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Othello Final Essay

Othello Final Essay - Ponce1 Jorge Ponce Prof Seufert Engl...

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Ponce 1 Jorge Ponce Prof. Seufert Engl 130 5/15/16 The Importance of Gender and Race in Othello Gender and race are both an underlying theme in the tragedy of Othello. These two as- pects help to propel the plot forward in many circumstances. The dated beliefs of the characters are widely accepted at the point in time in which the play is set, which was contemporary with the time period in which it was written. This, in turn, means that the audience the tragedy was written for also held the same beliefs. Othello is often referred to as “the moor” of Venice, signi- fying his intense isolation from the rest of the population of Venice, as well as foreshadowing the importance of his race to the advancement of the tragedy. In this same manner, gender is also an important factor. Women were also subjected to extreme prejudice and held to different soci- etal standards. This is important to note, because having a lady’s honor besmirched, or a husband cuckolded, might not lead someone in our time to homicide, but in Othello’s time, it may not seem like such a leap. Othello’s race is brought into the fold rather quickly in this tragedy. It is readily under- stood from the beginning that his clear physical difference is going to be an issue. As oft is the mark of a tragic hero, the culmination of their traits, physical and mental, are ultimately the source of their downfall. Of course with Othello we have a number of different actions and reac- tions that lead to his downfall, but his skin color plays a huge factor in the grand scheme of things.
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Ponce 2 The prejudice against people of Othello’s ethnicity, or rather skin color, is evident among the citizens of Venice. We can see this from certain characters such as Iago very early on. For ex- ample, when Iago shares the news with Brabantio about his daughter eloping with Othello he uses racial slurs and imagery in order to get the most heated reaction. He says: Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise! Awake the snorting citizens with the bell, Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you. Arise, I say! (1.1.97-101) […] I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. (1.1.119; 123-127; 129-131) In his deliberation of the news, he frequently alludes to Othello’s presumed animal like nature. In late sixteenth century Venice it was common to equate many of a dark skinned man’s traits and behaviors to that of an animal. Including, and especially what Iago pressed on in this passage, their sexual drive. Any father would be distraught if their daughter eloped, but in this specific time and place, a man who's daughter had eloped with a dark skinned man would have sparked quite a bit of outrage. Iago’s hope is to manipulate the prejudice held against people of Othello’s color and incite the most violent reaction possible, which does end up happening.
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Ponce 3 Venturing further into this point, Othello is a good man, but his deeds and ranks are over- shadowed by the remaining presumptions of his peers and fellow officers. For example, although
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  • Fall '12
  • CarolineRupprecht
  • Othello, sixteenth century

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