Ideas in Othello

Which two ideas resonate with you? How does Shakespeare initiate and maintain interest in those ideas? (500 words) The two ideas that resonate with me in the play Othello are masculinity and race because I feel that they play an important role in the actions that are determined by the main characters and the relationships that are obtained. The more masculine characters in the play are often more reluctant to show any type of emotions such as fear or sadness but instead show courage and strength.

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Othello is seen as a masculine character, through the way that he is honoring his country as a soldier. This skill of his is venerable and necessary to the state and allows him to be in great demand by both the duke and senate. This is referred to in the play fro the very beginning as the role that he has in society, to the way that he serves his country in Cyprus. Othello acts masculine to the racial names that he receives such as ‘the Moor’, ‘Barbary horse’, ‘old black ram’, by sticking up for himself but never starting a fight.

A true masculine quality performed by a male is the role of having to look after their own daughter or wife. Brabantio had always been Desdemona’s main figure in her life until Othello took this job away from his, ‘I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband; and so much duty as my mother showed, to you, preferring you before her father’. This characteristic shows that a woman is not able to encounter her own life, but needs some one there to keep her safe.

The other main idea of race looks at the nationality of a person and, in relation to the play, the judgments that are made concerning a particular persons race. Othello’s race sets him apart from the general population of white Europeans living in the area. Although Othello is respected and admired for the military service he provides and his position in society, there are continual underlying racial tensions because he is a ‘Moor’.

There are a number of different racial names that are used, such as when Iago tells Brabantio that an ‘old black ram is tupping your white ewe’. This represents the idea that Iago is relating Othello to an animal, making him appear to be a race completely different to himself. Othello seems to make a point of presenting himself as an outsider, whether because he recognizes his exotic appeal or because he is self-conscious of and defensive about his difference from other Venetians.

The main controversy that is caused in Act 1 is the secret marriage between Othello and Desdemona, a marriage unheard of. In Venetian society at that time, it was uncommon that a Moor was to marry a white woman. Brabantio, Desdemona’s father was appalled when he found of that his daughter would be marrying someone that he did not approve of. He stated, ‘O thou foul thief! Where hast thou stowed my daughter? ’ which refers to the concept that not only will he not be the main figure in Desdemona’s life but his daughter has apparently been taken ‘by spells and medicines’.


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