Back to: Othello by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s works are always informed by real historic events on which he does the rework to reveal the human sides in it. The play Othello is set in Venice and the time shown in the play must have been the second half of the 16th century because that’s when this country was going through a war with the Ottoman empire.
The conscious fact for choosing Venice to set the play in is due to the character of Othello who is a moor of Venice. Venice is known for its multicultural composition.
So, the other parts of Europe at that time were not that ethnically diverse to accommodate a character like Othello so it is Venice where the moor can be identified.
The setting of Othello is ideal to show the cultural and visual isolation of its main protagonist. In the play, even when we notice the faith invested in the character of Othello, due to the setting, one can still see the possible distrust in the heart of characters like Roderigo, Iago and Brabantio who are possibly more native to the place than Othello.
In the play, when the Duke asks for Othello’s help when the city is about to be invaded by the Turkish fleet, the scene where Othello goes to take charge is moved to Cyprus which is an island.
Mythically, Cyprus is related to Venus who is also the goddess of love but here, Shakespeare plays his trademark irony to show how the island becomes the site of the disintegration of Othello-Desdemona love story.
Cyprus becomes more symbolic where someone as angelic as Desdemona is strangulated in a space regulated purely by male prejudices.
The story is a development upon another story written around 1565 by Cinthio, an Italian novelist. Keeping various aspects of the original story true to its nature, the play in its setting reflects through its many Italian characters certain aspects of the place originally mentioned.
Keeping the Elizabethan England and its connection through Moorish delegations coming from Morocco, the setting of this play reflects the order of that society in a historically informative manner.