The Importance of Setting and Geography in William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’

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Subjects such as green-eyed monster. misrepresentation and passion interwoven through the text of ‘Othello’ make the narrative riveting. But before we can understand why events take topographic point and characters motivations’ it is of import to analyze the geographical sphere in which the narrative of Othello and the moral battles of the characters are brought to life. By including existent locations. which Elizabethans would hold herd of. the drama appears to be more realistic. ‘Othello’ is moderately geographically accurate and this helps to do the drama. with it’s improbable events. seem more plausible.

‘Othello’ begins. in Act One. in Venice. the booming bosom of civilized and refined behavior but moves from here to the hostile climates of Cyprus where struggle begins to develop. We are taken from a location where Brabantio is shocked to hear of jurisprudence breakage and stealing go oning “What. tell’st thou me of robbing? This is Venice. my house is non a grange” to a topographic point with an unstable political standing. Cyprus is finally unable to keep the civilization and society of Venice within its kingdom. hence why the personalities of the baronial well-mannered characters break down in Cyprus.

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In add-on to the motion from Venice to Cyprus. ‘Othello’ bit by bit moves from scenes taking topographic point outside to inside. We begin in a bustling street in Venice and stop up in a confined infinite of a bedchamber/bed. This motion from big unfastened countries to little confined infinites is a cagey dramatic technique that draws the audience in by making a sense of claustrophobia. These gradual passages throughout the class of the drama reflect Othello’s behavior. At the beginning we observe a gentleman with an active life who has many involvements. particularly in his military capacity as a general. However. by the terminal of the drama he is obsessed and consumed with the untrue belief that Desdemona is holding an matter with Cassio.

In Shakespearean times the locations used in dramas tended to hold specific symbolic significance. The absence of scenery in Elizabethan theater meant that there was no demand to animate physical features. Peoples of the clip didn’t go to these far off distant lands so the truth of distance. clip and visual aspect weren’t importance – in consequence. this gave Shakespeare an artistic license. However. compared to his earlier dramas he did do an attempt to do ‘Othello’ geographically accurate. An Italian novelette ‘The Story of Disdemonia of Venice and The Moorish Captain’ by Giraldi Cinthio is the beginning of the lineation of the secret plan of ‘Othello’ . Because this narrative was short Shakespeare used the geographical item we see present in ‘Othello’ to give the narrative more deepness and do it longer.

Aristotle’s integrities of topographic point. clip and action are besides known as ‘the unities’ . in footings of the three rules of dramatic composing. The thought is that a drama should dwell of one related series of actions. which all occur in one twenty-four hours and take topographic point in one location. Although ‘Othello’ Begins in Venice and moves to Cyprus. the 2nd half of the drama all takes topographic point in the same location in Cyprus and the chief action in the drama occurs in one twenty-four hours ( in fact. the drama in it’s entireness takes topographic point over 2 yearss ) . This assists the immediateness of the play – the action takes topographic point in a little topographic point. with small clip making a sense of urgency. velocity and doing the events fast-paced.

Shakespeare chose to put the beginning of ‘Othello’ in Italy because anything associated with Italy was held in high respect by Elizabethans. Italy was seen as superior in all facets of life from its architecture and technology to faith. vesture and creative persons.

Using Italy as a scene allowed Shakespeare to take advantage of its alien and stylish repute and suspend the incredulity of the audience. Because the action does non take topographic point in milieus the audience would be familiar with it seems about phantasmagoric. Bing cognizant of a broad universe at the start of the drama helps to increase the strength as the tenseness of the narrative rises. coming to a flood tide at the bedchamber scene – by the terminal of the drama the audience and characters have their outside universe blocked out and it is of humbleness. This besides helped to increase the graduated table and expanse of Shakespeare’s storytelling by including the outside universe. This is rather dry sing Othello is a domestic calamity and finally the lone importance is the immediate milieus of Othello and Desdemona’s bedchamber.

Choosing to put ‘Othello’ in Italy besides allowed Shakespeare to integrate the thought of Machiavellian characters. Machiavelli was a sixteenth century philosopher who wrote a book in 1513 called ‘The Prince’ . He said pitiless self-interest. opinion by force and unethical methods to derive power should be used by people. These rules evidently link in with Iago’s selfish thoughts. Puting ‘Othello’ in Italy evidently meant that some characters could be Italian and hence more likely to hold Machiavellian ( which has come to intend nefarious ) features. Of class. Iago is an Italian and a Machiavellian!

Venice was a powerful and affluent city state in the early seventeenth century. The dwellers of it were seen as elegant but effete. Shakespeare uses the scene of Venice as a tool to heighten the word picture of Othello. Othello is non Venetian and this makes him experience and look as an foreigner. He feels witting of the fact that he may non be able to understand the nuances of Venetian civilization. this leads to him experiencing uncomfortable and defensive. Although Othello is non at easiness he is still viewed favorably by the Duke of Venice “If virtue no delighted beauty deficiency. your son-in-law is far more just than black” . This shows that Othello has an first-class repute harmonizing to the high criterions of Venetian civilization. This is highlighted when he is trusted with the defense mechanism of Cyprus from the Turks. Although this is merely on a professional footing. One of Othello’s major ruins is that he lets his passions overrule his caput – he does when he is Othello the Moor but non when he is Othello the general.

Sexual release and freedom were outstanding in Venice at the clip ‘Othello’ was written – which seems rather contradictory as the characters in ‘Othello’ . even the Venetian’s. seem unable to digest a black and white twosome! Iago uses the thought of sexual consciousness in Venice to works thoughts into Othello’s head. In the late sixteenth century Venetian married womans were dressed good in expensive vesture but unluckily the outfits concubines wore to pull work forces were similar to the manner of well-mannered Venetian adult females. Iago draws this analogue for Othello “In Venice they do allow God see the buffooneries they dare non demo their hubbies. ” Iago knows that Desdemona is Venetian and plays on this. He makes Othello believe that Desdemona could be like all other Venetian adult females. Othello becomes progressively cognizant of the metropoliss sexual repute and abuses Desdemona “I took you for that cunning prostitute of Venice that married with Othello. ” From the virtuous Desdemona in Cyprus she is labelling as a common homemaker when they arrive in Cyprus.

Shakespeare clearly researched Venice but knew small about the geographics of Cyprus. The chief ground the chief organic structure of action in ‘Othello’ is in Cyprus is so that Venetian involvements in the island may be protected and defended from the Turks. Because Cyprus is in a province of military preparedness and in demand of defense mechanism this provided Shakespeare with a much more suited topographic point. than the civilized Venice. for the dramatic tenseness and events about to take topographic point with Othello. Iago and Desdemona.

The Venetian’s effort to take their ain society and criterions to Cyprus but they are unsuccessful. This allows Iago to take advantage of the unstability and contribute towards people losing their self-denial. Cyprus is non a stable adequate environment for the high category Venetian’s.

The military struggle between Venice and Cyprus. the societal struggle between the Venetian’s and Turks and the moral struggle between civilization and atrocity reflect Othello’s psychological struggle at the terminal of the drama when he wrestles with his ain ideas and takes an epileptic tantrum.

Retaliation calamities are a specific type of literature. which ‘Othello’ can besides be categorised as. They are typically set in Italy because it allows the writer to show apparently sophisticated secular characters that often turn out to be the scoundrels ( like Iago ) . It besides allows the author to include Machiavellian associations. include power and passion. which adds to rising the tenseness of certain scenes. Other retaliation calamities include ‘The Revengers Tragedy’ by Cyril Turnier and ‘Spanish Tragedy’ by Thomas Kyd.

‘Othello’ is a Christian morality drama because Eden and snake pit are about referred to as existent topographic points. This helps to make a contrast between the sanctity of Christians and the barbarian Turks and Berbers. However. Iago is an Italian Christian and is non by any agencies a saintly. pure character.

The geographical mentions in the drama aid to demo that Othello is good travelled and experienced in the different ways of the universe – even if he may non be able to accommodate to these different civilizations. For the audience of the clip it provides a more credible ground as to why Desdemona would fall in love with him ( Elizabethans would non hold believed she could love him for his expressions but it would look more acceptable for his interesting. vivacious personality and narratives of his travels ) .

Othello’s has intense feelings of ‘otherness’ which contribute towards his eventual dislocation and is caused by geographically rooted differences between him and the other characters. Othello is from the Barbary Coast so because of his physical difference and dark skin color he looks like the enemy – he appears more as Arab than Venetian. Besides. Berbers were typically thought to be barbarian. Peoples like Othello every bit long as he sticks to his station as a general but so when attempts to incorporate with their civilization ( i. e. when he marries Desdemona ) they do non hold with it and can’t see past the fact he is a black Berber. In a similar vena to Othello’s looking like the enemy. Iago is named after the frequenter saint of Spain. England and Spain had conflict enemy at the clip of the dramas authorship.

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The Importance of Setting and Geography in William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. (2017, Sep 24). Retrieved from

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