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Cultural Reflections in Shakespeare’s Othello

Historical and Cultural Context

The Elizabethan worldview, primarily based on concepts of racial superiority and ethnocentrism, is shown in “Othello,” where the title person’s Moorish beginning will become a source of mistrust and hostility. The drama is about a generation in which change and exploration were the most important elements influencing the mentality of the humans living in England. “Othello,” which mirrors the generic cultural biases and worries of the day, gives audiences of the time a lens via which to see their prejudices and concerns. So, even as analyzing common human feelings, “Othello” additionally captures the ancient and cultural historical past of Elizabethan England.

Tragic Elements in “Othello”

Othello, the protagonist of “Othello,” is the quintessential tragic hero, his terrible fate determined by his noble qualities. Othello’s fatal mistake, which initiates the tragedy, is manipulation driven by jealousy. Shakespeare skillfully creates a foreboding atmosphere by combining jealousy, deceit, and treachery. Othello’s confidence in Desdemona is undermined by an underlying element of jealousy that permeates his thinking. Othello’s lament highlights jealousy’s insidious nature: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on” (S. 165-167). The “green-eyed monster” metaphor shows how jealousy is destructive and consumes its host. Iago’s manipulation exacerbates Othello’s mental anguish. Iago’s Machiavellian plots exacerbate Othello’s jealousy. Iago poisons Othello’s perceptions with mistrust.

Tragically late, Othello realizes the trickery, reflecting Aristotle’s hamartia, the fatal error that brings a hero down. To emphasize the sorrow, the play features betrayal. Desdemona’s betrayal and Iago’s deception bring Othello to his knees. The play’s sad ending depicts Othello, overwhelmed by jealousy and misled by Iago, murdering Desdemona. Shakespeare draws pity and horror from his tragic figure, Othello, showing the audience how a noble character falls apart. “Othello” explores human fragility and interpersonal destruction via envy, deception, and betrayal.

Deception and Machiavellian Influence

In “Othello,” the villainous Iago is a Machiavellian manipulator who drives the play’s terrible events. Iago, Othello’s ensign’s duplicity, foreshadows the tragedy. Inspired by Niccolò Machiavelli’s political philosophy, his Machiavellian tendencies include cunning, manipulation, and relentless pursuit of personal enrichment. As a deceitful and exploitative man, Iago’s soliloquies expose his evil nature. He says, “I am not what I am,” expressing his Machiavellian character (S. 65). Iago’s skill in concealing his plotting lays the stage for tragedy.

The terrible events of “Othello” revolve around Iago’s puppetry. With Othello as his main aim, he manipulates characters. To abuse Othello’s trust and jealousy, Iago uses his vulnerabilities. Iago’s strategy to convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity shows his methodical deception. Machiavellian Iago drives Othello’s jealousy to its terrible end. Iago manipulates Roderigo and Cassio further into dishonesty. The play reveals Iago’s duplicity throughout. In the handkerchief subplot, Iago proves Desdemona’s adultery. Iago accuses people of treason and the use of their innocuous moves. This lie is the reason for Othello’s mistake and Desdemona’s demise. Iago’s deception contrasts look with truth as characters are caught in a web of deceit, ultimately leading to tragedy.

Appearance vs. Reality Theme

In “Othello,” the critical perception of appearance towards fact actions the tragedy ahead. The characters’ too-literal interpretations of occasions, as well as their reliance on first impressions, significantly influence the tragic activities of the play. Iago hints that Othello’s belief in Desdemona is untrue because of the handkerchief and different susceptible evidence. His incapability to differentiate between truth and Iago’s fiction is a horrible fault with lethal consequences.

The Role of Desdemona

Desdemona’s tragic destiny is influenced by society’s standards and Othello’s racial prejudice and gender roles. Her death echoes the play’s middle themes, which consist of the perils of envy and the frailty of affection while placing the check by way of societal requirements (Nilay 1040). Desdemona’s man or woman is complicated using her independence and persistence in adversity. She has substantially more of an effect on the tale than a regular sufferer because she is a powerful image of affection’s frailty within the face of manipulation and cultural expectations. Desdemona is a sad character whose death is intertwined with Shakespeare’s investigation of human nature and social connections in “Othello,” underlining the play’s more prominent themes.

Works Cited

, Nilay Erdem. “An Evaluation of the Evil Characters in Shakespeare’s Four Principle Tragedies in terms of Machiavellian Principles.” Gaziantep University Journal of Social Sciences 18.3 (2019): 1037-1049.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 1604.


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