In Othello, how does race, ethnicity and culture function in the context of the play?
Othello is a Moor, a black man who is chosen by Desdemona, a Venetian, an Italian from Venice, to be her husband. She had many admirers in the society, but she elopes with Othello, angering her father. Othello is insecure about his wife's love for him, because of his color, because of his age, and because of her innocence.
He, more than anyone, feels on the outside of her culture and is easily fooled by Iago, who preys on his obvious insecurity and jealousy.
Desdemona really loves Othello, she defied her father to marry him, but she is innocent to a degree, of all the intrigue going on around her. She loves her husband purely, but is easily made to look like a cheating spouse by Iago's manipulation.
Othello does at times appear to be a man out of his element. He is a military man more comfortable on the battlefield than he is a husband. Desdemona has married an older man, a replacement for her father. She has gone from her father's house to her husband's and she is unsure of her place in the world.
"the Moor begins to think Desdemona's betrayal of him is inevitable given his skin color, greater age, and lack of courtly charm (III.iii.263-268). He begins to act as if her unfaithfulness is a certainty, bemoaning that "Othello's occupation is gone" (III.iii.357).
"Desdemona is isolated from her familiar Venetian surroundings, she becomes dependent upon Othello; and when his love turns to violence, she is alone and defenseless"