Shakespeare Othello 1 My Noble Father, I Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


Othello (1)

My noble father,

I do perceive here a divided duty:

To you I am bound for life and education;

My life and education both do learn me

How to respect you; you are the lord of duty;

I am hitherto your daughter: but here's my husband,

And so much duty as my mother show'd

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord.

(Othello, Act 1, Scene iii, lines 179-188)

Desdemonda's character is defined early in Shakespeare's Othello. She plays a supportive role, allowing the nature of Othello's character to emerge clearly by the end of the play. Here, Desdemonda defends both herself and her husband. The passage tells the audience much about gender roles and norms in Elizabethan society, as Desdemonda speaks of her father as the "lord of duty," and refers to a similar "duty" to her husband. Women are defined in terms of their relationships with men, and not on their own terms or judged by the content of their own character. Instead, she must refer to herself and her mother in terms of their "divided duties" to first father, and then later, to husband. The husband takes the place of the father as one who "lords" over the woman. The perceived inferiority of women may indeed be one reason why Othello opts later to trust Iago more than Desdemonda; although Shakespeare does not delve too deeply into gender issues. Even if women did not enjoy full political and social parity, Desdemonda speaks with sufficient clarity and confidence, emphasizing her education while speaking with her father.

Even though Desdemonda is the speaker, this passage ultimately tells the audience as much if not more about the titular character Othello than about his wife. One of Othello's tragic flaws is his inability to discriminate between those he can and cannot trust. Desdemonda has no difficulty trusting those she loves, particularly her father and her husband. If Othello had trusted Desdemonda, and had been willing to put aside his petty pride, the outcome of the play might have been different.

Othello (2)

Haply for I am black,

And have not those soft parts of conversation

That chamberers have; or for I am declined

Into the vale of years -- yet that's not much

She's gone. I am abused, and my relief

Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,

That we can call these delicate creatures ours

And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad

And live upon the vapor of a dungeon

Than keep a corner in the thing I love

For others' uses. Yet 'tis the plague of great ones;

Prerogatived are they less than the base.

'Tis destiny unshunnable, like death.

(Othello, Act III, scene iii, lines 267 -- 279)

This passage shows how race and ethnicity are important themes in Shakespeare's Othello. Othello is portrayed as an outsider to mainstream Venetian society because he is a Moor. The attitudes toward him, held by most but those closest to him like Desdemonda, are colored by their prejudices and xenophobia. Desdemonda's father Brabanzio, for instance, reacts with disdain when he discovers who his daughter has chosen to marry, and Desdemonda likewise seems to be keenly aware of the social stigma of marrying outside of one's cultural group. This is why the marriage was revealed after the fact.

In this passage, Othello starts to internalize the racist stigmas that prevent him from being welcomed or taken seriously in Venetian society. Whereas Othello is full of confidence and bravado before this point, now he attributes his faults partially to his race: "for I am black," he states, "And have not these soft parts of conversation." Othello also shows that he is incapable of taking a personal assessment for his prideful behavior, instead choosing to blame factors beyond his control like being a Moor. It would be more fruitful if he took honest self-assessment, rather than fall pray to the same types of faulty logic that give rise to stereotyping.

Othello is also being highly melodramatic in this passage, forswearing all love because he has been led to believe that Desdemonda has cheated on him. Ironically, Othello is the one who has loved incompletely. Rather than confront his wife, giving her the benefit of the doubt, he opts to believe men who hate him. Othello is a poor judge of character, as this passage reveals. He is also prone to logical fallacies, false generalizations, and attribution error.

The Tempest (1)

Abhorred slave,

Which any print of goodness wilt not take,

Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee,

Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour

One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,

Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like

A thing most brutish, I endow'd thy purposes

With words that made them known. But thy vile race,

Though thou didst learn, had that in't which good natures

Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou

Deservedly confined into this rock,

Who hadst deserved more than a prison.

(The Tempest, Act I, scene ii, lines 352-361)

These lines are spoken by Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. One of the themes of the play is colonial oppression, which is symbolized by the relationship between Prospero and his slaves Caliban and Ariel. This passage illustrates clearly the attitudes that Prospero has toward Caliban and Ariel. His attitude creates great resentment and anger in Caliban, who later plots to kill Prospero. Although Caliban is not successful in his plot, he does wreak some havoc on Prospero's life. Caliban is not an innocent character, as he rapes Miranda, but the "slave" is depicted with sympathy because of the way Prospero treats him. Later in the play, other characters like Trinculo think Caliban is strange but do not treat him like a slave.

Prospero reveals a lot about his character in this passage. He is an arrogant man, and is praising himself for his efforts in teaching Caliban how to speak. Prospero's obsession with books and learning is one of his core qualities; not typically a quality to be abhorred but in this case, representing cultural imperialism. After all, Prospero is racist, too. For him, Caliban is a "brute" who deserves nothing better than prison, whereas Prospero is an angel who took pity on this creature and civilized it. Prospero calls Caliban a member of a "vile race," and suggesting it was a miracle that he could learn anything at all.

It is the relationship between Caliban and Prospero that drives much of the action in The Tempest. This is the figurative tempest that complements the literal one that drove the boat ashore on the island. The play has a happy ending, as Prospero is restored to his position of power and restores Caliban and Ariel to theirs. Therefore, this passage shows how Prospero changes from the start to the finish of the play.

The Tempest (2)

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

135 Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again.

(The Tempest, Act II, scene ii, lines 30-38)

Caliban utters these unlikely words, revealing another side of his character. The audience has until now perceived Caliban as a righteously angry spirit who is imprisoned by an arrogant intellectual who believes himself spiritually and morally superior. Caliban has likely internalized some of what Prospero has said about him, but at the same time,…

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