Othello – Context

Othello – Context

Tragedy- According to Aristotle, a tragedy must be about characters that begin as good or noble and who fall from grace as Othello does. The plot of a tragedy must follow the chain of events leading to a character’s fall. Othello begins as good and noble, he is happy to be found with Desdemona despite her father’s anger because he says, ‘My parts, my title and my perfect soul/ Shall manifest me rightly,’ in other words he is safe because of his noble status. By the end of the play he has been degraded and Cassio, who does nothing wrong throughout the play, ends up at the top.

Racism- Some of the language used towards Othello is directed at his race. He is a Moor meaning he is North African, although we don’t know from which country. Despite the abuse directed towards him about his appearance, (‘sooty,’ ‘thick lips,’ barbary horse’) Othello holds a position of power because of his success in war.

Though the things they say to him are terrible and offensive, they would have reflected the racism of Shakespeare’s audience and been commonplace insults. They may shock us now but they were not meant to be shocking, just rude.

Status is very important in the play too as Othello gains his by merit and actions whereas Brabanzio is loved because of his high social and financial position in society. Love bridges the gap between the two types of high status and overcomes the prejudices of race.