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Find all the examples in Act I, scene 1, of  Iago referring to the sex in terms of...

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chttrbx314 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:04 PM via web

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Find all the examples in Act I, scene 1, of  Iago referring to the sex in terms of animals. What are some examples of Iago's use of "taboo words"?

Examples of animal references and words considered to be religious taboo are what I'm looking for, it's a pretty straight-forward questio.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:32 AM (Answer #1)

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In Act I, scene i of Othello, Iago uses much animal and sexual imagery to rouse the sexism and racism of Desdemona's father.  Such vivid rhetoric would no doubt cause Brabantio to ruin Othello's marriage, military career, and reputation in Venice.

Posing as Roderigo, Iago calls out to Brabantio from the dark:

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe.

The "old black ram" is an epithet for Othello, for he is nearly as old as Brabantio and a "black-a-Moor" (a black Arab).  The "white ewe" referes to Desdemona.  "Tupping," according to the Enotes "Text-in-Translation" means "screwing," an obvious sexual entendre.  The bestial imagery makes it sounds like the beast has attacked and mounted an innocent and pure maiden.

Later, Iago says:

Because we come to do you(120)
service and you think we are ruffians, you'll have your
daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your
nephews neigh to you; you'll have coursers for cousins,
and gennets for germans.

Again, Enotes "Text-in-Translation" interprets this as:

Because we are servants,
and you think we are ruffians, you'd have your daughter
covered with a African horse; you'd have your nephews
neigh to you; you'd have chargers for cousins and small
Spanish horses for Germans.

So, Iago is appealing to the racist European belief that white males were superior to men of color, and--in order to preserve the purity of the race--the races should not mix.  To interbreed is akin to animal husbandry.


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