William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello presents a full range of both moral and immoral activities through Iago, Desdemona, Othello, Bianca, Cassio, etc.
The moral and immoral dimension of Othello, especially the latter, is enhanced simply by its location in Italy. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “The Engaging Qualities of Othello” comment on how the exotic setting of this play satisfied the Elizabethan dramatist’s dream of portraying evil:
Elizabethan dramatists were fond of portraying characters of consummate evil, and if they could lay the scenes in Italy, all the better, because the literature and legend of the day were filled with stories of the wickedness of Italy. [. . .] Venice especially had a glamor and an interest beyond the normal. Every returning traveler had a tall tale to tell about the beauty and complaisance of Venetian women, the passion, jealousy, and quick anger of Venetian men, and the bloody deeds of Venetian bravoes. (127)
Even the remarkably good wife of the Moor is not without her weak moments, so that even she cannot be considered “perfect”. Angela Pitt in “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” comments on Desdemona’s faults:
Once married, she continues to commit slight offences against the correct code of conduct for the ideal wife. She is no sooner married than she leaves hearth and home (the traditional limits of the woman’s realm) to be with Othello. She sees Cassio without her husband’s permission and is far too concerned with Cassio’s request. Her plan of how she will discuss the matter with Othello at every moment so that even ‘his bed shall seem a school’, shows far too much self-possession and strong ...
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...es, Blanche. Shakespeare’s Four Giants. Rindge, New Hampshire: Richard Smith Publisher, 1957.
Jorgensen, Paul A. William Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.
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