I'm trying to write an essay on Othello and was wondering whether 'the repercussions of being an outsider' can be considered a universal theme. If so, what can I include in my essay?
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It's been a long time since I did Othello, so I will try to give you pointers on what I can remember.
It's important to remember in how many ways Othello was an outsider in Venetian society. In spite of being a highly respected and valued millitary strategist, Othello was never fully accepted into Venetian society. His race is the first, and most obvious way in which he was an "outsider" and you must think about how this made a difference to his life and the way he was looked upon as a result of being a moor. EGS: He's black, so he's not a suitable groom for Desdemona, but the poeple are happy enough to employ his skills as a general in the army. He is black, so naturally he must be brutish, animalistic (a stereotype associated with the black people at the time) and there not a real man, who must have finesse.
Another matter which makes Othello an "outsider" is an extension of his race itself, that is, he belongs to a far off land and, not being native to Venice, is not able to grasp it's ways and nuances - it is this that is exploited by Iago, when he taps on Othello's insecurites and says to him that not being a Venetian, he doesn't know what Desdemona must truly be as a woman (hinting that she may be cheating on him).
I think that one part of your detailing of the repercussions of being an outsider is to show how Othello begins to doubt himself because he is an outsider. One of the most drastic repercussions of being an outsider is the self- doubt and self- questioning that takes place. Iago's "motiveless malignancy" and sheer diabolism works on Othello because he has absorbed the condition of being an outsider within his own psyche. He lacks a fortifying defense to reject such notions and assert that they do not apply to him. Rather, one of the repercussions of being an outsider is that the individual appropriates the social imposition of outsider status within themselves.
For Othello, this appropriation and absorption becomes the basic reason why Iago is successful. Othello is never able to fully understand why someone like Desdemona would be with him, or why someone like him would be able to enjoy such an exalted position in society. One of the repercussions of being an outsider is that the individual absorbs what is imposed upon them and what they consciously seek to reject. It is here in which the drama is poignantly brutal is its depiction of the repercussions of being an outsider.
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