English B 30
“Ultimately, we are products of both our environment and our own actions,” argues Len Morse; “it’s a question of which has more control.” To symbolize a much deeper moral psychological shift in the characters’ personalities and faith, William Shakespeare uses the individual locations in which the play The Tragedy of Othello takes place. From this geographical movement, the audience is shown how Shakespeare relates specific characters to individual geographic locations throughout the play. As a result, the physical geographic movement of the play represents much more than a simple backdrop; it serves to exemplify symbolically the battle between good and evil among the characters Othello, Desdemona, and Iago.
In the beginnings of the play, Shakespeare sets up a crucial physical relationship between three main geographic locations: “anters vast & deserts idle” (1.3.139), Cyprus, and Venice. Cyprus is placed in the middle with anters vast & deserts idle on one side and Venice on the other, portraying Cyprus as a frontier between good (Venice) and evil (anters vast & deserts idle). Cyprus is a city on the brink of war between the Venetians and the Turks, a city lacking leadership, logic, and reason. Venice represents all that is true and pure as it is portrayed as a city of beauty, honor, logic, and reason. Anters vast & deserts idle are represented as a barbaric land of the unknown, a place in which purity, honor, and beauty are not known, and ultimately serve as a representation of the character Iago. When Othello is talking to the Duke within the Venetian senate, he speaks of the “anters vast and deserts idle” in which he was taken prisoner by the Turks. Othello uses this phrase to convey the true meaning of the land of the Turks. The phrase “anters vast” produces a visualization of cavernous emptiness and sterility just as “deserts idle” signify a land that is beyond the horizon, consumed by barbarianism and where few...
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