The "Other" in William Shakespeare's Othello
In several of Shakespeare's plays the writer introduces the notion of being considered an "other", and whether certain groups are "in" or "out". This theme is significantly portrayed in the play Othello, in which a black general living in Venice must constantly struggle to balance his dual nature of both Moor and Venetian. It is apparent that before the play begins, Othello has not yet resolved his duplicitous self-image; however, throughout the action of the play, he is put in a maliciously-designed situation which causes his insecurities and self doubt to breed, allowing the Venetian?s stereotype of the brutal and ignorant black man to consume Othello's eloquence and education adopted as a Christian military leader in society. Othello's fall into uncivilized madness intensifies throughout the play, but is finally resolved in his final speech in Act V, scene ii, just before he stabs himself to death: Othello reconciles both of his identities in asking that he be remembered as he is and not as what the Venetian insiders see him to be, and what he has become in the course of the play - a vile, unforgiving, savage Moor.
Othello is one of Shakespeare?s prime examples of an ?other?, someone who doesn?t truly belong to society by some unfortunate inheritance of ethnicity and race, made worse by the negative stereotypes constructed by the Venetians to apply to outsiders like him. Although Othello is a gifted military hero, a ?worthy governor? (II.i.30) and a ?full soldier? (II.i.36), he is also damned by his color, his blackness. Most of the Venetian insiders, including his wife Desdemona, refer to Othello as merely ?the Moor?, and label him with such blatant insults as ?lascivious? (I.i.126), ?thief? (I.ii.57), and ?a thing? (I.ii.71). Brabantio is in awe of the man?s prowess, but is utterly enraged when he discovers that his own daughter has ?run to the sooty bosom? (I.ii.70) of Othello, and Iago plays the part of honest and loyal friend, but secretly despises Othello and crafts an intricate and devious plot for his ruin. The various opinions of Othello in the beginning of the play show that despite the fact that he can hold a position of power in Venetian society, it is nearly impossible for him to obtain universal respect from the people who will never accept his exotic appearance and heritage.
It would be difficult for anyone to come to terms with such contradictory notions of themselves, and Othello is no exception. Once Iago sets the stage for Othello?s fall, the negative emotions aroused in the general cause him to release the lunatic black man that the insiders have feared lies within ?The Moor?s? austere composure. Many critics have suggested that Othello?s extreme jealousy is what amounts to his belief in Iago?s twisted tale of Desdemona?s infidelity and thus his ultimate downfall; however, it seems more likely that it is Othello?s insecurity over his sense of self that...