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Treatment to Turks in Shakespeare's Othello

The source for Othello was Giraldi Cinthio, a sixteenth century writer whose work was not translated into English until 1753. One of his stories, called a novel though it is actually a collection of stories, was "Disdemona of Venice and the Moorish Captain," from the author's Gli Hecatommithi (the story is from Decade 3, Story 7), and it served as the model for William shakespeare's Othello. The story and the play both center on Othello, the Moor who is also a brave soldier and leader, and his wife, Disdemona in the original, Desdemona in the play. In both instances, a trusted underling uses his wiles to create jealousy in the moor and to cause him to destroy his wife and himself. There are differences between the villains in the two pieces, the Ensign in Cinthio, and Iago in Shakespeare. Neely states that Cinthio's Gli Hecatommithi probably provided Shakespeare with its theme and organizing principle as well as with its plot:

The battle of the sexes in marriage is its central motif and dominates the frame, subject matter, and arrangement of the tales (Neely 82).

The political element in Shakespeare reflects the concerns of his own time regarding turkish incursions and challenges and also reflects attitudes about the Turks.

Othello is a Moor, and the British did not trust people from Africa nay more than from Turkey. However, there is also the issue of skin color, and more than once someone in Othello refers to the blackness of othello's skin and relates this to prejudices about blackness, darkness, and foreignness. Right at the beginning, Iago calls to Brabantio, "Even now, now, very now, an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe" (I.i.97-98). The Duke, however, suggests that outward color is not everything when he says to Brabantio, "And, noble signior,/ If virtue no delighted beauty lack,/ Your soninlaw is far more fair than black" (I.iii.323-325). This raises the linguistic issue, for "black" is used to refer to...

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Treatment to Turks in Shakespeare's Othello. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:44, August 19, 2017, from
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