Social and Cultural Groups Represented in Othello

September 24, 2017 Cultural

Discuss the ways in which one or more social and/or cultural groups have been represented in a text studied this semester. Both cultural and social groups are represented through the drama text, Othello by William Shakespeare and the novel, The Collector by John Fowles. Shakespeare explores the cultural groups in Othello through the portrayal of character constructs and the social groups are explored by Fowles in The Collector, through the way the readers are positioned, and through the context, language and identity used.

It is in a negative light that these particular groups are represented in the way that society says no to certain concepts and elements of that time. In Othello’s case the time of the 1600’s, which the society back then compared to now has changed, based on views, beliefs and values. Not completely but majority of it. Looking at The Collector, such negative issues being exposed is again the whole society subject saying no to certain morals, which we as audiences can either agree or disagree to.

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Language is also a huge part in constructing particular representations. The large language patterns interweave themselves across character, mental state and particular situation, and this dichotomy between being and seeming is reflected in the language of blackness and whiteness, dark and light, hell and heaven which touches so many aspects of the play. Shakespeare, in Othello explores on a harsh, negative level the cultural constructs and groups of that society.

It is mainly the way in which these certain groups are portrayed and the place in which they stand in such particular era. The women are represented on a negative level as to how they were actually materialized by the men and racial difference is also depicted as one of the main issues. The main characters of Othello, is Othello himself known as the outcast, Iago the villain for his own whiteness hides a soul as black as any in the literature of the world, Desdemona the beautiful pure lady and Cassio the honorable lieutenant, as well as other brief characters.

Othello is known as the moor, and even though black people were simply considered as outcast and positioned at the lowest, Othello holds great power and respect by the Venetians. This respect only goes so far though, until he falls in love with Desdemona and she, he and they marry. This causes a quarrel among the community, including Desdemona’s father who once held high respect and expectations of Othello, in him being the general in the service of Venice.

From this happening do we see the vast difference among race difference and highly through Iago who’s meaning of the name in Spanish stands for devil. To some extent, Iago uses the fact that Othello is black against him, in positioning him lower than the rest and taking high advantage of his cultural background. A racial connotation shows through in Iago’s evil character, and when ever Othello is talked about by characters, especially Iago negative words are what he is referred to; Such as ‘Barbary horse, uncircumcised dog, old black ram, devil, and so on.

The women of that era, have a particular view looked upon them by the Venetian men. At first Desdemona is described as everything that stands for goodness; Purity, angelic, beautiful, gentle, kind. Where as most Venetian women are described as strumpets, another word for whore, which means many things, such as unfaithful, dirty, evil, devil etc; Negative words that imply negative meanings. Through out Othello, evil Iago who, actually known by Othello as “honest Iago”, is planting seeds of doubt, suspicion and wrong ideas into Othello’s mind.

With him getting the impression that his fair lady is having an affair with Cassio, only because of the small poisonous words that come out of Iago’s wicked mouth. Desdemona, in Othello’s eyes soon becomes a ‘fair devil, with a demonically sweating palm, which must be ‘double damned’ because she is ‘false as hell’ and ‘she must be killed, Satan-like, or she’ll betray more men’. From the beginning being an angelic, pure lady to ‘satan-like’ just from Othello’s mind becoming a growing infection from Iago’s vocabulary.


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