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Race And Gender Discrimination In ‘Medea’ And ‘Othello’

1037 words - 5 pages

The related topics of racism and sexism remain some of the most ugly, taboo and controversial fields of our contemporary era, and it is safe to say that active manipulation of national consciousness to rid people of these traits were present only in the latter half of the last century, with the last apartheid state of South Africa only relenting in its collective repression as late as 1994. However, one has to remember that in both Classical Athens and Elizabethan England such mindsets were allowed, and indeed, sometimes actively cultivated as a rallying call to a state’s strength in national, cultural and ethnic homogeneity. This therefore presents an interesting parallel between the two ...view middle of the document...

They also saw themselves as avant-garde and liberally progressive with their adhering to a democratic form of government, although as we will see later such a democracy ironically disenfranchises more than half of the population. Overall, the Athenian populace had every right to be proud of themselves and their Hellenic backgrounds and nature; at that very moment, Athens, and by cultural and geographical association all of Greece, was the very center of the western world (Flaceliere). This feeling of achievement was often expressed in works such as Medea, to the agreement and subconscious delight of the audience. Nevertheless, the society of the time was still heavily patriarchal, with women often not being seen outside of their homes and being relegated to the work of oikos or private familial life and having no say in their representation in works such as Medea (Bushnell).
In the case of Shakespeare’s Othello, the play was written in a period of transition between the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, with Queen Elizabeth herself dying on the same year piece was completed. Nevertheless, such a time was, and still is, considered the height of English achievement and cultural refinement in the field of theater, with Elizabeth being a great proponent of the field and a fan of Shakespeare himself. Like the age of Pericles, the era marked great wealth, scientific advancement, and uniquely to England, exploration and discovery. It was also an oasis of peace amidst a history and future of conflict, with the Spanish armada having been soundly defeated in 1588 and the annual wars between Catholic and Protestant reformists having been unusually quieted thanks to the former clause, thus establishing the epoch as a time of artistic enjoyment heavily, albeit justifiably romanticized by contemporary views of history (Cook 81-82). Interestingly however, the setting of the play itself was outside of England and the general existence of most of the audience and was instead in Renaissance Italy, a common theme in Shakespeare’s work seen in Romeo and Juliet as well as The Merchant of Venice. This doesn’t...

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