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The Tragedy of Othello The Moor of Venice. William Shakespeare. The Main Characters. Othello : a black army general in the service of the Duke of Venice Desdemona : Othello's wife, daughter of Brabantio Iago : Othello's ensign (standard-bearer) thought to be a friend of Othello's

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the main characters
The Main Characters
  • Othello: a black army general in the service of the Duke of Venice
  • Desdemona: Othello's wife, daughter of Brabantio
  • Iago: Othello's ensign (standard-bearer) thought to be a friend of Othello's
  • Emilia: Iago's wife, companion to Desdemona
  • Cassio: Othello's lieutenant
  • Bianca: in love with Cassio
  • Brabantio: A Venetian senator, father of Desdemona
  • Roderigo: A Venetian gentleman, in love with Desdemona
symbolic geography
Symbolic Geography
  • Turkey (Turks/Moors)
    • Un-Christian – “infidels”
    • Tricky (war tactics) – seen as sneaky
    • Barbarous, monstrous – use of power without morality
    • Source of disorder and destructiveness
  • Venice
    • Idealized city
    • Christian stronghold
    • Wealth, trade, political cunning, good government, achievement of social harmony through law
  • Cyprus
    • Border land between Venice and Turkey
    • Outpost – not strongly defended
    • Island nation – isolated by a stormy sea
    • Passions are closer to the surface
venice
Venice
  • Elizabethanssaw the Italians as wicked, murderous, and of loose morals.
    • To portray wickedness - playwrights often created Italian characters causing problems in England, or set the plays in Italy
      • Venetian women were rumored to be very beautiful, and very interested in making love
      • Venetian men were considered hot-tempered, aggressive, and easily jealous
  • Iago is a Spanish name (Italian form is Giacomo)
    • Most evil character gets a Spanish name (probably because Spain was England's worst enemy)
      • True evil, according to the Elizabethans, came from Spain
themes
Themes
  • Jealousy
    • Jealousy can be fueled by mere circumstantial evidence and can destroy lives.
      • Iagouses jealousy againstOthello yet jealousy is likely the source of Iago's hatred in the first place
      • Takes many forms- from sexual suspicion to professional competition
        • Always destructive
  • Race
    • Othello is one of the first black heroes in English literature
      • Military general -risen to a position of power and influence
      • Status as a black-skinned foreigner in Venice marks him as an outside and exposes him to some pretty overt racism
    • In Shakespeare's England, black people were considered exotic rarities
      • They were commonly feared as dangerous, threatening figures, sexually unrestrained and primitive
      • On stage, black people were often stereotyped as villains
themes1
Themes
  • Gender
    • Antagonistic view
    • Unmarried women are regarded as their fathers' property
    • Most male characters assume that all Venetian women are inherently promiscuous, which explains why female sexuality is a huge threat to men in the play.
  • Sex
    • Impossible to discuss gender and sexuality without considering race
      • several characters in the play, including Othello, believe that black men sexually contaminate white women, which may partially explain why Othello sees his wife as soiled
    • Common 16th Century anxieties about miscegenation (interracial sex and marriage)
      • Possible for Iago to so easily manipulate Othello into believing his wife is having an affair
    • Portrayal of homoerotic desire a factor in Iago's plot to destroy Othello and Desdemona
themes2
Themes
  • Marriage
    • Portrayal is bleak
    • Desdemona's father sees her elopement as a kind of theft of his personal property
    • Desdemona and Emilia both unfairly accused of infidelity
  • Manipulation
    • Iago – literature’s most impressive master of deception
      • Plots with consummate sophistication- carefully manipulating Othello Understanding of the human psyche is phenomenal
      • Ability to orchestrate a complicated interweaving of pre-planned scenarios
      • Iago'sdeception is potent because of his patience, his cleverness, and what seems to be his intrinsic love of elegant manipulation
    • Appearance and reality Iagofools everyone in the play into believing he's honest
themes3
Themes
  • Warfare
    • Protagonist is a military general- war is always hovering in the background
      • Only actual battle the play promises is avoided, thanks to bad weather
    • The real battleground is the mind
      • Many critics read it as an extended war allegory;
        • Possible to see Iago's machinations as the strategic planning of a general, individual victories as minor battles, and the three resulting deaths the casualties of psychological combat
    • Also - relationship between masculine identity, war, and sexuality
  • Hate
    • Villain is motivated by a hatred that seems to elude any reasonable definition
      • Iago'shatred seems out of proportion with the reasons he gives for it
      • Iago'sloathing has been famously called a "motiveless malignancy" that redefines our understanding of hatred, making it seem a self-propelling passion rather than the consequence of any particular action.
themes4
Themes
  • Identity
    • Factors that play an important role in the formations of one's identity – race, gender, social status, family relationships, military service, etc.
    • How an individual's sense of identity shapes his or her actions
  • Other/Outsider
    • Hero is an outsider - one who doesn't quite belong in the society in which he lives
    • Stands apart from the beginning
      • From another race and another country
symbols motifs and imagery
Symbols/Motifs and Imagery
  • Keep on the look out for the use of these symbols/motifs and the imagery:
    • Handkerchief
    • The word “honest” or “honesty”
    • War
    • Gardens
    • Willow trees
    • Animals
    • Candle
lit terms
Lit Terms
  • Double Entendre: a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways
    • Example: "for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon" – Romeo and Juliet
  • Pun: a play on words
    • Example: “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” – Romeo and Juliet
  • Allusion: a passing reference, without explicit identification, to a literary or historical person, place, or event, or to another literary work or passage
    • Example: “Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” - Macbeth
  • Metaphor: a word or expression that in literal usage denotes one kind of thing is applied to a distinctly different kind of thing, without asserting a comparison
    • Example: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? /Thou art more lovely and more temperate” – Sonnet 18
  • Simile: a comparison between two distinctly different things explicitly indicated by the words “like” or “as”
    • Example: Pity is “like a naked newborn babe.” - Macbeth
  • Synecdoche (sin-eck-doe-key): a part of something used to signify the whole
    • Example: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!” – Julius Caesar
more lit terms
More Lit Terms
  • Metonymy: the literal term for one thing applied to another with which it has become closely associated because of a recurrent relation in common experience
    • Example: “the crown” = a king
  • Personification: either an inanimate object of an abstract concept is spoken of as though it were endowed with life or with human attributes or feelings
    • Example: “The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night” – Romeo and Juliet
  • Antithesis: contrary ideas expressed in a balanced sentence
    • Example: “My only love sprung from my only hate” – Romeo and Juliet
  • Oxymoron: a paradoxical utterance that conjoins two terms in that in ordinary usage are contraries
    • Example: “Parting is such sweet sorrow” – Romeo and Juliet
  • Paradox: a statement which seems on its face to be logically contradictory or absurd, yet turns out to be interpretable in a way that makes sense
    • Example: “One fire burns out another’s burning, / One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish.” – Romeo and Juliet