How does Othello fit in a setting where the Republic of Venice ends up ultimately victimizing individuals who are marginalized?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like everything else in the drama, I think that the answer is complex.  I am not entirely certain that Shakespeare would capitulate to either side.  Rather, I think that he is suggesting that elements of both social environment and personal composition are to blame for what happens.  Certainly, I think that the stratification in Venetian society that so intently believed in the paradigm of the "insider" vs. "outsider" played a role in what unfolds.  Othello is plagued by this, as he is consistently insecure about his ow place in a configuration.  He is not fully able to overcome the fact that he sees himself as, and thus believes himself to be, an outsider.  Being a Moor, meaning a man of color, as well as being a soldier, Othello is never fully able to recognize himself as someone who has "made it."  Such a gap in self- confidence is something that ends up plaguing his ability to successfully have a relationship with Desdemona.  This insecurity gap is where Iago strikes.  In this setting, Othello has absorbed the elements of Venetian society that end up affirming social notions of who has access to being "an insider" and who is marginalized to the periphery as an "outsider."  Yet, while this social configuration is evident, it is something to which Othello enables himself to victim, making his condition more tragic.  In the end, Shakespeare creates a protagonist who has absorbed that which should be derided, making himself both appropriator and victim to it.

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