converted Christian. This, as Fiedler explains, creates a difference where ‘stranger’ and ‘spoilsport’ does not necessarily have the same meaning. An important fact that is not understood by the rest of the cast in the play.
How it works
The first differentiation of the character, which makes him a stranger to the rest, is his race. His dark skin color makes him an infiltrator of the white Venetian kingdom. Even before he appears in the play, he is already described as “an old black ram”, a “horse,” a “stranger,” and a “barbarian”. This allows Othello to be isolated right from the beginning. The ones with the racist attitude are Iago and Roderigo, who display the stereotype Africans had in the age of Shakespeare; the idea of white supremacy over the black as slaves and inferior. In a conversation between Iago and Roderigo, the former explains how he will not follow a ‘black ram’ but rather himself in battle. This type of comment suggests the attitude that Elizabethan England had towards Africans and dark skins being brought to the British Isles and colonies.
Furthermore, little is said about Othello’s background, but the fact that he is a foreign mercenary stands without a doubt. In the play, Othello explains how “From year to year: the battle, sieges, fortune, that I have passed”. This is a way to make the character a lifelong outsider everywhere he has gone. Gillies adds that being ‘geographically displaced’ causes Shakespeare’s ‘strangers’ to become more threatening.
Following the lines of the foreigner, there is another factor that influences the ‘otherness’ in Othello, the Moor. Moors were usually Muslims, although in this case, it is known that Othello was converted to Christianity. The fact that the War of Cyprus against the Turks, which is portrayed in the play, was a religious war, makes the conflict between Othello and the rest of the Christian Venetians exponentially larger.
The cast, especially Iago, makes no difference in acknowledging as a converted Christian and a fake Christian. He, thereon, becomes responsible for reinforcing Othello’s isolation in regard to the rest. Regarding this topic, Tekalp explains how for such kinds of people, ‘strangers,’ or non-Christians, have always become inferior to the ‘same’ and should remain as ‘footnotes’ to the society they shelter in. Iago even declares how Othello isn’t worthy of his position as only a true believer of heaven can lead and calm the Venetian army.
The racial and religious conflict extends to the relationship between Desdemona and Othello. The love between the characters can be interpreted as a form of union between ‘white England and the black colonies.’ However, the interracial relationship is seen by the rest of the characters in the play as a violation of the ‘black’ to the white race, only softened by the fact that Othello is a heroic figure and a Christian, not a Muslim.
In regards to the character that makes Othello an ‘alien’ to the community he lives in is his personality. One of the main attributes of Othello is his barbaric attitude as a warrior, a mercenary who fights for money rather than to defend his nation. His life experiences, along with his brutality, are very distinctive when comparing it with the prototypical Venetian soldier, characterized by chivalry and a preference for a high life rather than to be on the battlefield. As Othello is made commander, society proofs to use him for his skills as a soldier but never accepts him.
Moreover, Othello acknowledges he is an outsider when he addresses his speech and manners, which, although it breaks with the stereotype, is still different from the one of his surroundings. Therefore, Shakespeare creates a character who is well-established as a stranger in the play due to “his past, his bearing, and above all, his language, with its unusual rhythms, grandeur, and exoticism” besides his skin color.
Lastly, following the sociological definition of otherness, “social identities are created through our ongoing social interaction with other people and our subsequent self-reflection about who we think we are according to these social exchanges”. Therefore, this not only focuses on social differences but also on self-differentiation. Othello becomes a stranger to himself. The play proceeds, and the social pressures and isolation of Othello end up resulting in his own suicide. In his last soliloquy, Othello seems to kill everything that makes him an outcast to society, without taking into consideration what this act involved; ‘the destruction of Othello.’ This conception is held by Lupton, who considers that Othello kills his undesirable half, ‘the turbaned Turks and the circumcision can be interpreted as the ‘inclusive sign of Othello’s otherness’.
The otherness in Othello is the result of several external traits, mainly religious and racial, as well as internal. All these factors combined isolate the character in profound solitude, making him not only a stranger in Venice but also a stranger within himself. An outcome that worsens as the play progresses and Othello commits suicide.
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