Section 9 AM Thursday (2 PM Wednesday).Othello‘s perceptionOthello is the only play that William Shakespeare wrote that was focused on a black lead.The play came a year after the public decree by Queen Elizabeth I of her desire to expel all black people from the country.
Othello is a play written about how the othering of people leads to false perceptions that lead to baseless actions. This is exemplified by how the characters trust for one another based on which ingroup or outgroup they are apart of affects their actions. Othello takes place in the beginning of the 16th century, this means it takes places shortly after the “Reconquista” of Spain which also ended a long conflict between the christians and the Muslim Moors.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
Shortly before the writing of the play, Queen Elizabeth made a public decree of the state of black people in England. She essentially stated that they need to be driven out of the country and that they are burdens to the white English.At the time the Spanish were at war with the Ottoman Turks who were an Islamic empire. This sets up the otherness that Othello is subjected to. The warped perception of Othello as “The Moore” to other characters in the play gives him negative connotations.These factors lead to a majority of Othello’s external and internal conflict.
. Othello is admired greatly it seems by Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, when their relationship was simply as peers in the Spanish government. “Her father loved me; oft invited me;still questioned me the story of my life from year to year, the battle, sieges, fortune that I have passed.”.(Shakespeare, New American Library, New York, 1986 pg 19) It is when he learns that Othello had wedded his daughter that he is outraged and demands he be summoned to court for the use of “black magic” to posses his daughter.
This direction of prosecution takes aim at his African origins where some religious practices were sometimes mistaken as “voodoo” and religious rituals were estranged by being labeled as “black magic”. Brabantio, Iago and Roderigo say blatantly that Othello is the “other” and therefore see him as someone who cannot and should not have the same privileges as them, especially marriage to the high born Desdemona. It is Desdemona herself that is the only one who can convince her father of Othello’s legitimacy.Iago uses Othello’s outgroup to gain action against him by other people and Othello himself. “Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!”(William Shakespeare, pg 6) As before mentioned Brabantio was summoned from his house and acted so abruptly because of the the idea of his daughter marrying a Moore and the disgrace it would bring.
He is able to get Roderigo riled up and continue to have the drive to kill Othello by angering him to a greater degree by reminding him of his Othello’s outsider status. Most importantly he uses it to madden Othello himself into committing murder against his beloved wife, Iago plays on Othello’s doubts and trustingness towards his male peers. “True, I have married her.The very head and front of my offending Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace” (Shakespeare, pg 16) Of course Iago’s cleverness and manipulation of reality about Cassio and Desdemona’s “affair” was the cause of Othello’s grief, but Othello fell victim to his plot because he believes that Desdemona would use and betray him because he is in the outgroup. He understands that even with his achievements which created a sense of being in the “ingroup”, he is more broadly in the “outgroup”. His trust in Iago and doubt in Desdemona allows him to be deceived, allows his perception to be warped to fit a more “normal” model of how a Moore would be treated and how a man would trust another man over any woman, even his wife.
The other outgroup in Othello is the wives of the play whose perception within the play gets warped the most. Ironically enough the only one that has no ulterior motives,master plans, mistrusts or prejudice accusations is Desdemona herself. Iago conveys a projection of her onto others that is based off the assumption that she has betrayed Othello.In every single case with the males he was trying to decieve he was believed everytime. Here we see a greater dynamic of otherness playing into warped perception. In the play women are on outgroup that are not respected.Their personal opinions and bodies aren’t treated as equal to the ingroup of males. The second layer to this then is that Desdemona is high born from a political family who you would imagine would have some form of authority, she was the only one who could convince her father about Othello after all.
And yet Desdemona’s pleas and truths are never taken at face value or in the end at all even when it came down to her life compared to Iago’s lies which were always believed. Both Desdemona and Emilia suffer physical violence that is justified by the outgroup by means of their status, Desdemona is abused a few times before her murder. In one instance she is slapped in front of her family and Othello is not aggressively charged and Othello receives the same attitude when he is discovered her murderer. Emilia is treated poorly by Iago the whole time and is only spoken to more kindly after she has acquired the handkerchief for his plot. The abuse of both women is brushed off by other men and any action against a man is received with severe punishment. It is only Emilia the whole time who was on the side of Desdemona, the only one in the play that suffered from being in the same outgroup. Iago at the beginning of the play mentions more of Othello’s Moorish background as a motivation for his plot more than the rumors of Othello and Emilia having an affair showing clearly that Iago cared less for Emilia as his wife and more about Othello being the Moorish general that rejected him.