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What is Othello's religion? Has he converted to Christianity? What was he before?

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amandaburns | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 7, 2009 at 1:51 AM via web

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What is Othello's religion? Has he converted to Christianity? What was he before?

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted June 15, 2009 at 7:30 PM (Answer #1)

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And then for her
To win the Moor, were't to renounce his baptism,
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin...
(2.3.342-44)

There's Iago, in Act 2, Scene 3, telling us that Othello has indeed been baptised. And yet, as a Moor, it seems highly unlikely that Othello could have been born a Christian, as Moors were Muslim and circumcised. Othello has been converted to Christianity, as his own words seem to suggest a little later in the play:

"For Christian shame put by this
barbarous brawl!"

"Are we turned Turks?"

So the logical conclusion to draw seems to be that Othello was a Muslim and is now converted to Christianity.

Critic Ian Doescher, however, seems to have a different view:

...[it] depends on when the play is set.  Muslims had control in Sicily in the middle 1400s, and therefore if the play is set before that time we may be prone to believe that Othello is a Muslim.  It is likely, though, the play is meant to be set after Muslim control in Sicily.  One reason is that Shakespeare's source for the play is an Italian play called "Heccatommithi," published in 1565, well after the Muslim control.

Also, considering that Othello is fighting the Turkish fleet, it seems more likely that he is Christian, as he is fighting for the Christian cause against the Muslims.  Finally, if the play is indeed set after the 1400s, it is unlikely that a Muslim would be allowed a position of nobility in a Christian society, especially one that had recently rid themselves of Muslim control.

Othello is still, then, most probably a Christian. And, as David Basch has written, Othello's name even seems to confirm that he is indeed a Christian - it may even be a name he assumed at baptism:

Here again, Othello's name would confirm this since, as Florence Amit has noted, the name means in Hebrew "his sign of God," a "sign" which scripture identifies circumcision (a sign in the flesh). This name link to circumcision is clearly pertinent since Othello's circumcision plays a central part in the words Othello uses in his final speech before thrusting his sword into himself, "I took the circumcised dog and smote him THUS."

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amandaburns | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 16, 2009 at 6:28 AM (Answer #2)

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Thank You ^_^

This Really Helped A LOT, Almost done my Essay! So, Thanks SO Much!

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eipearson1 | Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2010 at 10:46 AM (Answer #3)

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The only time in Mediterranean history when the Turks attacked Cyprus was shortly after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The strength of the Venetians was the ability to defend and attack by sea and during this time policed the waters against both Turkish and more south or western moslems occupying as far west as Morocco. Read: The Mediterranean in History ed. David Abulafia. I say all of this to say that Othello must be christian according the historical events relevant to the setting of the play.

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prasannant | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 21, 2012 at 4:57 AM (Answer #4)

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othello is actually a christian. but due to logic othello is a muslim. and he has married a christian woman "Desdemona" so he could be christian. and also his word <he spoke> in the drama make us to  prove that he is a christian.

"For Christian shame put by this
barbarous brawl!"

 

so according to my view othello  is a christian!!! 

written by- prasannan-s.lanka

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prasannant | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 21, 2012 at 5:00 AM (Answer #5)

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There's Iago, in Act 2, Scene 3, telling us that Othello has indeed been baptised. And yet, as a Moor, it seems highly unlikely that Othello could have been born a Christian, as Moors were Muslim and circumcised. Othello has been converted to Christianity, as his own words seem to suggest a little later in the play:

"For Christian shame put by this
barbarous brawl!"

"Are we turned Turks?"

So the logical conclusion to draw seems to be that Othello was a Muslim and is now converted to Christianity.

Critic Ian Doescher, however, seems to have a different view:

...[it] depends on when the play is set.  Muslims had control in Sicily in the middle 1400s, and therefore if the play is set before that time we may be prone to believe that Othello is a Muslim.  It is likely, though, the play is meant to be set after Muslim control in Sicily.  One reason is that Shakespeare's source for the play is an Italian play called "Heccatommithi," published in 1565, well after the Muslim control.

Also, considering that Othello is fighting the Turkish fleet, it seems more likely that he is Christian, as he is fighting for the Christian cause against the Muslims.  Finally, if the play is indeed set after the 1400s, it is unlikely that a Muslim would be allowed a position of nobility in a Christian society, especially one that had recently rid themselves of Muslim control.

Othello is still, then, most probably a Christian. And, as David Basch has written, Othello's name even seems to confirm that he is indeed a Christian - it may even be a name he assumed at baptism:

Here again, Othello's name would confirm this since, as Florence Amit has noted, the name means in Hebrew "his sign of God," a "sign" which scripture identifies circumcision (a sign in the flesh). This name link to circumcision is clearly pertinent since Othello's circumcision plays a central part in the words Othello uses in his final speech before thrusting his sword into himself, "I took the circumcised dog and smote him THUS."

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