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Othello: The Noble Savage Essay

2587 words - 10 pages

Othello: The Noble Savage

There are many opposing views to the way that Othello is defined within Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello. Some suggest that Othello is a savage "Moor," and at no point is he the noble "Venetian" he attempts to portray himself as. Others suggest that Othello is the noble "Venetian" he portrays himself as, and his ultimate demise stems directly from Iago being a savage. Yet some agree that Othello is both the noble "Venetian" and the savage "Moor," unable to fully interpolate himself into the "Venetian" paradigm, but becoming, rather, a "noble savage."

When the play begins, Othello is introduced as a military leader and a Christian, both characteristics of a noble "Venetian." According to Bell: " When we first meet him (Othello), he is a Christian and a `self-made man' who has overcome the handicaps of being foreign and black in the white Venetian world in which he has found his place" (2). Once Desdemona's father, Brabanzio, discovers the wedlock that has taken place, he is the first to point out that Othello is, in fact, a Moor when he states: "Here is this man, this Moor..." (1.3.71). Othello responds to this with the courtesy, modesty, and refined manners of any noble Venetian by saying: "It is most true, true I have married her/ The very head and front of my offending/ Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech/ And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace..."(1.3.79-82). In every way, Othello has portrayed himself to be equal to the most noble of "Venetians," even when faced with the accusations that he must have wooed Desdemona using potions or witchcraft. Othello asks that they let Desdemona speak for herself on how she came to love this Moor that he is. Desdemona comes to support the idea that it is ultimately the true savage in Othello that she fell in love with, though believing him to be of the noble stature that Othello believes himself to be.

Desdemona unknowingly supports the idea that Othello is, in fact, a savage, and that it was the savage that she was attracted to. When Othello recounts the way in which he came to woo Desdemona, he tells Brabanzio and the Duke:

I spoke of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth scapes i'th' imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence,

And portance in my traveller's history...

These things to hear

Would Desdemona seriously incline...

She'd come again, and with a greedy ear

Devour up my discourse...

When I did speak of some distressful stroke

She gave me for my pains a world of kisses

She swore in faith `twas strange, `twas passing strange,

`Twas pitiful, `twas woundrous pitiful.

She wished she had not heard, yet she wished

That heaven had made her such a man...

She loved me for the dangers I had passed,

And I loved her that she did pity them.

This only is the witchcraft I...

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