Analyses of Race and Gender Issues in Shakespeare's Othello

analytical Essay
3147 words
3147 words

Analyses of Race and Gender Issues in Othello The discussion of race in Shakespeare's Othello has received a great deal of critical attention. Virginia Mason Vaughn, in her book Othello: A Contextual History, surveys this critical history, beginning with Marvin Rosenberg's 1961 book The Masks of Othello (a book documenting the nineteenth-century tendency toward representing Othello as light-skinned), and continuing through to Jack D'Amico's 1991 book The Moor in English Renaissance Drama. According to Vaughan herself, "The effect of Othello depends . . . on the essential fact of the hero's darkness, the visual signifier of his Otherness" (51). Arthur L. Little, Jr., in his article "'An essence that's not seen': The Primal Scene of Racism in Othello," claims that "The three crucial structural elements of Shakespeare's play are Othello's blackness, his marriage to the white Desdemona, and his killing of her" (306, emphasis added) as if there were no other "crucial structural elements." It is not my intention to undercut or undervalue the attention that has been given to the discourse of race, the opposition of black and white, in Othello; however, I contend that an exclusive focus on this discourse radically reduces and simplifies the play, and I wish to focus on a different discourse, a different opposition in the play-the discourse of honesty and whoredom, the opposition of falseness and loyalty. Dympna Callaghan, in her book Women and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy, makes the point that "Mysogynistic discourse . . . leads, directly or indirectly, to the death of the female tragic transgressor [among whose number in Renaissance drama she counts Shakespeare's Desdemona and Cordelia, and John Webster's Duche... ... middle of paper ... ... White Devil. New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1989. · Gataker, Thomas. "A Good Wife God's Gift," Certain Sermons, First Preached, and After Published At Several Times. London: Printed by John Haviland for Edward Brewster, 1637. · Little, Arthur, Jr. "'An essence that's not seen': The Primal Scene of Racism in Othello," Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993), 304-324. · Raynolds, John. A Defence of the Judgement of the Reformed Churches. Printed by George Walters, 1610. · Swetnam, Joseph. The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women: Or the Vanitie of Them, Choose You Whether. London: Printed for Thomas Archer, 1616. · Anonymous, An Apologie For Womenkinde. London: Printed by Ed. Allde for William Ferebrand, 1605. · Vaughan, Virgina Mason. Othello: A Contextual History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the discussion of race in shakespeare's othello has received a great deal of critical attention. they argue that an exclusive focus on this discourse reduces and simplifies the play.
  • Analyzes the discourses of renaissance misogyny in swetnam's the araignment of lewd, idle, froward, and vnconstatnt women.
  • Argues that raynolds implies that it is men, husbands, who have gotten out of control. gataker's poem, an apologie for womenkinde, defends women against misogynistic strains.
  • Analyzes how othello's attacks on and defenses of women center around the issues of chastity, sexual faithfulness to a single man, and honor/honesty.
  • Analyzes how iago gives othello the appearance of honesty, while undermining the honesty in cassio and desdemona.
  • Analyzes how honesty and whoredom come together in the crucial seduction scene.
  • Analyzes how othello demands that iago "prove [desdemona] a whore" and how he manipulates cassio.
  • Analyzes how othello's discourse of honesty and whoredom hits a new peak.
  • Analyzes how emilia complains to iago that othello has "bewhor'd" desdemona, bitterly complaining that "a beggar in his drink / could not have laid such terms upon his callet"
  • Analyzes how the renaissance figure of the cuckold makes his appearance in the conversation between emila and desdemona. emilia challenges misogynistic discourse in an apologie for womenkinde.
  • Analyzes how the discourses of honesty and whoredom take their misogynistic course. iago explains cassio's misery as "the fruits of whoring." emilia rejects the comparison of her honesty with that of bianca.
  • Analyzes how othello determines that desdemona "must die, otherwise she'll betray more men." emilia, who uncovers the plot near the play's end, is rewarded for her honesty by being called a
  • Analyzes the irony of the misogynist discourses that permeate this play.
  • Opines that combining analyses of race- and gender-based discourses in this play will better serve the richness of the play and the complexities of our response.
  • Analyzes how a theriomorphic image for desdemona bestializes her and paves the way for whore, strumpet, and bawd references later in the play.
  • Analyzes shakespeare's use of toads in a curiously sexual context in troilus and cressida.
  • Analyzes how a theriomorphic image for bianca works nicely in the deception of othello, considering iago's earlier use of the same image to describe desdemona
  • Explains that in shakespeare's time a bawd could be female or male.
  • Describes parasites feeding on the blood of slaughtered animals as a reference to the ever-present possibility that othello may be killed in battle.
  • Analyzes how the image evokes the whore of babylon-christendom's female figure of absolute human evil and degradation.
  • Analyzes how the king says to diana, "i think thee now some common customer." diana responds, at v.i.292.
  • Explains callaghan's book, women and gender in renaissance tragedy: a study of king lear, othello, the duchess of malfi, and the white devil.
  • Explains that gataker, thomas, "a good wife god's gift," certain sermons, first preached, and after published at several times.
  • Explains little, arthur, jr., "'an essence that's not seen': the primal scene of racism in othello."
  • Cites raynolds, john, and walters' a defence of the judgement of reformed churches.
  • Explains swetnam, joseph, the araignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women: or the vanitie of them, choose you whether.
  • Opines that anonymous, an apologies for womenkinde, was printed by ed. allde for william ferebrand, 1605.
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