"Othello" Essay

1116 words - 4 pages

A post-modern valuing of a text views the interpretation acquired by a responder, rather than the intended message of the author, as being most important. The Seventeenth Century Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy "Othello" composed by William Shakespeare was greatly influenced by various Elizabethan societal concerns, such as spirituality, race, and most importantly, gender. An individual influenced by a Bradley reading of this text would focus on Othello and his fatal flaw, exploring his decline through his soliloquies and use of imagery, while a Race-based reading would view the prejudice that Othello, as a 'moor', endures throughout the play. Contrarily, a responder influenced by the early 21st century Feminist reading may focus on the presentation of the female characters Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, and the juxtaposing angelic and bestial imagery that surrounds them. Similarly, through the exploration of the continual use of bestial imagery by Othello and Iago, the psychoanalyst would examine the presentation of their tortured minds, and accentuate this concept through the analysis of their soliloquies. Thus, as seen through the Psychoanalytical and Feminist readings of the text, a responder may have a completely different focus and interpretation despite exploring it through similar devices.For the responder influenced by the Feminist interpretation of the text, the primary area of concern would be how the position of women in the Elizabethan society is presented. While Feminist beliefs support independence and respect towards women, the Elizabethan society had completely antithetical values: women were treated as material possessions, with no source of financial security except marriage. This concept is portrayed through the archetypal use of Bianca, and how her only means of survival are to marry Cassio. This, contrarily, is juxtaposed with the atypical behaviour seen by Desdemona when proclaiming her love to Othello, as it is going against her father, and similarly when Emilia reveals her feelings about men, using the most vulgar of imagery to portray how men in this society view women solely as sex objects. The irony that the Feminist reading of the text highlights is that there is a façade of respect towards women from men within this society, but in actuality, the men could not be more impertinent towards women. To explore this degrading manner in which women were so often treated in this society, the responder may focus on the bestial imagery so often used by Iago and Othello to describe them. While Iago's language patterns remain static, he is more forthright with his aspersions than Othello, referring to the female characters as 'wanton', even in the public eye."Othello: ... No, when light-winged toysOf feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness" (I*III*264à265)From the excerpt above, it is evident that Othello's view of women differs, contrarily to Iago's, as he goes from associating Desdemona with angelic, spiritual...

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