ENGL 215 - Othello mditerm notes.docx

ENGL 215 - Othello mditerm notes.docx - , ,including...

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With the influx of trade during the Elizabethan Era, English society encountered an  increase of descriptions and encounters with people from remote countries, including  Africa. With these happenstances, brought misunderstandings of people and cultures,  therefore race and discriminations began to form. Shakespeare’s protagonist in Othello,  a Moor, was affected by societal standards in his ability to develop as an individual  because of physical characteristics and internal insecurities because of the conflict,  which tears him between two cultures.  In the mid-sixteenth century, England began encountering Native West Africans. Their  appearance in London began as early as 1554 and by 1601, which led Elizabeth I to  convey her displeasure towards the “‘Negars and blackamoors’ which are crept into the  realm since the troubles between her Highness and the King of Spain” (Jones 12-13).  As Englishmen began traveling to Africa in large numbers, chiefly for trade reasons,  Europeans began to view Africans as barbarous, deceitful, and jealous. Eurocentrism  took hold upon skin color, religion, and lifestyle.  Shakespeare possibly uses Othello to address his fellow citizens’ beliefs and  misconceptions about people with physical variations. His use of Othello, the Moor, as  the protagonist, and Iago, the Venetian, as the antagonist, fundamentally deviates from  the current view of different ethnic groups. Although the color black is viewed as “evil,”  Shakespeare also places separation between the color and the inherent goodness or  evilness of the human race (Orkin 166-167,170,173). This device allows Shakespeare  to portray the “human” aspect of the Moor, an assimilated, civilized Christian. Although  his character can be viewed as elaborately problematical, Othello is “individualized and  set apart from Venetian society in almost every aspect – in his blackness, his past, his  bearing, and above all, his language with its unusual rhythms, grandeur, and exoticism.” These characteristics were likely a result of Shakespeare’s reading of Geographical  Historie of Africa, by Leo Africanus, translated by John Pory and published around 1600 in London. Pory’s translation depicts Leo as a noble Moor, seasoned traveler, Christian  convert, and former slave. Othello’s ethnicity becomes fundamental because of how he  is personified, by both others and himself (Berry 315-318).
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