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How does Othello's Character Develop throughout the course of the play and how would 16th century and modern day audiences respond to this?

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Introduction

Abdulbasit Asif 11SBe How does Othello's Character Develop throughout the course of the play and how would 16th century and modern day audiences respond to this? Othello was first performed by the King's Men at the court of King James I on November 1, 1604. Written during Shakespeare's great tragic period, which also included the composition of Hamlet (1600), King Lear (1604-5), and Macbeth (1606), Othello is set against the backdrop of the wars between Venice and Turkey that raged in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Cyprus, which is the setting for most of the action, was a Venetian outpost attacked by the Turks in 1570 and conquered the following year. The story of Othello is derived from another source, an Italian prose tale written in 1565 by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinzio (usually referred to as Cinthio). The original story contains the bare bones of Shakespeare's plot: a Moorish general is deceived by his ensign into believing his wife is unfaithful. To Cinthio's story Shakespeare added supporting characters such as the rich young dupe Roderigo and the outraged and grief-stricken Brabantio, Desdemona's father. Shakespeare compressed the action into the space of a few days and set it against the backdrop of military conflict. ...read more.

Middle

I don't think this opinion would differ depending on the whether the audience was 16th century or modern, rather than how the audience feel about Othello's character at this point in the play. In act 3 scene 3 Othello finds himself being persuaded to reinstate Cassio by Desdemona. She insists that she is only begging him to reinstate Cassio for his own good, but her insistence irritates Othello. He however, assures her that he will 'deny her nothing' and then politely asks her to leave him alone for the time being. We learn in this scene that Othello's mind is full of military matters, and he does not have time for his wife's pleadings. He grows impatient with continued, na�ve insistence and sends her away, but not until after he says he will do whatever she wants. Desdemona therefore succeeds in obliging Cassio's request, but in the process she innocently falls into the trap being set by Iago. At this point, Othello is very confused, he feels that's his wife may be cheating on him with Cassio and this reveals his second and most important flaw, his sexual jealousy. He is jealous of the fictitious love affair between Desdemona and Cassio that has been created in his mind by Iago. ...read more.

Conclusion

As he continues, though, he addresses an important problem: will his crime be remembered as the fall from grace of a Venetian Christian, or an assault on Venice by an ethnic and cultural outsider? He stresses his outsider status in a way that he does not do earlier in the play, comparing himself to a "base Indian" who cast away a pearl worth more than all of his tribe. Finally, he recalls a time in which he defended Venice by smiting an enemy Turk, and then stabs himself in a re-enactment of his earlier act, thereby casting himself as both insider and outsider, enemy of the state and defender of the state. Throughout the play, Shakespeare cultivates Othello's undecided status as insider and outsider. Othello identifies himself strongly with Christian culture, yet his belief in fate and the charmed handkerchief suggest ties to a pagan heritage. Despite the fact that his Christianity seems slightly hazy, Shakespeare repeatedly casts Othello as Christ and Iago as Judas. These echoes of the Gospel suggest that Othello and his tragedy are somehow central to the Christian world of Venice. Furthermore, while most up to date editions of the play include the words "base Indian", the First Folio edition actually says "base Iudean" (i.e. Judean); possibly implying that Othello compares himself to Judas. ...read more.

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