Othello And His Otherness
The first differentiation of the character which makes him a stranger to the rest is his race, his dark skin color makes him an infiltrator the white Venetian kingdom. Even before he appears on the play he is already described as “an old black ram” (buscar donde), “African horse”, a “stranger” and a “barbarian” (buscar donde). This allows Othello to be isolated right from the beginning.
The ones with the racist attitude are Iago and Roderigo who display the stereotype Africans had in the age of Shakespeare; the idea of white supremacy over the black as slaves and inferior. In a conversation between Iago and Roderigo, the former explains how he will not follow a ‘black ram’ but rather himself, in battle. This type of comment suggest the attitude that Elizabethan England had towards Africans and dark-skins being brought to the British Isles and colonies.
Furthermore, little is said about Othello’s background, but the fact that he is a foreign mercenary stand without doubt. In the play, Othello explains how “From year to year: the battle, sieges, fortune, that i have passed”(buscar donde). This is a way to make the character a lifelong outsider, everywhere he has gone. Gillies adds that being ‘geographically displaced’, causes Shakespeare’s ‘strangers’ to become more threatening (1994, p.100).
Following the lines of the foreigner there is another factor that influence the ‘otherness’ in Othello, the Moor. Moors were usually Muslims, although in this case, it was known that Othello is converted to Christianity. The fact that the War of Cyprus against the Turks, which is portrayed in the play, was a religious war, made the conflict between Othello and the rest of the Christian venetians exponentially larger. The cast, especially Iago, makes no difference in acknowledging as a converted Christian and a fake Christian, he thereon, becomes the responsible of reinforcing Othello’s isolation in regard to the rest. Regarding this topic, Tekalp explains how for such kind of people, ‘strangers’, or non-Christians, have always become inferior to the ‘same’, and should remain as ‘footnotes’ to the society they shelter in (2014, p.237). Iago even declares how Othello isn’t worth of his position as only a true believer of heaven can lead and calm the Venetian army.
The racial and religious conflict extends to the relation between Desdemona and Othello. The love between the characters can be interpreted as a form of union between ‘white England and the black colonies’, however the interracial relation is seen by the rest of the characters in the play as a violation of the ‘black’ to the white race, only soften by the fact that Othello is a heroic figure and a Christian, not a Muslim.
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