How Does Shakespeare’s Context Influence His Portrayal of These Characters as Outsiders?

Topics: Othello, Religion, Iago, Sociology / Pages: 3 (589 words) / Published: Aug 27th, 2013
How does Shakespeare’s context influence his portrayal of these characters as outsiders?
Jack Hearn

In 1600, Shakespeare was apart of a major cultural shift into the Renaissance Period. This caused the paradigm of society to shift from religious views to more secular views and a new emphasis on mans ability. The central aspect of this was the feel of a less stable, disordered world opposed to the order that had previous existed. However the nature of Venetian society was different to Shakespeare’s context and was a progressive city-state that represented an alternative to monarchy that was beyond the monarchical paradigm. Shakespeare portrayed the traditional order being torn apart with self-interested and ambitious characters such as Othello and Desdemona in Othello. These characters however are seen as outsiders and in this society although are established have been disempowered and robbed of a social, religious and political voice.

Shakespeare represents Othello as an outsider and ambivalent character. As Othello is introduced to the reader he appears as a confidant, noble man, seen when Othello says, “I fetch my life and being, From men of royal siege.” (22). This tells the reader that Othello is ‘noble siege’ or nobility and has high status in society. This shows the reader Othello as an outsider because of race, challenging the correlations of high status with his African heritage, something not common of the era. Othello can also be seen as not being entirely apart of society due to bestial imagery that is used to describe him by characters such as Iago and Roderigo referring to him as a “old black ram” (89) and “Barbary horse” (111). This bestial imagery dehumanizes Othello and recognizes him as an outsider that is although has position, hated by some because of race. Lastly Othello uses religious imagery to attempt to establish himself as apart of the culture. Othello says, “To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart” (151). This religious imagery

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