Othello: Death by Difference

1935 WordsJul 7, 20188 Pages
For a long time we have been obsessed with one most tangible feature of Shakespeare's Othello: the hero's color. This we have done with good reason, for Othello's skin color is explicitly mentioned in the text from the very beginning. The fact that this tragic hero is black (when Shakespeare's other heroes are white) is so intriguing that we seek to make sense of it. Writing in 1811, Charles Lamb insists that Othello is essentially unstageable, for there is “something extremely revolting in the courtship and wedded caresses of Othello and Desdemona” (221), earlier describing Othello as “a coal-black Moor” (221), his italics showing his disgust at the thought. Samuel Taylor Coleridge only a few years later asked if Shakespeare could be “so…show more content…
She herself never directly refutes her father's claim that she is under the influence of witchcraft; however, she does quite eloquently defend her new allegiance to Othello in 1.3. Brabantio locked her into a stereotype of passivity which she broke. Iago similarly tries to lock her into a stereotype of adultery in 3.3, as he carefully plants the seeds of doubt in Othello's mind. “Look to your wife” (3.3.199), he tells Othello, claiming that “In Venice they do let God see the pranks / They dare not show their husbands” (3.3.205). Arguably, Desdemona is innocent of any adultery. If so, she is breaks Iago's stereotype of the Venetian wife. This “typical” Venetian wife, Iago implies, would unquestionably and unashamedly sleep with Cassio. Since Desdemona breaks these stereotypes, she is different just as Othello is, but in a less visible way. Cassio, too, is different—something we may not always notice. “A Florentine” (1.1.17) and not a Venetian, Cassio is, like Othello, a foreigner. Like Othello, he gets hurt. Of course, he is a foreigner to a much smaller degree than Othello, and likewise his hurt is much smaller than Othello's. Also, like Desdemona, he breaks a gender stereotype: he cannot hold his liquor very well. We would
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