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Venice was a famous, rich, mysterious place in Shakespeare's time and it would have fascinated Jacobean contemporaries.

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Introduction

Venice was a famous, rich, mysterious place in Shakespeare's time and it would have fascinated Jacobean contemporaries. Venice's social structure and strict customs against intermarriage offers plenty of opportunities for dramatic conflict and character contrast. It makes Othello an outsider, someone different in nearly all respects from the Senators of Venice providing more dramatic contrast. Venice, as a 'crossroads' where all kinds of people lived, was a fertile place to get the drama going. Although only a small part of the play takes s part in Venice, it is of enormous importance to the play. Venice provides the background of security, a safe society that seems sure of its identity; urbane and civilised; as Brabantio exclaims "This is Venice; / My house is not a grange". Venice, as a symbol of refined Christian values and civilised behavior that still has a darker side shown through the ambivalence of Othello's acceptance in society, allows the audience to question the moral values in the play. Othello is welcomed as a warrior and as a guest but it is seen as unfit for him, as a black man, to marry Desdemona, despite his eloquence. ...read more.

Middle

When the settings changes it could also suggest a change in Othello. The storm on arrival to Cyprus prefigures dark happenings (etc). Cyprus's situation itself, under threat from both sides, out and within challenging its security and making it difficult to defend suggests that Othello's security will break down and his self-confidence will go. Iago, who works from within to plant the seeds of doubt that eventually destroy Othello's confidence, helps this. The move from Venice to Cyprus allows Othello to confuse his public and private roles. With delicate understatement he notes: "I have done the state some service and they know it", and concludes his valediction with the tale of the Turk in Aleppo; Othello, the private man, having brought shame on the state, Othello, the dutiful soldier, must punish him. As much as he understands the political and military realities of Venice, Othello does not have an insider's knowledge of its social etiquette, though he may have heard something of the license permitted in this fashionable city. So when Iago tells him that wives "let heaven see" what they do not show their husbands, and that it is unremarkable to be naked in bed with a friend "an hour or more, not meaning any harm", Othello knows no differently. ...read more.

Conclusion

The opposition of Venetian and Turk continues through the play, culminating in Othello's final speech in which he ultimately conquers the threat presented by "a turbaned Turk." According to Virginia Mason Vaughan " the precariousness of a nation's identity - not just an individual's - lurks behind the tragedy of Othello and his wife." Venice was seen as a place of romance, with cultural values and yet also, as the birthplace of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527), it was associated with poisonings and vice. Having established the importance of Othello's public role in Venice in Act 1, the focus then narrows to concentrate on the private man. He is both surprised and overjoyed, expressing "wonder great as my content" that Desdemona has arrived before him. After the turmoil and uncertainty of his voyage, his emotional commitment to his marriage is reflected in "if it were now to die, / 'Twere now to be most happy." In taking Othello and Desdemona to Cyprus, Shakespeare removes them from the social structure and security of the environment in which their love developed. The storm prefigures the discord and fragmentation to come, for the journey to Cyprus has forced a separation between Othello and Desdemona (parted by "foul and violent tempest." ...read more.

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