Historical Context In Othello And Goblin Market

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What Difference does an Engagement with Historical Context make to our Readings of Literature? Historical context makes a considerable difference to readings of literary texts. In my chosen texts, Othello, and Goblin Market (GM), readings that are intimate with context enrich out understanding much more than a singular focus on the text. Many believe Othello was written in 1604, but there is evidence it was written as early as 1601. This was a time of social uncertainty as James 1 succeeded Queen Elizabeth I on the English throne. Due to this periodization overlap I will call this timeframe the Renaissance period. Unlike Othello, GM has been interpreted in different ways, readings ranging from sexual, biblical and fairy tale, to even a didactic allegory. Thus, historical context for both texts is vital to any scholarship reading them. Kirk agrees with my view that historical context is essential and argues…show more content…
This reinforces the difference historical context can have to a contemporary readership as racism is typically not thought to be a main issue in Renaissance society. The Ottoman Empire has conquered 1/3rd of the globe and a Renaissance audience would have felt great pathos towards Venice’s feelings of vulnerability towards this great power. Othello’s historical attachment to the Ottomans therefore make him alien- a social ‘other’, and a threat to their righteous morality. Racial discourse viewed him as a ‘moor’, and a ‘Turk’, both derogatory idioms that ‘personified all things evil’, in Protestant Reformation propaganda (Barin, 38). This is reinforced through Iago’s repetitive use of belittling, racist discourse towards Othello- ‘barbary horse…devil’, (1.1.109-11) and the use of violent, visual animal imagery- ‘old black ram is tupping your white ewe’, (1.1.88-89). This denounces Othello and Desdemona’s relationship and conforms to the stereotype that black men were sexually

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