What quotes can be linked to the theme of being an outsider in a closed society in Othello?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Some would argue that this excellent tragedy is a Five Act drama of Othello's struggle to be accepted, and that the true tragedy is his own moment of self-knowledge and awareness, when he realises that he can never be accepted into the society that he has called "home." Of course, there are other major themes that must not be ignored, but it is interesting to consider this theme of outsider in the play and, in particular, to look at the moment where it is perhaps referenced most directly. Consider Othello's dying words, before he plunges a dagger into his own chest, and how the the theme of outsider is developed:

Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well,
Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinable gum. Set you down this,
And say besides that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by th’ throat the circumcised dog
And smote him thus. (V.ii.341-354)

Note the way that this farewell speech includes Othello's self-identification as a paradoxical figure, one who is excluded from yet a part of Venetian society. The reference to his war-like qualities remind us of his value to Venice, whilst at the same time he describes himself through the description of the killing of the "malignant" Turk, classifying himself as a danger to the state. Thus the way in which he is an "outsider" is something that he dies fully knowing. He seems to recognise in himself that he is something of an excluded outsider, a threat, and thus paradoxically ends his life whilst simultaneously vanquishing the last enemy he has to face, which is, of course, himself. His final words therefore remind us of the strange in-between position that Othello has occupied throughout the entire play, accepted on the one hand, yet not accepted on the other, and we reflect that at least in death he will finally find peace with regard to this tension.

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