Othello, a tragedy of faith by William Shakespeare was written in 1603. Othello was first performed by the King’s Men at the court of King James I on November 1, 1604. Othello is set against the backdrop of the wars between Venice and Turkey that raged in the latter part of the sixteenth century. The play is loosely based on a novella titled Capitano Moro by Cinthio. The play is driven by the themes of inherent racism, jealously, love and presumed betrayal. The only thing which Shakespeare has not changed from Cinthio’s original narrative is its plot. Othello of Othello is more refined and civilized when contrasted to Cinthio’s hero. In the words of G.K.Hunter “he [Shakespeare] made tragic hero out of Cinthio’s passionate and bloody love”. Racism stems from the protection of rights, rather interests by the European nations from other nations during glaring imperialist, 16th century. Though the idea of racism attains its true shape only in 17th century with the beginning of slave trade Color prejudice was prevalent and recognized by the society, from 16th century only. In the words of Hunter, color prejudice starts with the basic attitude that” all foreigners are curious and inferior –the more curious the more inferior”. This attitude is further endorsed by the curiousness and awe associated with the pagan believers. Moreover there is a primitive sense that black color is symbolic of sin, darkness, night, funeral, wickedness, negation of sprit and death. The coming of Christianity solidified this viewpoint. In Middle ages pictorial representation of Christ’s tormentors, the tormentors are often painted with black color .Christian theology accepted the notion of white as saved souls and black as damned souls. This is also supported by Christian theological interpretation of Noah’s curse in The Bible. Noah's curse against Ham, in Genesis 9:25, is a curse against his son's lineage, by saying, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” By using the expression “servant of servants”, otherwise translated “slave of slaves”, this grammatical construction emphasizes the extreme degree of servitude that Canaans will undergo in relation to their "brothers". Ham was ruler of Africa and his brothers Shem and Japhet ruled Asia and Europe respectively. Blacks and Moors were therefore considered descendants of Ham, damned for eternal servitude and hence were a savage race. Hunter calls this theological reading “Gods providence at lunatic fringe”. Othello begins on a street in Venice in midst of an argument between Iago and Rodregigo .During the first scene Othello is not named once but epithets and generalizations are used to reduce him in his stature. The use of diction like “moor”, “the thick lips” and a”barbary horse ”- all name signify that Othello is dark skinned and most likely a slave .Iago brings forth his reasons for his hatred for Othello as he agonizes over preferential treatment of Cassio over him “Preferment goes by letter and affection
And not by old gradation where each second
Stood heir to th’ first…..” Act I scene 1 (34-36) Othello is accused of “loving his own pride and purposes” by employing “bombast circumstances “of his war experience. Thus, an image of unjust and “unfair” Othello is projected just within 40 lines of the play. Iago colors the” noble moor” as thief who has stolen “your daughter and your bag”. Brabantio being robbed of his daughter is aroused by the dishonor it will bring to his family .The stigma; fear and hatred attached with miscegenation are evident from the very words of Iago. The profanity and vulgarity of imagery is heinous. “Even now, now very now, an old black ram,
Is tupping your white ewe” Act I scene 1 (87-88)
The apparent fear of miscegenation would destroy and blur perceived racial superiority as conceived the by the civilized Elizabethan society or Venetian for that matter .The concept of miscegenation in way bridges the lacuna between...
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