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Discuss how colliding cultures force Othello to question his own identity.

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vanishedsmoke | Student | (Level 1) Honors

Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:05 PM via web

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Discuss how colliding cultures force Othello to question his own identity.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:52 PM (Answer #1)

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The original question had to be edited.  I would suggest that one of the most dominant examples of colliding cultures for Othello is that of the "insider" and the "outsider."  Othello operates as an "outsider" on a couple of levels.  The first is that he is a soldier who excels at what he does.  His role as a soldier is a distinctively different culture than the political insider, as seen in the the Senators of Venice.  As a soldier, Othello is used to following orders and doing his duty.  The outsider culture here is one that is subservient, something that gnaws at him as Iago goes to work on his insecurities.  At the same time, this culture of an outsider is seen in the fact that Othello is a man of color.  Being a Moor, a man of color in a world where he is fundamentally different, Othello represents the outsider in this sense, as well.

In a way, Othello enjoying the privilege of political power and emotional gratification in the form of Desdemona are both examples of how he as an "outsider" finds himself in a different cultural milieu than that of the "insider."  One of Othello's most distinctive traits is that he is fundamentally insecure.  It has not dawned on him that an outsider like himself is actually worthy of the privileges of the supposed "insiders."  In his cunning deception, Iago realizes this.  He strikes at Othello's insecurities, which become clear as a result of this collision between the culture of the "insider" and that of the "outsider."  Othello is poised between both cultures, both with distinct differences in relationship to power and control.  The collision between both worlds represents the arc of his characterization as the drama develops.

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