full version Elizabethan Times- Othello Essay

Elizabethan Times- Othello

Category: English

Autor: radonda_84 16 November 2009

Words: 2024 | Pages: 9

How do the opening scenes and closing scenes of your Shakespearean text reflect the Elizabthan values/ beliefs?

The Venetian society in which the Shakespearean play, Othello is set in is a clear representation of the writer’s context. The values, attitudes and beliefs that Shakespeare reveals in the opening and closing scenes of Othello, are the exact to the ones accepted by the Elizabethans of the sixteenth century. With the limited number of Black people being around, in Othello we can see the racist remarks that are being made upon one, as well as the resilience to accept one within a society. Even though the play itself is set in Venice and Cyprus, it reflects highly upon the values and beliefs of Shakespeare’s own society where people believed strongly in the great chain of being, danger of emotions and punishment for major sins.
The Great Chain of Being refers to the concept that every existing organism and object has its place within the universe. This hierarchical order separated people into different classes and had God as a divine sovereign leader. This was a value and belief that was very well recognised within the Elizabethan society in the sixteenth century. The opening scene of Othello introduces the dishonorable villain Iago talking to Roderigo about his scene of revenge upon a certain character that remains unknown in this point of time. With the use of language techniques, Iago exposes to the audience his true evil spirit in relation to the superior character who remains unknown, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him… when I have lined my coat I shall do myself homage”; thus revealing to the audience his villainous character and sly nature. Iago was the main character that caused the disturbance in the natural order as he had the key power to play on people’s weaknesses. This significant character displays many negative points throughout the play. He exposes his sense of pride when he conceitedly exclaims “I know my price and deserve no worse a place”. Displaying pride in any sense was always frowned upon in the Elizabethan times as it was considered to be upsetting the natural cycle of life. Being proud goes directly against the natural order of life because one shall never attempt to reach higher, yet be happy with their place in society as it was set by God. With the progression of the story, the disturbance of natural order becomes very evident and the audience knows that the one that alters it will fail, and the natural order of life will ultimately be restored. Iago used sexual imagery as one of his techniques to offend Othello and place him below his position in the society, where he insulted Othello by calling him “an old black ram”. Iago constantly uses animal imagery to get his point across about Othello. With Othello being black and Muslim, he was rejected by the society. He was always considered a good soldier yet never good enough to marry ones daughter. Iagos statements aim directly at Othello’s color, reinforcing his rejection by the society. There were few black people within the Elizabethan society, and with the little number of them around it was sill fresh to them that people of different colors existed, thus their reaction and racist remarks towards Othello weren’t of surprising nature. An Elizabethan society would often agree with Iagos views as Muslims were seen as a threat to the Christian world because they did not follow the bible or practice the same religion. Upon finding out that his daughter has run away with the Moor, Brabantio states “Fathers from hence trust not your daughters”, this reinforces the little trust that women of the Elizabethan times possessed and also mirrors the images of how women back then were treated. Desdemona has disturbed the natural order by marrying a Muslim Black man and lying to her father, thus she has gone against her religion and everything she was taught to be. The main character, Othello is introduced to the story in Scene II, where he is portrayed to be a strong and courageous person, contrary to the impression we got of him from the villainous Iago. Although Othello is seen as a strong character who has not committed any sins yet, he himself disturbs the natural order by displaying many arrogant and prideful remarks “My parts, my title and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly”. In the closing scenes of Othello, we sense that as the natural order of life had been disturbed, justice will prevail, and ultimately the natural way of life will be restored. With Othello perceiving himself as a valiant man and a character of justice, upon accusing Desdemona of betrayal he feels it is his duty to kill her, thus restore the natural way of life. “She must die… else she’ll betray more men”. By doing this, Othello himself is making a big mistake as killing someone was thought to be one of the biggest sins against ones religion and belief in the gift of life. As it was suspected, Natural order was restored in the closing scenes of Othello, with Othello killing himself and Iago suffering lifelong punishment. With the natural order now in place, it was evident that even Shakespeare himself, very much relied upon the beliefs and values of the Elizabethan society.

During the Elizabethan times, people thought that rational thinking was the only factor that separated humanity from animals. During this era, emotions were seen as a negative force that has the ability to destroy one to its core, as seen in Othello. The nature and contrast of emotions can be noted in Othello’s behavior in the opening and closing scenes of he play. In Scene Two, where Othello is introduced, he is portrayed as a calm, kind and well mannered man who cannot deny himself of the love he feels for his “sweet Desdemona”. His emotions are very strong for her, “I love the gentle Desdemona”, thus he is prepared do challenge many people for her. However, Othello finds himself disagreeing with his feelings, where in Scene Two she was his “sweet Desdemona” to Scene V, where he names her a “whore”. As of his personal qualities, and kind heart, Iago preys on Othello’s weaknesses and feeds his greed on others pain. With Iago accomplishing his goals and aim, Othello is seen as doubting in Desdemona’s love for him. This is clearly indicated in Scene V, where Othello observes Desdemona sleeping and quotes “I’ll not shed her blood not scar that whiter skin of hers than snow and smooth as alabaster”. His love for her has turned into an obsession, yet with Iagos evil plan in place, Othello finds himself questioning whether to kill his love. As he speaks of her death and killing her, Othello is still seen as drifting away and mentioning the love he feels for her. The power of emotion is evident thoughts the play, especially as Othello’s love turns into jealousy and confusion, however this was a negative aspect as it was frowned upon in the Elizabethan world. As the story progresses Iago plays with Othello’s weaknesses and clouds his mind, hence everything Othello once admired about Desdemona has disappeared form his mind and he is left with pain, agony, confusion and jealousy. Furthermore, Iago himself has demonstrated jealousy from the mere beginning. In the opening scenes he was jealous of Michael Cassio, as he was Othello’s new appointed lieutenant. This was the spark of the play as it lit Iagos will to seek revenge in order so please himself. In addition, Desdemona was also affected by emotions, as she had and outburst of feeling when she met Othello. Love blinded her, resulting in her disastrous fate. As emotion was seen as a negative factor in the Elizabethan Society, Desdemona, Othello and Iago were destined to be punished in order for the natural way of life to return to its normal cycle.

Suicide and taking ones life was considered to be one of the major sins that could be committed in the Elizabethan times. People of this time were extremely religious and had a very strong connection with God and the Holy Bible. Life was thought to be given by god and one should take care of it and obey Gods orders. If a life should be taken away then, that person will be punished severely throughout their life. In addition, it causes disturbance in the natural order because it results in an imbalance between the good and bad within a society. In Othello, the impact of ones forcible actions can be seen in the opening and closing scenes. Othello, a courageous man who has killed many, for he is a soldier; however this was not negative as it was during wartime. In addition Iago himself admits to being involved in the war and participated in killing “To do no contiv’d murder; I lack iniquity, Sometimes to do me service: nine or ten times”. If one has killed in the war it was considered to be a courageous act, however it isn’t until we progress to the closing scenes that the negative side of killing comes into place. Iago played on Othello’s weaknesses and turned his love for “sweet Desdemona” into jealousy until his instincts forced him to kill her. “A murder, which I thought a sacrifice”, as Othello has fallen into Iagos trap he feel as if it is his duty to kill Desdemona and restore the natural order, for she will do no good to the society. Othello followed his instincts and killed Desdemona which was what Iago had wanted all along. Desdemona’s death is revealed to the audience in Scene V where Othello tells Emilia “She’s dead”. In addition, the audience already have a clue regarding Othello’s future because he has done many wrong things throughout the play , and it would only be normal to be punished as it would fit in exactly with the Elizabethan values and beliefs. Moreover, the truth conclusively came out and it was out in the open. With all the blame pointing to Iago, he then, out of rage and anger killed his wife Emilia whilst calling her a “Villainous whore”. Othello himself committed suicide for the wrong he had done and killing his sweet love by mistake “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee ere, no way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss”. Emilia, Desdemona, Othello and Iago had all disturbed the natural order of life and for that they must be punished. Emilia shall never disobey her husband and as of her dying and as well as all the other characters, natural order were restored which was much to the liking of the Elizabethan society.

Values and beliefs to a person who is religious are everything. People of the Elizabethan era were extremely religious and believed in the natural order of life. There were many factors that could upset the natural order of life; hence a punishment is imposed upon them. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, the main characters that the play was based on all died or were punished in some form because they upset the natural way of living and questioned their status. People of that era had strong beliefs regarding the power of emotions. It has the power to eliminate ones identity and upset the society. Furthermore, major sins included suicide and taking ones life. As they were very religious taking a life that God has granted one would mean eternal punishment and inevitable and terrible future events. Ultimately, the great chain of being which was a hierarchal pyramid separating deferent beings into various classes of importance. Upsetting the great chain of being would be frowned upon and one should always remain in their place. The opening and closing scenes of Othello are very closely linked to the values and beliefs of the way the Elizabethans behaved and acted. It is evident that by upsetting the natural order of life or carrying out any act that is unchristian would reward one a tragic fate and destiny.