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The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice

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The Moor of Venice (often referred to as Othello) is a story of manipulation and jealousy, which lead to the tragic results. The marital relationship between Othello and Desdemona, surrounded by the gossips and mischief of Othello’s supporters and enemies, is at the center of the tragic plot. Their relationship has always been the subject of active discussion and interesting dispute taking place between different scholars and plain readers. It is important to note that the relationship between Othello and Brabantio adds complexity to the situation. Before Brabantio knows that his daughter is married to Othello, their relationship is entirely about friendship and comradeship, which is so characteristic of the military. Brabantio and Othello seem to share a common professional goal and spend a lot of time together: “Her father loved me; oft invite me; Still question’s me the story of my life, From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, That I have passed” (Shakespeare, I.3). It is not until Brabantio learns about his daughter’s affair with Othello that he becomes aware of Othello’s race. Actually, this is when the color of Othello’s skin turns into a matter of Brabantio’s concern and the object of his abuse. Brabantio calls Othello names. He is blinded with rage and indignation. However, even then race is not a cornerstone in their relationships; rather, Brabantio believes that Othello has spelled his daughter to the point, where she agreed to marry him: “O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow’d my daughter? Damn’d as thou art, thou hast enchanted her; For I’ll refer me to all things of sense, If she in chains of magic were not bound…” (Shakespeare, I.2). Brabantio cannot believe that his daughter’s relationship with Othello could have grown on love and intimacy, and that Othello could have won her heart without applying to magic.

It should be noted, that Shakespeare’s Othello was written at the times of the major transition from class as the main criterion of social difference to race as the sign of differentiation. Race was slowly turning into the sign of ‘otherness’. Othello reflected a major shift in European ideology, which was still in the state of infancy. This is probably why Shakespeare is extremely cautious in his use of racial terms and metaphors, when describing his characters. When Iago first speaks about Othello, it is all about Othello’s social and military position, which has little to do with race: “But he; as loving his own pride and purposes, Evades them, with a bombast circumstance Horribly stuff’d with epithets of war” (Shakespeare, I.1). Later, Iago uses the term “Moor”, to tell his readers that Othello’s race and his social position are fully incompatible. From now on, the term “Moor” is the main epithet used to define Othello and differentiate him from the mass of his friends, colleagues, and enemies. Other characters of the tragedy soon pick up and extend Iago’s idea to call Othello “Moor”.

A talented military, Othello might have been more attentive to what Iago was doing to him and his wife. However, Othello fails to anticipate and prevent the tragedy. Iago is fairly regarded as one of the most sophisticated villains in Shakespeare’s works, and Othello’s tendency to believe his feelings and jealousy greatly contribute to Iago’s manipulative achievements. In many instances, Iago is similar to Othello: while the latter is devising complex strategies to beat out the Turkish enemies from Cyprus, the former is thinking of how to take Othello’s position. “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear, That she repeals him for her body’s lust; And by how much she strives to do him good, She shall undo her credit with the Moor” (Shakespeare, II.3). Iago has a talent to feel and predict other people’s fears. He plays with their emotions and pours into their ears what they want to hear. Othello’s jealousy leaves no room for sanity and reason. Iago simply adds fuel to the fire of Othello’s mistrust, which leads to the tragic murder of Desdemona and Othello’s painful but logical death.

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. “Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice”. Open Source
Shakespeare, 2003. Web. 18 June 2011.

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