What Impression Do You Get of Othello in the 1st Act of the Play and What Methods Has Shakespeare Used to Create That Impression? Essay

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Written around 1604, shortly after the coronation of James I in England, ‘Othello’ is widely considered as one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies, dealing with themes such as jealousy, racism and the elusive lines between reality and illusion. The audience is immediately plunged into 16th century Venice, where we observe the slanderous nature of Iago and Roderigo as they criticise Othello in his absence, and it is not until Act 1 Scene 2 that we are finally introduced to the play’s eponymous ‘hero’. Views on Othello and his character vary from different readers or critics as some believe that he is indeed a hero whilst others adopt the school of thought that he is merely an egotistical general. However, it is difficult to know which opinion Shakespeare intended one to adopt from the 1st Act alone. Othello’s name and honour is undermined from the beginning of the play, due to the fact that he has gone against the societal norm by marrying and eloping with Desdemona, by Iago, Othello’s ensign and Roderigo, a gulled gentleman of Venice. The fact that insults such as “Moor”, “thicklips”, “devil” and “Barbary horse” are used to describe Othello by these men not only hints to an audience member that the titular character is black, but also paints a negative image of him in one’s mind. Iago uses crude language and sexual imagery when talking about Othello’s nature, especially when telling Brabantio that the purity of his daughter, Desdemona, has been lost or stolen, saying, “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe”. Desdemona has apparently been enticed “To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor” with whom she will begin “making the beast with two backs.” These are all sordid and gratuitous illustrations which lead one to believe that Othello is indeed a “foul”, lewd beast. Amongst these depictions of Othello are some extremely racist derisions, leading one to question

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