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Using Act 1 Scene 3 As A Starting Point, Assess The Importance Of Venice In The Tragedy Of "Othello" William Shakespeare

2403 words - 10 pages

In the play "Othello", the whole of the first act is set in Venice. Venice is a mercantile city, markets and stalls can be seen on every street; even in the first scene of "Othello", Iago comments that "I know my price," ["Othello"; Act 1 Scene 1, page 3, (1) ] a term that is linked to trade. Venice is a serene and quiet city due to the lack of vehicles; the canals and gondolas are the main form of transport in the city, making Venice a clean and relatively unpolluted city. Venice was the heart of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th century; new ideas on art, architecture, poetry and books were spread all over Italy and surrounding places. The economy was better then it had been for ...view middle of the document...

This is ironic because Othello is not someone who the general public would accept into regular society; the fact that he is of a different race goes against him in society. The only reason in which Desdemona fell in love with Othello was because Othello told stories of his life, the tales of war and his bravery; if he was not a soldier and did not have any accounts of war, Desdemona would not even notice him because he would just be a Moor- not a soldier, but a foreigner. Shakespeare uses Othello as a paradox; another name used for Othello is "The Moor of Venice." This name conjoins two cultures- Christianity and African- in this way, Othello is both of and not of Venice ["Othello"; introduction; page xxii (1)]. He found a way to combat this image of himself though;"Venice needs financiers to provide capital and it needs the best general it can hire to defend it; it so happens that... the best general is a Negro."["Shakespeare: Othello"; page 214, (3)]To be accepted into Venetian society, you must either be born into high society and learn the norms and values of their class; or you must be a soldier and fight for Venice. A soldier's worth is not based on social standing, but on one's military competence, and Othello happens to be a very experienced soldier, therefore he is accepted into Venetian society by many of the influential leaders, such as the Duke of Venice; though there are people, such as Iago, who resent his quick ascent into white society be marrying Desdemona. Othello happens to be of royal descent, but he decides to hide this from everyone since Venice is a Republic, and did not think that being of royal descent would contribute very much to his social standing, so his status is wholly based on his field expertise. (4)After the scenes that are set it Venice, Othello is sent to Cyprus to fight against the Turks who are set to invade. "Othello" is set on a "principle of polarity" ["Othello"; introduction; page xxx (1)]; the play is set in a series of contrasts, such as light/ dark, white/ black, Heaven/ Hell, etc. Cyprus and Venice are another set of this contrast technique; Venice is a city of beauty, whilst Cyprus is a place of war; Venice is a place of bright and intense colours, but in Cyprus, the buildings are grey and made of unpainted stone. Although Cyprus is the place of war, Brabantio unintentionally picks out the fact that Venice has flaws and also contains discord; when Iago tells Brabantio of Desdemona and Othello, he says that there has been a robbing, with of which Brabantio replies: "This is Venice: my house is not a grange." ["Othello"; Act 1 Scene 1; page 9 (1)]. There is no place for chaos in Venice, but, even though it is a place of harmony and general quiet, it is still capable of disorder and discontent, which is shown in the fact that Venice needs soldiers like Othello to protect them.Venice is the setting in which Iago chooses to begin the manipulation of Othello and Desdemona; this is ironic because Venice...

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