Othello

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Othello
By: CMB
1. To analyze the structural development of Othello, consider Othello’s autobiographical speeches in act 1, scene 3. Explain how Othello’s portrait of himself and his cultural background might have contributed to his manipulation of Iago. Answer:

Based on Othello’s autobiographical speeches in act 1, scene 3, it shows that Othello has no knowledge of his own to counter this insider’s generalizations about Venetian wives. He knows nothing of Venice apart from the few months’ residence during which his courtship took place. A soldier since boyhood, he is unused to any peacetime society. Although he is a Venetian by association and allegiance, whatever he knows of the customs and assumptions of Venice is learned, not instinctive. At line 81 he apologizes because rude am I in my speech and little blessed with the soft phrase of peace. In this line, he sees his limitation because he has been engaged in the business of war from the time he was a little boy until now, when he is in his middle age. Look at the way he expresses this span of time – since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith till now some nine moons wasted.  He speaks of his youth as if he were a tree that grows for seven years, adding a ring to the core, or pith, with each year’s growth. This language is highly poetic in its own unique way, not like the formal rhetoric of gentlemen like Roderigo.  He has spent his life dealing with military matters and feels ill-equipped to discuss life outside the army.  It is this perceived cultural deprivation and lack of sophistication that Iago will take advantage of. If Iago, a native, says Venetian women are habitually unfaithful, it must be so. According to Paul Robeson, who compared the Moor’s insecurity to what an American soldier in the occupying army in Japan might feel in courting a Japanese woman, he said that an American soldier was totally ignorant of the culture and its customs and has no basis on which to disbelieve the advice offered him. Othello’s warrior-past thus contributed to his manipulation of Iago. He is decisive, as a good commander must be. He does not hesitate in doubt and when resolved must act.

There is also a gap between Othello’s years of exclusively masculine experience in the “tented field” and Desdemona’s sheltered Venetian girlhood that even the most loving marriage can hardly bridge. He is black, she is white. He is middle-aged, she is young. It shows that the marriage of Desdemona and Othello is like a union of opposites. But then, we can say that neither this disparity in age nor Othello’s unfamiliarity with Venice is in the story in which Shakespeare based his play. It seems that Shakespeare was directing our attention to the tragic vulnerability of love itself. Desdemona’s devotion is total while Othello’s love may be based in part on her mirroring back to him his best self. It is based on the speeches of Othello in act one, scene 3. (“She loved me for the dangers I had passed, / And I loved her that she did pity them” [1.3.193-94], he has clearly invested his life in their new relationship. Each is dependent on the other, yet each is necessarily separated in isolated selfhood. I could also say that somehow narcissism, which is a personality disorder characterized by the patient’s overestimation of his or her own appearance and abilities and an excessive need for admiration and self-dramatization that are too apparent in the Moor have also contributed a lot in his manipulation of Iago. His social insecurity renders him open to Iago’s insinuations. 2. Analyze the images of women in Othello from the viewpoint of gender and class. What role do the women fulfil in the patriarchal system? What position do they occupy in Venetian society? Do not overlook Casio’s treatment of Desdemona and Bianca as well as the various images of women with which Iago entertains his audience in act 2, scene 1. Answer:

Throughout history, the role of women has been heavily debated....
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