Shakespeare’s complex tragedy, Othello, is open to a variety of different interpretations, two of which are a post-colonial reading and a reading from a feminist perspective. Especially in our modern context, the issue of Othello’s race can be read as a central theme, and plays a significant role in the play’s tragic conclusion. The issues concerning his race not only impacts on his position and his relationship with others, but more importantly his own self-perception.
POST-COLONIAL READINGS OF OTHELLO
Post-colonial aspects of the play:
Othello is made a colonial subject
Othello’s race is of fundamental importance as a central theme of “Othello” Black was a political colour and for Elizabethan audiences as the colour of the “other” Othello brings up racial issues which are central to the dramatic action of the plays When the English first started their voyages to Africa and encountered real Africans they found a referent and recipient of blackness with all its negative connotations.
Brabantio’s views on Othello:
Brabantio claims that Othello must have charmed his daughter by using magic. This claim immediately places the African character in the kingdom of otherness where he belongs as a barbarian and outsider. For Brabantio, Othello is a “thing”. Thinks the marriage is “against all rules of nature” Othello’s intention to marry Desdemona and therefore secure a position in the Venetian oligarchy is also seen by Brabantio as an inversion of order, as a nonsense world of black over white Brabantio has a double vision of Othello. He is on one hand a civilised Christian citizen and a noble servant of the State, and Brabantio “loved him and oft invited him” to hear stories of his exotic adventures and saw beyond Othello’s colour. However, Othello’s ethnicity becomes menacing when Brabantio views him as a potential husband for Desdemona, and Othello reverts to being a pagan and slave –a mere instance of the stereotype.
Iago’s views and representation of Othello:
Iago places the African character in the kingdom of otherness where he belongs as a barbarian and outsider. Iago is going to build the tragedy of Othello on his schizophrenic personality. Iago will gradually destroy Othello’s confidence as a European until only his African-ness remains. The Venetian gaze deprives Othello of his humanity until it reaches his alleged will nature. Through Iago’s agency, Othello will cease to be himself and will become “the Moor”. Iago tries to awake the dormant monstrous side within Othello. Iago, as Othello remarks, “echoes” him: “By heaven, he echoes me/As if there were some monster in his thought/too hideous to be shown” Iago is fully aware of Othello’s dependency on Desdemona’s love, and when this love fails “chaos is come again” and Iago makes Othello return to his original blackness. Iago directs Othello towards the traditional role of the villainous, jealous Moor In Iago’s words, he is a “lascivious Moor”, and the target of all kind of animal imagery, which emphasizes his bestiality, and lack of restraint. Iago stresses the negative impact of the animalistic metaphors with the use of colours, “black ram” / “white ewe” and their connotations. Racial prejudice is equally the centre around which Iago articulates Othello fall. He exploits the politics of colour in the play until he makes Othello internalise the black stereotype, which was part of his loan culture.
Othello, as a subject assimilated to superior western culture, is viewed as a useful instrument securing Cyprus against the Turks, but remains an alien when he intends to marry white Desdemona. As he has been absorbed into European culture and morality, he as...
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