Universal Truth (Shakespeare)

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In both "Othello" and "Oedipus Rex" to a great extent, the emotions provoked by familiar human experiences are acceptable to all people of all times. It is a fact that "Human nature remains the same (Kiernan Ryan 1989)." Both plays explore issues surrounding emotions like love, envy, jealousy and pride provoked by life experiences such as racism, fate, rifts between parent and child, a quest for position through deception or for justice or an intoxicating sense of being all powerful which transcend time. Most importantly they all are familiar to traditional and contemporary time periods. Love, that is unconditional love, a universal emotion, is said to transcend all barriers. Desdemona falls in love unconditionally with the idea of a bold, courageous, romantic adventurer who is black and her heart fully consents. Othello confirms this, "She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd." (I.iii.167). She boldly professes her love and devotion to Othello before the Duke and an already angry father when she says, " That I did love the Moor to live with him…Othello's visage in his mind, And to his honour and his valiant parts … my soul and fortunes consecrate…Let me go with him." (I.iii.247-258) In "Othello" racism and inter-racial marriage have both traditional and contemporary implications. " In loving and marrying each other, Othello and Desdemona instinctively act according to principles of racial equality and sexual freedom which are still not normative, still far from generally accepted and practiced even in our own day, let alone in Shakespeare's (Kiernan Ryan 1989)." The inter-racial marriage between Desdemona and Othello ‘the Moor' is unacceptable and untraditional. In light of this fact, one can assume that perhaps this is why they eloped. Similar social pressures of our time, for the same reason of sharing their love, force cotemporary couples to elope just as these two have done in the traditional period. Any audience of any time will be willing to excuse this decision given the situation under which it is done. Consequently, this results in a rift between parent and child. Surrounding the timeless emotion of love are feelings of pain and betrayal. Desdemona dishonours her father and risks not receiving his blessings. To this day couples elope and marriages that do not receive the blessings of the parent are still considered doomed. Brabantio's half warning, half curse, "Look to her Moor …she hast deceiv'd her father, and may thee." (I. iii. 293) serves a two fold purpose. It confirms that perception and alerts us of his anger and disappoint. The reaction is real and the emotions that the situation evokes are acceptable. On the Duke's suggestion that Desdemona stays with her father while Othello is at war, the father responds, "I'll have it not so." People of all times can relate and empathise with Brabantio, the parent, for the feelings of betrayal he experiences and Desdemona's pain for the loss of the love of a father who disowns her. The animal imagery used by the envious Iago, when referring to Othello and the marriage, carries racial undertones. Examples of these are, "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe." (1.1.89-90), "you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans." (1.1.111-114) and "your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs" (1.1.115-8). Iago is able to infuriate Brabantio with these racial and sexually repulsive and deliberately inflammatory terms to describe the union between Othello and Desdemona. Like this time period, during the mid- twentieth century, inter-racial marriages were still made illegal in South Africa for example and as late as 1991, a Gallop Poll showed that 42% of American disapproved of marriages between people of different races. These are the factors that enable all people of all times to relate to the themes of the play and the issues they...
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