Analysis of Either Oedipus the King or Othello

Analysis of Either Oedipus the King or Othello
  • Date:
    Jun 24, 2019
  • Category:
    Othello
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Othello, the play portraying the tragedy of an ‘honorable murderer’ (Shakespeare, 1604, p.184) written by Shakespeare in 1604 roots in the story of the Venetian Moor create by Cinthio. Cultivating a range of eternal and ever-relevant themes, the play remains up-to-date even nowadays. The plot of the play revolves around the Venetian military commander of Arabian descent possessing brilliant military skills and immense authority among the troops, who marries a young daughter of the duke of Venice and departs to Cyprus to defend the country from Turkish invasion. The peculiarity of this play as one of the most remarkable tragedies written by Shakespeare is that it is rather ‘domestic’, as McLeish and Unwin (1999) call it, as it doesn’t revolve around global issues like opposition of duty and love, honor or fall of the monarch. Othello, in its turn, revolves around the theme of marriage and betrayal placed in the context of interracial relationships and treacherous

It could be stated that the entire play rests upon a range of betrayals and intrigues leading to grave consequences: Iago as the main antagonist weaves a plot against his commander out of his selfish ambitions. Generally, the play touches upon many themes including love and age (which is examined by Stavropoulos (1987) as the aspect of contrast between Desdemona and Othello), marital fidelity, race and otherness, relations between men and women, innocence and betrayal by the trusted men.

The moor becomes a victim of the conspiracy designed by Iago and Roderigo and thus victimizes Desdemona, whose innocence was placed in doubt. However, Othello’s untamed jealousy aimed at his wife is an outcome of his blind confidence of villainous Iago and Roderigo.

The topic of race is expressed in a very remarkable way, for it is based on contrasts: Desdemona in her innocent whiteness is opposed to ‘black’ moor at the time, when “the marital union of a man of black skin and a white woman of superior social status” was considered an embarrassment (Toker, 2014, p.31). The theme of racial prejudice, which were not rare at that time, is also present in the play, triggering lack of confidence and sparking bitter jealousy in Othello, for the otherness of the protagonist in Elizabethan era is lavishly emphasized verbally with help of labels like ‘moor’ or ‘black’ (Multu, 2013, p.136). What is rather typical and natural for the contemporary situation, Shakespeare endowed the image of the Moor with the implicit ‘barbaric’ traits, making him expressive and quick-tempered as an opposition to cold-blooded and treacherous child of European civilization Iago).

Another theme appearing in the play is the role of women, for it was Emilia, who found Desdemona’s handkerchief and honestly took it to her husband, giving rise to bitter conspiracy, which eventually lead to deaths. On the other hand, Desdemona is portrayed mainly passive yet pure and ready to forgive the husband his humiliating mistrust.

Generally, it is necessary to mention that the play’s plot is probably among the most dynamic in Shakespeare’s heritage. Moreover, the play is woven out of contrasts, and the main visual opposition between Desdemona and Othello is reinforced by multiple polarities that interfere the dramatic world of the play (Stavropoulos, 1987, p.125): these are love and hate, civilized Venice and ‘wilder’ Cyprus, the verge between paganism and Christianity, contrast between women and men and between deceit and truth.

Reference list
McLeish, K. & Unwin, S. F. (1999). A Pocket Guide to Shakespeares Plays. Faber & Faber.
Mutlu, K. (2013). Racism in Othello. Journal Of History, Culture & Art Research / Tarih Kültür Ve Sanat Arastirmalari Dergisi, 2(2), 134-141.
Shakespeare, W. (1604). Othello. Retrieved June 20, 2015 from http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/12996.Othello
Stavropoulos, J. C. (1987). Love and Age in Othello. Shakespeare Studies, 19, 125.
Toker, A. (2014). Othello: Alien In Venice. Journal Of Academic Studies, 15(60), 29-51.