Othello Shakespeare 's Othello And Reformation Theology
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Othello and Reformation Theology
In the opening act of Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago feigns great panic when he warns Othello of an approaching mob of angry men, “Those are the raised father and his friends,/ You were best go in” (1.2.29). Although he responds to Iago with great confidence, “Not I, I must be found” (1.2.30), Othello’s soul is soon to be tested, and his confidence will ultimately be broken. Othello’s soul, far from perfect, is masterfully spun by a craftsman who drew inspiration from a culture steeped in religious controversy and violence. Othello is a prideful man whose tragic fall and subsequent rise are modeled after the Reformation process of salvation. Though often pitied as an outsider and even more often condemned as a jealous monster, Othello is a Reformation saint whose struggle with sin and depravity places him within the ranks of an everyman. Othello’s flawed character, not an issue of his race but of his sin and depravity, are not unique to his character but are drawn from a view of man that was widely propagated in Shakespeare’s England by Reformation theologians, pastors, preachers, and writers. This study of Othello will engage most specifically the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin, as they relate to the nature of redemptive humiliation.
Othello’s damning pride and self-justifying habits are the most potent elements of his ruin. Robert Watson writes, “Pride is as fundamental to the tragedy of Othello as jealousy, and the