Beginning with the opening lines of the play, Othello
remains at a distance from much of the action that concerns and
affects him. Roderigo and Iago refer ambiguously to a “he” or “him”
for much of the first scene. When they begin to specify whom they
are talking about, especially once they stand beneath Brabanzio’s
window, they do so with racial epithets, not names. These include
“the Moor” (I.i.
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. He is in great demand by the duke and senate, as
evidenced by Cassio’s comment that the senate “sent about three
several quests” to look for Othello (I.ii.
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 admits as much when he tells the
duke about his friendship with Brabanzio. He says, -“[Desdemona’s]
father loved me, oft invited me, / Still questioned me the story
of my life / From year to year” (I.iii.
Othello sometimes makes a point of presenting himself
as an outsider, whether because he recognizes his exotic appeal
or because he is self-conscious of and defensive about his difference
from other Venetians. For example, in spite of his obvious eloquence
in Act I, scene iii, he protests, “Rude am I in my speech, / And
little blessed with the soft phrase of peace” (I.iii.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
Pick 5 Books and We'll Tell You What Netflix Show You Should Binge-Watch This Summer
QUIZ: Can You Identify the Shakespeare Play By Its Most Popular Quote?
Every Marvel Movie Summed Up in a Single Sentence
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?
Pick 10 Books and We'll Guess Whether You're an Introvert or an Extrovert