Thursday, January 26, 2012

what are the central themes in othello

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What are the Central Themes in “Othello”


I believe that racism, jealousy, deception and role of women are the most central themes in Othello, but I argue that the most important is racism. Throughout “Othello”, Othello the main body of the play is referred to as, “The moor”, “His Moorship”, “Thick lips” and, “Old black ram”. It is obvious that these remarks are down to his race and his appearance. The result of these insults is that Othello’s individuality is taken away from him and in certain cases he is reduced to a worthless animal.


These descriptions of Othello give us the audience an idea of darkness, violence, and in 1.1 Iago even uses a metaphor suggesting that Othello isn’t even human, “you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you’ll have your nephews neigh to you.” Iago is telling Brabantio that his daughter (Desdemona) has ran-away with Othello, that they are having sex and that his descendants are going to be the equivalent to mere animals. This shows that Iago thinks that mixing races is wrong which indicates he is racist.


We don’t get to see Othello in the first scene and so the audience only learns about Othello from a biased source. When the audience does actually see Othello in the next scene we learn that he is quite the opposite of how Iago has described him, “I love the gentle Desdemona” we can see that he is in fact a man of honor with a moderate temper and that he is a simple open man.


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Race must have been quite an important issue to Shakespeare as he makes this, “Moor” this outsider (as described by some of the characters) the hero of the play. As the audience, we can see that with his unique openness and great warrior skills Othello isn’t actually that much of an outsider, but surely without his talents he would be. However Othello’s race sets him apart and makes him very self �conscious. Because of this he works hard to try and sustain some reputation so that he can be regarded as equal to his surrounding whites. Because of the high-class system in Venice (where a lot of the play is set) it is possible for a black man to have power, but virtually impossible to have status. I think Othello does have a small amount of status and would do almost anything to try and cling on to it.


Othello does have direct power over the likes of Iago and Roderigo but in extreme circumstances Iago could take advantage of the fact that Othello would do anything to keep his reputation. That is exactly what we see.


This is where we see the theme of jealousy portrayed in Othello. The fact that a black man, an ex-slave has more power than the likes of Iago and Roderigo angers them, and they are jealous that such a man can have such a high position in the army, power over lots of white people and that he is married to the beautiful Desdemona who is of course white. Iago expresses most of his racial anger in the form of jealousy. To feed his jealousy he goes to extremes. In 1.1, Iago with the aid of Roderigo tells Brabantio (the father of Desdemona) that Othello has ran-away with his daughter and has used black magic to do so, “Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you” Iago deliberately uses the word “devil” because it is was black stereotype of the time. Most people believed that black people were strongly linked to the devil and hell. This was clearly a racist comment by Iago and it is evidence that his jealousy is racially motivated.


Iago likes to bring down the people who he is jealous of, “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” He again uses Othello’s race to make others think very poorly of him and to get the complete wrong idea of him.


I believe that Jealousy is very closely linked to Racism and quite possibly even a branch off of Racism because the main reason why people like Iago and Roderigo are jealous of Othello in the first place is that he is black and very successful.


Deception is an important theme in the play and it is also strongly linked to racism. Iago is without doubt the key deceptionist in Othello. His deception is defiantly racially motivated as the only reason he wants to get at Othello is because he is jealous of him because he is black and successful. Iago openly admits to Roderigo that he is deceiving Othello, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him” Iago is telling Roderigo that he will follow Othello until he can find some way of getting revenge upon him. Othello hasn’t even done anything wrong to Iago, the fact that he is black and is doing well for himself seems to be enough. This again shows the links to racism. Iago is clever. He knows the position that Othello is in. He knows that because Othello is black and it is hard for him to maintain his place in society if one thing goes wrong for him, his reputation would be severely dented and the dent would grow being fed by public opinion. Iago takes advantage of this and fools Othello into thinking that Desdemona is having an affair with his loyal lieutenant Cassio. It gets to the point where Othello completely changes and in . he pledges an oath to seek a violent revenge on Desdemona. From here onwards, the tragedy of Othello becomes almost unavoidable.


In my opinion I think that if Othello was white he wouldn’t of had to worry about his place in society or his reputation. He would have probably been laughed at for some time but it would have soon passed over. But because he was black it meant more than that. He could have lost he place in society and his reputation for good and that is why he was so easily changed by Iago � because he had his whole life at risk.


The other major theme in Othello is role of women. I think it has some links to racism but not as much as the other themes. All the main female characters in Othello are abused by the male characters.


Desdemona is mistreated right at the very beginning by her father Brabantio. Knowing that he wouldn’t give her permission to marry a black man, Desdemona does so in secret when Brabantio finds out he disowns her as when Othello is away on duty he doesn’t let he stay with him.


Desdemona can be very stubborn and stands up for what she believes in. Knowing that she was going to fend for Cassio (who wrongly lost his job). Iago takes advantage of her role and tells Othello that they are having an affair. When Desdemona protests to Othello, it is more believable to him. This is another of the ways that role of women links to racism.


Bianca is mistreated by Cassio. She is more of a trophy girlfriend than a real one. Cassio mistreats her from the start calling her a, “Bauble” just a simple pretty object. Cassio makes it public that he only uses her for sex and doesn’t really love her. This again helps Iago with his racially motivated attempt to make Othello think that his wife is having an affair as it seems more possible to Othello if Cassio isn’t loyal and loving to his own wife.


Iago uses Emilia. She is married to him and constantly tries to satisfy and impress him. Iago uses her to go and retreeve him Othello’s precious handkerchief, which was passed on to Desdemona. The hanky wasn’t just a piece of material. Othello had fought hard to gain it and so by giving it to Desdemona it was a symbol of his genuine love for her. After Emilia has got it for Iago, he plants it in Blanca’s room. Therefore making it look like Desdemona had given it to Cassio who passed it onto Bianca � again convincing Othello of his wife’s guilt.


I feel that the role of women in Othello is that they are inferior to men. Iago takes advantage of this and uses them in his quest to convince Othello that his wife is having an affair. The reason Iago is doing this in the first place is because of the colour of Othello’s skin so role of women does have some link to racism.


In conclusion I Think that racism is the central theme in Othello because first of all Shakespeare makes the hero of the play an outsider. Because Othello was black he had to work extremely hard to gain his place in society. His place wasn’t secure so Othello would do almost anything to maintain his position. I think that if he was white he wouldn’t have faced such a harsh dilemma and the tragedy of the play could have been avoided.


I feel that other themes such as Jealousy and deception branch out of the central theme, which is racism. Iago is mainly only jealous because Othello is black and has more power than him. It is certainly racially motivated. Deception also branches off because it is the action of Iago’s racially motivated jealousy.


The role of women does link to racism but not as directly. Iago takes advantage of the inferior position of the females and uses them in different ways to convince Othello of Desdemona’s apparent affair with Cassio.





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