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Describing othello character in william shakespeares play othello

Role[ edit ] Othello is a Moorish prince living in Veniceas an ambassador of the Moors. After time in Venice, Othello is appointed general in the Venetian Army. His officer Iago tricks him into believing that his wife Desdemona is having an affair with his Lieutenant, Michael Cassio.

Othello kills his wife out of jealousy by strangling her, only to realize that his wife was faithful after Emilia reveals the truth, at which point he commits suicide. While no English translation of Cinthio was available in Shakespeare's lifetime, it is probable that Shakespeare knew both the Italian original and Gabriel Chappuy's 1584 French translation. Cinthio's tale may have been based on an actual incident occurring in Venice about 1508.

While Shakespeare closely followed Cinthio's tale in composing Othello, he departed from it in some details, particularly in the tale's depiction of Desdemona's death. In Cinthio, the Moor commissions his ensign to bludgeon Desdemona to death with a sand-filled stocking. In gruesome detail, Cinthio follows each blow, and, when the lady is dead, the Moor and his ensign place her lifeless body upon her bed, smash her skull, and then cause the cracked ceiling above the bed to collapse upon her, giving the impression the falling rafters caused her death.

The two murderers escape detection. The Moor then misses his wife greatly, and comes to loathe the sight of his ensign.

He demotes him, and refuses to have him in his company. The ensign then seeks revenge by disclosing to "the squadron leader" the tale's Cassio counterpartthe Moor's involvement in Desdemona's death.

The two men denounce the Moor to the Venetian Seignory. The Moor is arrested, transported from Cyprus to Venice, and tortured, but refuses to admit his guilt. He is condemned to exile; Desdemona's relatives eventually put him to death. The ensign escapes any prosecution in Desdemona's death but engages in other crimes and dies after being tortured.

Honigmann, the editor of the Arden Shakespeare edition concluded that Othello's race is ambiguous. As critics have established, the term 'Moor' referred to dark-skinned people in general, used interchangeably with similarly ambiguous terms as 'African', "Ethiopian' and even 'Indian' to designate a figure from Africa or beyond.

In 1911, James Welton argued more evidence points to him being Sub-Saharan, though Shakespeare's intention is unknown. He argues that interpretations attempting to change Othello from "black to brown" were due to racial prejudice during Reconstruction in the US and notes that Othello is described using similar language to Aaron in Titus Andronicus. She states that by 1604, accounts of Othello as deriving from further south were not uncommon.

Othello (character)

Iago twice uses the word "Barbary" or "Barbarian" to refer to Othello, seemingly referring to the Barbary coast inhabited by the "tawny" Moors. Roderigo calls Othello "the thicklips", which seems to refer to European conceptions of Sub-Saharan African physiognomy, but Honigmann counters that, as these comments are all intended as insults by the characters, they need not be taken literally.

He stayed with his retinue in London for several months and occasioned much discussion, and thus might have inspired Shakespeare's play, written only a few years afterwards. The exact date that Othello was written is unknown, though sources indicate that it was written between 1601 and 1610, sometime after the Moorish delegation. III he denounces Desdemona's supposed sin as being "black as mine own face".

Desdemona's physical whiteness is otherwise presented in opposition to Othello's dark skin; V. II "that whiter skin of hers than snow". In Elizabethan discourse, the word "black" could suggest various concepts that extended beyond the physical colour of skin, including a wide range of negative connotations. In the past, Othello would often have been portrayed by a white actor in blackface. Black American actor Paul Robeson played the role from 1930 to 1959.

Recent actors who chose to "blacken up" include Laurence Olivier 1965 and Orson Welles. Since the 1960s it has become commonplace to cast a black actor in the character of Othello, although the casting of the role now can come with a political subtext. This production was the first ever in America to feature a black actor playing Othello with an otherwise all-white cast there had been all-black productions of the play before. It ran for 296 performances, almost twice as long as any other Shakespearean play ever produced on Broadway.

Othello Characters

Robeson played Othello in three separate productions between 1930 and 1959. He first played it opposite a cast that included Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona and Ralph Richardson as Roderigo, and would return to it in 1959 at Stratford on Avon. From his first entry, slender and magnificently tall, framed in a high Byzantine arch, clad in white samite, mystic, wonderful, a figure of Arabian romance and grace, to his last plunging of the knife into his stomach, Mr Marshall rode without faltering the play's enormous rhetoric, and at the end the house rose to him.