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Treatment to Turks in Shakespeare's Othello

The poor view taken of the Turks was in part because of the relentlessness with which the Turks were pushing into eastern Europe. The western Europeans saw the Turks as a threat, but at the same time, the Elizabethans were curious about this threat and wanted to know why the Ottoman Empire was so successful. The Turks were seen as infidels, and they were also seen as "creatures of boundless cruelty, holding no act of violence too extreme" (Papp and Kirkland 53). Among the characteristics ascribed to the Turks in Shakespeare's time were stubbornness, lustfulness, and barbarism.

In Othello, the Turks are the enemy, and they are referred to again and again collectively as "the Turk." Othello says to Desdemona, "Nay, it is true, or else I am a Turk" (II.i.147), implying that the Turk is a liar. The ease with which such attitudes are used simply by raising the word "Turk" shows that these attitudes were prevalent in this time, and in this play, no direct explanations are offered as to why the Turk is not to be trusted and is the enemy. Indeed, the role of the Turk as enemy is merely assumed, so much so that overt denunciation of the Turk is not necessary. The mere that the Turk is the enemy in the war is sufficient, but clearly Shakespeare is using the fact that Turks are not trusted anyway and that the Ottoman Empire was seen as a threat to Christianity as a reason for telling this stor


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Treatment to Turks in Shakespeare's Othello. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:36, October 25, 2014, from
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