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Othello is a black man in a white society. How does his status as an outsider contribute to his downfall?

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Introduction

Othello is a black man in a white society. How does his status as an outsider contribute to his downfall? Shakespeare's play, Othello, explores themes of love and passion, 'otherness', jealousy, revenge and order vs. Chaos, which all revolve mainly around the protagonist, Othello. Surrounded by Venetians within a white society, Othello begins to realise his 'otherness' thus his insecurities as an outside and a "Moor" increase. The deceptive Iago uses these dangerous blemishes in Othello's personality to manipulate the moral Othello, using his one fatal flaw, jealousy. During the 16th Century, the Elizabethan audiences' attentiveness and familiarity of the thin line between order and chaos would have added to the tragic story of Othello. This was due to the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish in 1572. They would also have had a clear understanding of the difference between savagery, which they stereotypes black people to be; and so called civilisation because of the predominant residence of the white people. Black people were generally only conveyed through literature, usually as evil and chaotic. Shakespeare explored the double-edged surroundings that are portrayed within Othello as a play, and the chaos and jealousy that reeks from Othello through the depreciation of his morals. The war that the Elizabethans were familiar with symbolises the tempest that Othello himself was dragged into, the war within his heart and soul. Shakespeare's portrayal of Othello is of a Venetian general but at the same time as an outside to the society that he resided in. ...read more.

Middle

His awareness of his dissimilarity was so strong that he compared her to himself and his race, using his own 'blackness' as an insult to Desdemona. Iago's relationship with Othello was that of a supposed friend and an ancient. However, Iago made no attempt to suppress his jealousy and hatred that he had for Othello, appalled and ashamed that a black man was the Venetian general, but Iago was merely his ancient, above the paranoia that his wife, Emilia, was having an affair with Othello. Iago expressed this bitter rage as it evolved into a deceiving plan that Iago plans against Othello in a lethal attempt to debase Othello's reputation. Iago began to do so as he informed Brabantio of the marriage between Desdemona and the "Moor". He used vulgar imagery to describe that they were making the "beast with two backs", to anger Brabantio and convince him to break up Othello and Desdemona. The irony that lies in the conversations between Iago and Othello is caused by Othello's repetitive phrase "Honest Iago". The audience knew that Iago was the one causing trouble, and was not honest. Iago was successful in the manipulation of Othello due to Othello's own knowledge and understanding of his 'otherness'. Iago explained to Othello that "I know our country disposition well" implying that Othello was still kept in the dark about the behaviour of Venetian women in particular. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although he loved Desdemona passionately, the idea of romanticism that passion was bad, was conveyed to the Elizabethan audience. Shakespeare signalled a message through Othello, implying that passion was an emotion that was deadly when there was no control over it, whereas reasoning and subtle relationships were good. This was not only Shakespeare's message, but the views of the Elizabethans. When Othello's jealousy takes over him, Iago merely feeds him the details, whereas it was Othello's idea to kill Cassio and Desdemona, not Iago's. Sean McEvoy explained that Othello's tragedy was that "he interprets the world - an ideology" and was weak enough to be manipulated. He felt that as he was honest and passionate himself, he could trust other characters in the play, such as the supposedly "Honest" Iago. Othello was a great man within the play, a gracious general and a passionate husband, but it was the fault of himself and his lethal error of jealousy that allowed him to be frail enough (personality-wise) to be influenced to commit the murder of Desdemona. As Othello's manners transformed into a violent storm, he began to fit the stereotype that was formed about him as an aggressive black man, which is when the start of his downfall occurred, whereas at the start of the play, when he was caring and generous, such emotions like jealousy would not occur, thus preventing his downfall. Othello's personality changed into a ball of contradictions, his feelings entwined in confusion and jealousy, as Sean McEvoy rightly interpreted "the contradictions within his ideology destroy him". Gul-e-Raana Afzal Ms Middlecott English Coursework ...read more.

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