Race and Gender Discrimination in ‘Medea’ and ‘Othello’

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The related topics of racism and sexism remain some of the most ugly, taboo and controversial fields of our contemporary era, and it is safe to say that active manipulation of national consciousness to rid people of these traits were present only in the latter half of the last century, with the last apartheid state of South Africa only relenting in its collective repression as late as 1994. However, one has to remember that in both Classical Athens and Elizabethan England such mindsets were allowed, and indeed, sometimes actively cultivated as a rallying call to a state’s strength in national, cultural and ethnic homogeneity. This therefore presents an interesting parallel between the two eras and the works attributed therein. In this vein, it cannot be denied that one of the commonly underlying themes in Euripides’ Medea and Shakespeare’s Othello is the novel and unusual treatment by society both titular characters have to face due to their respective racial, or in the specific case of Medea, also gender backgrounds. This paper seeks to highlight such examples of racism and sexism, as well as try to draw a correlation between the epochs and their societal and cultural situations wherein the plays were written and how such atmospheres contributed to the characterizations and portrayals of veritable ‘outsiders’ in the two epic pieces. Within Euripides’ Medea, the titular character is within a very strange position in Corinthian society, and before moving onto that topic the reader would better first examine the current mentality towards outsiders of Periclean Athens, the citizens of which made up the majority of the audience for Euripides’ piece. The Athenian zeitgeist, at 431 BC when Euripides’ arguable magnus opus was first pro... ... middle of paper ... ...ver. Looked at in their entirety, and in political terms, Habib characterizes Shakespeare’s plays as a kind of dialogue between the colonized and the colonizers, demonstrating the ways in which the colonized attempt to resist — but within the “performance of the colonizer’s cultural narrative,” Habib writes; that is, under the majority culture’s own terms. Works Cited Bushnell, Rebecca W. A Companion to Tragedy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2005. Print. Cook, Ann Jennalie. The Privileged Playgoers of Shakespeare's London, 1576-1642. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1981. Print. Flaceliere, Robert. La Vida Vida Cotidina En Grecia En El Siglo De Pericles. [Madrid]: Ediciones Temas De Hoy, 1996. Print. "Shakespeare's Colors: Race And Culture In Elizabethan England." Old Dominion University. Web. 24 Mar. 2010. .

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