As most of us do, I looked at the name ‘Shakespeare’ on my reading list and groaned. Feeling slightly guilty about this now as after studying the play I have discovered that there is a lot more underlying meaning than I first thought. Through the use of Jacobean Tragedy, Shakespeare somewhat criticises Elizabethan society and the strong stereotypes, sexism and racial discrimination it includes.
The treatment of the only three female characters Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, represents the division between the sexes, for example, Brabantio tells Othello to ‘use Desdemona well’, this suggesting that she is a possession, to be owned by her husband and therefore dehumanises her to little more significance than that of a piece of furniture. Some may argue that through Shakespeare’s acknowledgement of the sexist treatment towards women, he is in fact condoning this behaviour and agreeing that it is a natural way of life for women to always be second to men. However, I believe that he stages these social concepts in order to show the audience how ridiculous the treatment of women actually was, after all, Elizabethan theatre was used as a prominent form of education.
Furthermore, Othello is believed to be of a different racial background, therefore constantly treated as the ‘other’ by those in the play. A common stereotype of foreigners was that they were savage, unable to control themselves, essentially animal like. Whilst at the start of the play Othello is the complete contrast to this; he is well spoken, gentlemanly, a man of honour and duty and refered to as ‘brave’. After being manipulated by Iago, Othello lands straight into the stereotype, perhaps Iago wanted this in order to show Othello for what he thinks he really is. It is Othello’s tragic flaw of trust that brings on his downfall, Iago purely plays on this weakness to aid himself.
Overall, I really enjoyed Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, the deeper meaning and subtle criticism of the Eliabethan society give it far more depth than just the plot line itself. Also, I found a cheap but brilliant copy of ‘The Complete Works Of Shakespeare’ so I’ll definitely read more of his work and review it soon! 🙂