Othello - Readings

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Othello, a Shakespearean tragedy, is about how jealousy and hubris shape the destruction of the protagonist, Othello. Iago, Othello’s right hand aide, is a cunning, jealous character and brings about Othello’s downfall through his clever manipulations to all the characters in the play, especially Othello. Iago’s manipulations of Othello conform to the post-colonial reading and the features of an Aristotelian tragedy.

The post-colonial reading focuses on the marginalised group, referred to as ‘the other’. ‘The other’, due to their different ethnic backgrounds, are perceived as inferior. The Aristotelian tragedy is about a patriarchal society containing a tragic hero the tragic hero is portrayed as a powerful, respected person with a fatal flaw, his hubris. His hubris leads to his ultimate, inevitable downfall.

Through the post-colonial reading, Iago takes advantage of Othello’s ethnic background and feeling of difference from the whole Venetian society. Othello trusts Iago to advise him about Venice.

In Act 3 Scene 3, after Iago reminds Othello of Desdemona’s disobedience to her father, Iago poisons Othello’s mind by saying that his wife, Desdemona, is unfaithful to him as she is having an affair with someone else. He says that Desdemona would be dissatisfied and bored by staying with a black, old Moor and that she would want to sleep with another man. Her will … may fall to match you with her country forms and happily repent. He justifies his statement by asserting his knowledge about his Venetian culture and takes advantage of Othello’s ignorance of Venetian culture. I know our country disposition well. In Venice, they do let God see the pranks they dare not show their husbands. Their best conscience is to keep’t unknown. Iago suggests to Othello that Desdemona’s lover is a white man (Florentine) named Cassio. Look to your wife, observe her well with Cassio. This results in Othello’s insecurity and doubtfulness over his relationship with Desdemona...
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