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Camille Jacobson Western Fiction and Literature Othello Novels and plays often depict characters caught between

colliding cultures national, regional, ethnic, religious, institutional. Such collisions can call a characters sense of identity in question. Select a novel or play in which a character responds to such a cultural collision. Then write a well-organized essay in which you describe the characters response and explain its relevance to the work as a whole. The two settings in Othello by William Shakespeare, Venice and Cyprus, are used to challenge the protagonists sense of identity and surface his inner self. Venice is a place of law and order where Othellos love with Desdemona flourishes and he is a free and well-respected man. But in Cyprus it is like a whole different world. This is where all the drama and conflict arises because it is a wild place. The untamed nature of this lawless land challenges Othellos sense of identity. He changes from a reasonable man to a rage filled murderer. The play begins in Venice and all goes smoothly while there. Iago can plot and attempt to get Othello into trouble there by warning Brabantio that Othello was going to marry his daughter. This outraged Brabantio because Othello is a Moor and his daughter is white so there is disapproval and disbelief that she could really like him. So Brabantio storms towards Othello and demands that he go To prison, till fit time of law and course of direct session call thee to answer (I.III.85-87). He wishes to proceed in the proper recourse by taking Othello to court, looking for proof, and then making a proper verdict and thus sending him to prison. This is the epitome of lawful action. There is no hidden agenda or sly plan to get even with Othello here, just confrontation. Othello is not worried here saying that My servicesshall out-tongue his complaints (I.II.18-19). He knows that here reason and his status will overrule Brabantios wild accusations. His honest and moral identity prevails. The Duke attests to this when he vouches there is no proof, without more wider and more overt test than these thin habits and poor likelihoods (I.III.107-109). The actions that Othello is accused of do not fit his identity and further there is no proof.

So when asked Did you by indirect and forced courses subdue and poison this young mains affections? Othello simply responds I do beseech you send for the lady And let her speak (I. III. 111-115). Reason and law continue to prevail in Venice where conflicts are solved by simple confrontations. Desdemona arrives and tells everyone the truth about her real love for Othello so they can finally dismiss these false accusations. The Duke then tells everyone To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on (I. III. 203-204). Basically he is concluding this attack of Othello by telling Brabantio to get over his disbelief and move on because it is true. This quote is almost foreshadowing for what tries Othellos character in Cyprus; he dwells on mischievous misinformation that becomes his own downfall. Cyprus is a place that almost immediately shows to be chaotic and lawless. During the first night that the characters arrive Iago sets up a plan to have his dimwitted accomplice Roderigo provoke Cassio into a fight. Iago maintains his persona of an honest caring officer by yelling at Cassio, God will, lieutenant, hold! Youll be ashamed forever (II. III. 150-151). However, it was precisely Iagos plan to shame Cassio out of his position. When the drunken Cassio attacks Roderigo and then Montano who was telling Cassio to calm down, it draws the attention of Othello who had to be dragged from his marriage bed to see what was happening. When no one says how the fight began, Othello yells the best of you shall sink in my rebuke (II. III. 198-199). He is already losing his temper to this land where evil plans do prevail, and so the calm headed man from Venice is already fading. And out of his temper, he fires Cassio from his position rather than taking a more reasonable course of action such as a warning or even a punishment. His firing of Cassio is the beginning of his downfall and loss if identity. Next Iago tells Cassio to appeal to the beautiful and gracious Desdemona for his title back. Cassio thinks this is a brilliant idea and sets up a meeting with her alone. Iago mentions the secrecy to Othello as Cassio makes a not so stealthy exit from Desdemons room by saying, I cannot think it that he would steal away so guilty-like, seeing your coming (III. III. 38-40). It is here that Iago plants the seed

of doubt in Othellos mind to fester into an unhealthy obsession. And rather than asking her about it as the Othello of Venice would have surly done, this lawless place breeds injustice and Othello is dragged from his former identity into rage and jealously. He agrees to stalk her movements with Cassio and observe them. This lends itself to further misinformation as Iago can take control of the setting and plant evidence. He sets up a meeting with Cassio for Othello to observe and Iago know that As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad (IV. I. 100-101). Iago has taken complete control of Othello and has him watching and imagining Cassio talking about his wife and smiling and laughing. When Iago comes to see what Othello thinks after seeing this conversation Othello yells, Ay let her rot and perish and be damned tonight, for she shall not live! (IV. I. 175-176). He has completely lost himself by this point, wanting to murder his true love without asking her once about it. He smothers his love and only a few moments later discover he had allowed himself to be deceived by the treacherous Iago. This crushing realization and the loss of his love made Othello attempt taking his own life at the end of the novel symbolizing his absolute detest for his self-discovered loss of identity and a will to expel it at all costs. The change in the setting of the novel is a necessary and purposeful switch from order to chaos. Othello was a happy man in Venice with all his problems being solved by simple confrontation and the acts of higher justice. But in Cyprus, evil is allowed to prevail due to the lack of order and mistrust that pollutes the minds of even the best men in the right situations. Indeed, as Lodovico remarks, it would not be belivd in Venice, (IV.I.236).