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"Othello is a tragedy of outsiders." By careful reference to the various "outsiders" in the play, consider how far you agree.

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13th October 2001 Zahra Kiyani "Othello is a tragedy of outsiders." By careful reference to the various "outsiders" in the play, consider how far you agree. The most obvious way of being an outsider in Othello is through being a foreigner, and a non-Venetian. Othello and Cassio are both outsiders in this sense, Othello is a black man, a "Moor", and Cassio is a "Florentine". Othello begins in Venice, in Shakespeare's time the great commercial centre of the western world. Venice was the place of great hustle and bustle, merchants and tradesmen from other lands were commonplace, and yet we see throughout the play how Othello and Cassio are ridiculed. Cassio is degraded as he is from Florence; Iago calls him "a great arithmetician". As Florence was known throughout Europe for it's banking activities, this is an insult aimed especially at a Florentine. Othello is scorned because he is a black man, called a "lascivious Moor" and a "wheeling stranger" by Roderigo. Cassio is a noble man of good "breeding" and manners. His behaviour and language is consistent with the upper classes of society. This is why when he loses his position alongside Othello through being drunk, he feels devastated - "I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial" says Cassio, speaking of his reputation. ...read more.


Othello fails to realise that Desdemona's willingness to put up with the mockery from Iago and the rage from Brabantio that their marriage inspires, is more proof of the love that exists between them. Desdemona and Emilia are the central female characters in Othello and so both are outsiders in this way. Women in Shakespeare's time were not thought of as equals to men, and were expected to obey their husbands. They were not usually consulted on important affairs, leaving them in the dark. As the play progresses, Desdemona becomes much like Emilia in the sense that they both become outsiders in their own marriages. At first, the love between Othello and Desdemona is very strong - they exclaim "O my fair warrior!" and "My dear Othello!" after meeting each other after the storm, and Desdemona is confident, despite her position as a woman she calls Iago a "slanderer" and puts herself in the firing line in order to protect Emilia. Yet as Othello's love turns to jealousy - "Devil!" he calls her, "striking her", Desdemona's self-confidence diminishes, "What shall I do to win my lord again?" she becomes more passive, an outsider to her will and an outsider in her union with Othello, it is he who is making ...read more.


In this way Iago is an outsider, but then we could argue that there is no one in the play who is as villainous as him and for him to have a companion like him would be impossible. The fact that Iago's plan works is because Desdemona, Othello, Cassio and Emilia are too honest and noble to think of badly of Iago. Iago is also kept out of the circle including Cassio and Othello; he is not in the league of Cassio because he is not a gentleman - "'tis my breeding that gives me this bold show of courtesy" says Cassio, unintentionally implying that Iago lacks his manners, he is told by Othello to "disembark my coffers". This continuously vexes Iago and is perhaps the reason that sparks his entire plan. I completely agree that Othello is a tragedy of outsiders. Each character is isolated in one form or another, and each has difficulties. This has probably affected communication and lessened discussion between the characters. Iago's plan has been made easier by the fact that each character is an outsider and lack of communication between the characters. This is perhaps what makes Othello such a successful tragedy, that it is only when Desdemona is killed that the barriers between the characters break down and they realise Iago's simple scheme. ...read more.

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