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O THELLO P RE - READING Mrs. Blocher Honors English II.

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Presentation on theme: "O THELLO P RE - READING Mrs. Blocher Honors English II."— Presentation transcript:

1 O THELLO P RE - READING Mrs. Blocher Honors English II

2 O THELLO B ASICS Full Title: The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice Author: William Shakespeare Setting: Venice and Cyprus late 16 th century (during the Renaissance) amidst wars between Venice and Turkey The Middle Ages, or Medieval period, is a stretch of European history that lasted from the 5th until the 15th centuries. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and was followed by the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration. Published: 1622

3 O THELLO B ASICS Themes: The danger of isolation Appearance vs. reality Cultural expectations of inter-racial relationships Motifs (recurring idea that contributes to a theme): honesty, jealousy, loyalty, war, racism *** You will need to craft a theme or two of your own for the first Socratic seminar. Use these motifs as a guide!*** Symbols: handkerchief, her song “Willow,” candle near end of story, gardens/plants (Iago likes plants…)

4 W HO WERE THE M OORS ? There is still some debate as to what the term “Moor” actually refers to, culturally. Many have said that the Moors were the group that brought the Western world out of the Dark Ages, making a significant impact on the current world.

5 W HO WERE THE M OORS ? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, as early as the Middle Ages and as late as the seventeenth century, were "commonly supposed to be black (negro) or very swarthy.” FYI: Swarthy means dark-skinned. The Moors inhabited Europe from 711 AD until Columbus set sail to the Indies in They were driven out by the Spaniards along with the Jewish during the Spanish Inquisition. Some went to Portugal (where they were enslaved if they remained there) and some went to Northern Africa or eastern Europe.

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7 W HO WERE THE M OORS ? In Shakespeare's time, using the word “Moor” was equivalent to saying “African” today. It held the expectation that such a person would be dark- skinned. The word “negro” was not a negative or derogatory word at this time. Moor originally meant "native of Mauretania," a country in North Africa, but its meaning had become generalized by the 17th century.

8 W HO WERE THE V ENETIANS ? Location makes for an interesting setting: Bustling city port Lots of wealthy merchants that want to spend their money on luxuries Men’s fortunes were made and lost; lots of parties! Easternmost European city, which lends itself to being a mix of ethnicities (Moors, Turks, and other Asian/North African/Eastern European groups) Venetians were also seen as rather heretical. They were still Catholic while England was Anglican, and they allowed Jews to live in the city-state. (In ghettos.)

9 W HO WERE THE V ENETIANS ? The English of Shakespeare's day saw Venetians as wealthy, heretical, lavish, lawless, loose, diverse, and daring. Think of it as how we think of Hollywood, but the people are wealthy from having (mostly) respectful trading prowess and intellect. Such a colorful backdrop allowed Shakespeare and his contemporaries to magnify cultural issues in England and allow for interpretation.

10 G ENDER C ULTURE “Chain of Being” or “Natural Supremacy” was the commonly- held belief in the following hierarchy: 1) God was the head of all 2) Christ was the head of the church 3) Kings were the head of states 4) Fathers were the head of families 5) Women were secondary in all respects, subject to fathers, husbands, kin, and God.

11 G ENDER C ULTURE Husbands were seen the supreme authorities in and outside the home. Wives: seen as the “weaker sex” both physically and morally, were expected to be obedient, bear children, clean and cook, and relinquish legal rights upon marriage. Virginity was considered of paramount importance; a husband’s honor depended on his wife’s faithfulness.

12 R ENAISSANCE W EDDINGS The Council of Westminster decreed in 1076 that no man should give his daughter or female relative to anyone without priestly blessing. Later councils would decree that marriage should not be secret but held in the open. Separation of couples was tolerated, but there was no legal divorce, though betrothals between those too closely related could be annulled.

13 R ENAISSANCE W EDDINGS Grooms, on the average, were 14 years older than their brides. Noble women sometimes didn't marry until the age of 24, but this was rare. More than 3/4 of women were married before they reached 19. By today's standards, western Europe was inhabited by the young, with more than half of the population 19 or younger.

14 R ENAISSANCE W EDDINGS Nobles and royalty generally married to better their family’s social standing, and increase the family’s wealth. Everyone else, from merchants to peasants, usually married for love, or at least compatibility. The main function of marriage during this time period was production of children.

15 I MPORTANT T ERMS ANCIENT. A military rank, properly of a standard-bearer (same word as "ensign"). This is Iago's rank, which he resents. He is third in command to Othello, behind Cassio. LIEUTENANT. The rank which Cassio has just been given, literally meaning "place-holder." Second in command to Othello, he holds Othello's place in his absence.

16 I MPORTANT T ERMS VENICE. An oligarchic city-state of enormous mercantile wealth, Venice in Shakespeare's time was a byword for luxury and culture and was also famous for its Judicial system. Its trade was partially choked off by the growing power of the Turkish empire in the 16th century, which extended into Europe as well as Asia and Arabia. Hence the importance of Cyprus. CYPRUS. This island, near Turkey and Syria, was annexed by Venice in 1489 and conquered by the Turks in The play presents a wish-fulfillment destruction of the Turkish fleet that leaves the island Venetian - but Venice did in fact undo Turkish sea power that same year in the victory of Lepanto.

17 I MPORTANT T ERMS OTTOMAN, OTTOMITES. This refers to the Turks. OTHELLO'S POSITION AND STATUS. Othello is a professional soldier who, after much battlefield experience, is currently employed by Venice as general of its forces. He is called "General" or, sometimes, "Captain." He holds a high position and is greatly respected.


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