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Research Papers on Othello, The Moor of Venice

Research papers on Othello, The Moor of Venice look at the history and the legend of Othello and how he is stereotyped through his heritage as a Moor. Have the writers at Paper Masters explain why Othello's heretage as a Moor is often overlooked and ignored in history today.

The positive historical recollections of Africa being comprised of strong Black African dynasties and contributions to civilization seem to have died before reaching textbooks.  If they were a normal Othello, The Moor of World or even American History, there would be no question regarding how Othello at that time was being regarded with what some think was respect. 

  1. First, one must look at the history of the Moor group that Othello and men like him derived from. 
  2. Second, one must understand and make the distinction between respecting someone and using them to fulfill a need.  

Othello, The Moor of VeniceUpon analyzing excerpts from Shakespeare's play, “Othello”, it seems to be unfortunately obvious that he was secretly despised and ridiculed at that time by Europeans, which did not prevent him from being the strong, influential general that he was but leads people of this time to believe that he was “given” those strong abilities and the right to exercise them by Europeans. At a time where the “playing field” was a little more level, there was not the same disparity of financial and military resources between Africa and the West that separate them during the transatlantic slave trade and today.  I will show that the legacy of Moors, as well as Africans, in general, was one comprised of enormous contributions to society.  When the mystique of the Moor is revealed, there will be no question regarding Othello’s ability to attain greatness in a world that may have judged him otherwise.

The legacy of the Moors is foretold in the knowledge they possessed but was later claimed by the Greeks and transmitted to the Romans. The Golden Age of Islam and the Empire of Egypt were as powerful as we have heard of the Romans.  The Moors heavily populated Spain and Portugal, in particular and populated Cordova with 800 public schools while the majority of Christian Europe was illiterate.  According to the author, the streets were paved, there were raised sidewalks and the Moors took particular pride in their personal hygiene.  The Moors “made great advances in mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine, botany and chemistry."  According to Rashidi, “At the beginning of the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa into Spain, Portugal and France, where their swift victories became the substance of legends.”A.C. Bradley does make the statement about Othello and the legacy of the Moors that, “There is something mysterious in his descent from men of royal siege...”.  All of Europe knew about the legacy of these great Africans.  From the academic advances of the Moors and the vast civilization of Europe to their abilities as warriors, one would guess that that was the true origin of any respect that was perceived extended to Othello in the play.

Respect is defined as the deferential esteem felt or shown toward a person or quality in the Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus.  There is no question that as a general in the military, as a Moor and with his experience in travel and war that people would respect Othello’s position based on the definition. 

Although, Othello is a cultural and racial outsider in Venice, his skill as a soldier and leader is nevertheless valuable and necessary to the state, and he is an integral part of Venetian civic society. 

This analysis explains the difference between respect for the man and a value for what he can offer you.  That does not amount to the respect I would consider evidence of attitudes toward race being any better then than they are now.  The same source states that “Those who consider Othello their social and civic peer, such as Desdemona and Brabanzio, nevertheless seem drawn to him because of his exotic qualities.” Othello even makes that statement in the play that, “[Desdemona’s] father loved me, oft invited me, /still questioned me the story of my life/ from year to year.”  one who feels genuine respect for someone else generally does not question their integrity.  The same lack of respect is displayed when Brabanzio finds out that Othello and his daughter are married and believes that she may have been kidnapped or brainwashed.  Perhaps, there were not very many interracial marriages in Italy at that time. 

One of the major motifs in this play was the concept of sight and blindness.  The characters were not able to see (or perceive) the obvious.  It has been said that, “Othello’s blackness, his visible difference from everyone around him, is of little importance to Desdemona: she has the power to see him for what he is in a way that Othello himself can not.” In terms of his wife, respecting him meant ignoring how he was different from her.

Although, it never occurred in a way that Othello could detect, there was blatant disrespect behind his back from Iago.  The racial epithets included the following:

  1. “The Moor” (I.i.57)
  2. “The thick-lips” (I.i.66)
  3. “An old black ram” (I.i.88)
  4. A “Barbary horse” (I.i.113).

He harbored such contempt for this Black man that had power and respect in his position that he made it his life’s goal to destroy him.  I believe that if he merely did not like him as a person for not promoting him, there would be no need for the derogatory descriptions that connoted color.  Instead, it appears that race was as much a factor then as it is now but, the Moors were a strong force and, perhaps, the Venetians thought it would be best to use them to their benefit versus trying to fight a major power. Othello had personal characteristics that caused others to not only notice but, to expect great things from him.  Lodovico is surprised when he witnesses Othello losing control because he did not think he was capable of that type of behavior.  He exclaims after Othello commits a violent act, “Is this the noble Moor whom our full Senate call all in all sufficient?  Is this the nature whom passion could not shake?  Whose solid virtue the shot of accident nor dart of chance could neither gaze nor pierce?”  The ability to keep calm and maintain composure when constantly challenged or on the battle field were the character traits that made Othello the most useful to the Venetians.  Witnessing him lose control represented to the Venetians their vulnerability without him.

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