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In Othello Shakespeare explores the nature of social prejudice. How far does your reading of the play support this view?

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Introduction

'In Othello Shakespeare explores the nature of social prejudice'. How far does your reading of the play support this view? Although Shakespeare does display the unusual trait of empathy towards society's 'outcasts'; most of society at that time was plagued by 'social prejudice'. However, prejudice in itself is a loose term for it simply refers to bigotry. Thus, it provides a rather extensive category to examine, for instance, in 'Othello' racism is the most prevalent form of prejudice, yet misogyny and intellectual prejudice is also apparent. Instead, it's the 'social' aspect of the phrase that narrows the focus down a little as now it is apparent that the prejudice is not confined to any particular person, the problem being of course, that the only way for Shakespeare to portray such prejudices is through the medium of individuals. Those with a higher status within society are generally perceived to be those who are the most cautious with their views, yet Brabantio demonstrates no notion of restraint when Othello 'enchants' Desdemona and marries her. In fact, Brabantio's prejudices are conveyed in quite a brazen and passionate manner as he contrasts the "thief" of Othello with the "delicate youth" of Desdemona. ...read more.

Middle

"I do beseech you send for the lady to the Sagittary", up until this point, the notion of asking for Desdemona's version of events has not even been considered. This is perhaps indicative of the role of women in society back then, where they were secondary to men and thus, were not considered to be useful when dealing with issues such as this one, despite being involved. This is Shakespeare depicting prejudice subtly, for nothing is actually said that is specifically derogatory towards women, but the absence of women does highlight the arrogance of men in society as well as showing that the most objective people were often the victims of prejudice themselves, like Othello in this instance. "'Tis such another fitchew! Marry a perfumed one." Another prejudice is present here as Bianca is regarded with contempt by Cassio, the very person who she sleeps with. Prostitutes have always had a lower status in society for the sordid lives that they lead. No one in 'Othello' appears to be quite as poorly regarded as Bianca as highlighted by the fact that even Emilia berates Bianca. Bianca's wish appears to be to marry Cassio, yet he does not even consider the possibility. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, this interpretation also highlights the uniqueness of Desdemona's character. Due to her unparalleled lack of prejudice, Desdemona cannot be perceived as representing 'social prejudices' but instead acting as a beacon against it. She is clearly an exception to society rather than the norm in society and by effectively symbolising the exact opposite of 'social prejudices', she highlights the fact that 'social prejudice' is in fact present. Overall, there is little doubting that prejudice is rife in 'Othello' and it is demonstrated by the language of several characters (Brabantio when speaking to Othello, Cassio when speaking about Bianca and Iago about almost every other character in the play). The 'social' aspect of these prejudices is further emphasised by the use of common stereotypes at that time as well as the prevalence of prejudice in characters and also, the use of Brabantio's status in society to show that the tendency of those in power to be driven by their attitudes. However, through the depiction of the Duke's calm resolve, the union of two races, and also Desdemona's incredible purity, Shakespeare does highlight that society is not solely governed by prejudice and also shows that it is possible for individuals to hold rational views separate from that of 'social prejudices'. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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