Social Context of "Othello"

Decent Essays
On November 1, 1604, King James I and his court were the first to watch a production of William Shakespeare’s “Othello.” The famous playwright was in the midst of his tragedy period, penning such classics as “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth.” The story of “Othello” has its roots in the historical events and cultural atmosphere of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

It was a common practice of playwrights at the time to borrow or lift plot ideas from other preexisting stories, and Shakespeare was no exception to the rule. The plot of “Othello” most closely resembles a 1565 story by the Italian writer Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinzio: a Moorish general is tricked by one of his officers into thinking his wife has been unfaithful.
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Othello describes Desdemona’s supposed sullied reputation as “begrimed and black/ as mine own face” (3.3.390-1) and seeks “black vengeance” (3.3.450). While it is actually Iago, a white character, who stains and corrupts the pure love between Othello and Desdemona, the concepts of impurity and pollution are described in “black” terms. To this day, “Othello” remains a challenging, provocative play for its treatment of
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