Only by considering a range of perspectives can we truly appreciate the world of Shakespeare’s Othello. It is through my exploration of these perspectives and their relationship with changing morals and values that has enriched my understanding of the play. One such reading of the play challenges the marginalisation and objectification of woman in a patriarchal Venetian society, while taking into account the changing role of women in modern society. Another interpretation of Othello examines its post colonial elements through the protagonist Othello, and his insecurities of being a black man in a white society. My interpretation of the play as a portrayal of the values existing in Shakespeare’s time is filtered through these perceptions, thus broadening my understanding of Othello.
In essence, Othello follows the Aristotelian model of tragedy. Shakespeare’s text documents Othello’s downfall from a position of nobility and self-assuredness to a man ruined by jealousy. Othello’s downfall is made apparent by his degenerating language as the play progresses. His early eloquence, most notably displayed in his speech to the Venetian court declaring his love for Desdemona, is lost and taken over by bestial imagery once attributed to Iago. Iago describes Desdemona and Cassio “as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys” and his earlier plan to “pour this pestilence into [Othello’s] hear” is achieved when Othello mimics him, eventually exclaiming “Goats and monkeys!” Dramatic irony also intensifies the demise of Othello and Desdemona. Responders are aware of the consequences when Desdemona innocently describes Cassio as her “suitor” as they are privy to Othello’s doubts of her infidelity and the effect of the euphemism. Similarly Iago’s soliloquies achieve the same sense of dramatic irony as we are aware of his deceit, while the other characters are unconscious to the true nature of “honest Iago”.
However the textual integrity of the play can be questioned. In terms of its pacing, Othello’s transition from a love that overcame social boundaries to murderous hate is almost too abrupt, to the point that it is unconvincing and unrealistic. The fact that Othello blindly follows the words of Iago, without once consulting Desdemona, takes away the play’s realism. On the other hand, this can be attributed to the gender system of the time, and Othello’s insecurities about his race and age. Stage directions instruct Othello and Iago to kneel, and to modern audiences this symbolises that the bond between the two men is stronger than marriage representative of the patriarchal society of Shakespeare’s time.
The play reflects the patriarchal values of society by categorising females into the three main stereotypes: the housewife, whore and innocent virgin are...