William Shakespeare's Othello

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William Shakespeare's Othello

Shakespeare's Othello is a tragedy. The plays events charter the

downfall of Othello, the plays hero. Othello is a typical tragedy in

which the noble, honourable and virtuous Moor suffers a social

downfall. It is typical of tragic characters to suffer because it is

their fate, their pre determined destiny. This view means that Othello

could have done nothing to prevent his fall from grace, however other

readers argue that it is Othello's character which leads to the

destruction of his character.

If it were fate that was responsible for Othello's demise then Othello

is a conservative text. It is made obvious from the beginning of the

play that Othello is a black moor and his relationship with Desdemona,

a virtuous Venetian woman is frowned upon. In Act one, Scene one

Brabantio is aroused from his bed by Iago who is shouting '…an old

black ram Is tupping your white ewe.' Othello and Desdemona's union

has outraged the members of their society. To restore social order

they must be punished, it is their destiny.

It is clear that the race of Othello is a factor in his downfall. A

close examination of the language used to describe Othello shows his

position in society and highlights the fact that he is different from

the other characters. Othello is 'an old black ram, and he is accused

of 'tupping' Desdemona. Othello is described by animal imagery the

effect is that his difference is emphasised. Othello is seen to be

animal or beast like in nature. This is a reflection of the

Elizabethan society sentiments in which coloured people were treated

as inferiors, not human. Thus the union of Desdemona - a ch...

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reasonable and honourable man. The fact that Othello is black is not

the entire reason for the tragic decline of his character. Shakespeare

has written countless other tragedies where the hero has suffered a

similar downfall to Othello and they have not been black men. Consider

Macbeth, he is a tragic character who like Othello dies but he is not

black. Othello therefore can not simply be punished for being black.

Othello is a sophisticated play, it is not simply a moral story

warning against the dangers of mixed race relationships. Othello deals

with the issue of race, fate and destiny. However Shakespeare is more

concerned with human nature and the control humans have over their own

lives. Othello is an exploration of how characters actions influence

other characters and the self destructive nature of characters.

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