Othello the Outsider

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Shakespeare portrays Venice as incredibly advanced for its time. This is seen especially though its democratic justice system, as we are shown that in Act One everybody has a voice regardless of their colour or sex. The fact that Othello has obtained the high position of “general” within the army suggests that his chances have by no means been restricted by the colour of his skin. Also the fact that he is treated with the utmost respect from the Duke, the highest authority in Venice, shows that the colour of ones skin is not seen as a disadvantage in Venetian society. We are aware of its reputation as a very sexual city through the booming sex trade and it is viewed as a very cosmopolitan city due to its importance as a trading port.

The white Venetians in “Othello” do for the most part exemplify the good qualities of their city and culture, which oozes civility and sophistication. This can be seen through the Duke’s language: “Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you against the general enemy ottoman. (To Brabantio) I did not see you: welcome, gentle signor”. However in Act One, Shakespeare uses the words of three Venetians to emphasise differences in Othello’s character from other Venetians. Shakespeare chooses these characters to highlight Othello’s differences, as they are infested with anger, jealousy and bitterness, therefore their descriptions of Othello are deceiving. The playwright uses these characters to paint a picture of Othello as the embodiment of the black stereotype held by people at this time, labelling him as “different” to everyone else. The use of animal imagery is used to help convey Othello as a monster and the choices of animals shows the underlying racism: “Old Black ram” and “Barbary horse”. The references to witchcraft and the devil also help to emphasise Othello’s differences: “The devil will make a grandsire of you”, “the beast with two backs”. As we do not see Othello until near the end of Act One, we base our opinion on...
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