"Othello" Essay

Essay by NZAOneHigh School, 11th gradeA, August 2006

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A post-modern valuing of a text views the interpretation acquired by a responder, rather than the intended message of the author, as being most important. The Seventeenth Century Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy "Othello" composed by William Shakespeare was greatly influenced by various Elizabethan societal concerns, such as spirituality, race, and most importantly, gender. An individual influenced by a Bradley reading of this text would focus on Othello and his fatal flaw, exploring his decline through his soliloquies and use of imagery, while a Race-based reading would view the prejudice that Othello, as a 'moor', endures throughout the play. Contrarily, a responder influenced by the early 21st century Feminist reading may focus on the presentation of the female characters Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca, and the juxtaposing angelic and bestial imagery that surrounds them. Similarly, through the exploration of the continual use of bestial imagery by Othello and Iago, the psychoanalyst would examine the presentation of their tortured minds, and accentuate this concept through the analysis of their soliloquies.

Thus, as seen through the Psychoanalytical and Feminist readings of the text, a responder may have a completely different focus and interpretation despite exploring it through similar devices.

For the responder influenced by the Feminist interpretation of the text, the primary area of concern would be how the position of women in the Elizabethan society is presented. While Feminist beliefs support independence and respect towards women, the Elizabethan society had completely antithetical values: women were treated as material possessions, with no source of financial security except marriage. This concept is portrayed through the archetypal use of Bianca, and how her only means of survival are to marry Cassio. This, contrarily, is juxtaposed with the atypical behaviour seen by Desdemona when proclaiming her love to Othello, as it is going...