‘Moor Or Less’

William Shakespeare’s great work ‘Othello’ gives the reader an opportunity to gain insight into the changing dimensions of world knowledge and continental change at a very important transitional period in world history. In this play the reader is confronted with the initial encounter experiences that characterized the acceleration of expanded global perceptions and exploratory individual encounter experiences as well as the dynamics of existential perception and profound geo-political realignment. The fantasy backdrop of this work acts as a kind of historical filter that probes into the pychologies and struggles of the trans-European continuum moving into the Elizabethan period ( to arrive at the ‘Throne of Rationality’). It is for this reason that the character Othello takes on an added significance because the appearance of this character image-model was consistent with the expanded fantasy platform Icons (tools) of the Renaissance period. That is, the creation of the character Othello is consistent with the accelerated flow of expanded information exchange that came about through exploratory trade route evolution and world discovery in the fourteenth and fiftieth centuries. In seeking to ‘experience and understand’ this character it is possible to gain insight into the profound implications of cultural image- modeling constructs, aesthetic/spiritual ‘vibrational’ modeling constructs (beliefs) and finally geo-political (colonial expansion and notions of empire building) modeling constructs- as major categories that underline the root of modern day intellectual assumptions about the human species as well as the root of modern day image-constructs about Africa and African identity . This is not to say that the character Othello in itself has no dramatic or aesthetic quality, this is not my point at all; I see the work as one of the great theater stories of all time- but rather, the play can also be viewed as the ‘O.J. Simpson’ parameter of its day, in that the underside of Othello’s image spoke to several different dimensions- all at once. There is the apparent play, the ‘hidden’ play and the symbolic connections. The character Othello and the story of Othello opens a door into ‘the experiences of an era’.

The continental experiences that provided the backdrop for Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Othello character can be understood by 1) examining the historical documentation that provided the identity constructs for his character’s imagery 2) examining the aesthetic dimensions of that information as it relates to the play 3) and finally the symbolic and political implications of this character from a composite world perspective. In the first category the character Othello cannot be understood by only viewing the particular actions of a fantasy play because this image-construct is a reflection of a much broader psychology that is consistent with the historical documentation that underlined the Renaissance period. To write this is to say that the image of Othello as an African character is connected with the early collected historical writings that sought to understand and record the ‘characteristics and ways of humanity’ in the various expanding trading routes that opened up in the 1550′s – the worlds of the west Indies, Africa and the equator regions – especially those groups of people who were seen as different from the people recording the information . To understand this phenomenon it is important to make serious distinctions about the aesthetic nature of my inquiry, because to understand the subject of African image-modeling constructs is not to understand the motives and aspirations of Africa ( as Africans seeking to explain their viewpoint of reality- so that we could ‘learn’ about who they are and their world view as it relates to the changing world of the 1550′s; rather the perception of Africa that had established the image-construct of European character identity have been constructed by Europeans from their own interest ( which in many cases have had nothing to do with Africa or the African psychology). The seriousness of this distinction must first be noted and addressed. Because the image-constructs of the African identity image-model in the west has a ‘peculiar relationship’ to Africa at best. There are three aspects of this phenomenon that interest me: 1) the  historical documentation of the early contact between the English explorers and native African people and how that documentation influenced the aesthetic parameters that led to the image-model for Shakespeare’s character 2) the ‘terms of aesthetic definition’ that allowed for the ‘interpretat-ion’ of that material and 3) the related complexities of this aesthetic position- in the ‘real’ and fantasy world. It is at this point where the genesis ‘sentiments’ of the African image-model can be found for it must be understood that the British acceleration into the expanded world trade markets of the fifteen hundreds took place nearly one hundred and fifty years after the experiences of the Portuguese in northern and northwest Africa. The consideration of time itself would become one of the factors that influenced the spectra of decisions by given western political powers (countries) to compete in the rush for extended political global domination. The need for expanded trading and exploration was a gradual phenomenon that redefined the parameters of intellectual and commercial speculation in the Renaissance period. No one could really foresee the implications of global world trade as a composite phenomenon in itself. By the time English explorers arrived in west Africa, during the second acceleration of sea-trade and exchange, the re balance of world political power was already in transition. The documented writings of the early British voyagers  are important because it gives some sense of the ‘real experience’ of individual discovery in those faraway new lands-based on actual encounter experiences, as opposed to the inherited ancient Greek writings which were both factual and mythological.  The actual- encounter documentation that evolved through the naval exploration experiences in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds represent a genesis source of documentation that provides a framework to study the composite global writings on Africa. This information is especially important if one seeks to understand the summation image-constructs that would come to inform fantasy characterizations of African continental people in the Elizabethan period. The initial encounter experiences that characterized the experiences of the first wave of English explorers took place before the beginning of the fifteenth century, at least one hundred and fifty years before the solidification of the Atlantic slave trade. In seeking to understand this body of information we are looking at one of the principle genesis constructs that allowed for European perceptions on African identity.

Up until the fifteen hundreds, English culture relied on the documentation of the early Greeks for information about Africa and the lands of the east as well as the expanding travel documentation of the Spanish and Portuguese. The monastery to university movement in this time period would explore the early works of Horotodus and Pliny the elder and the continental expansion of  European culture would see this information provide the backdrop for the expansion of an empire from the southern part of the continent to the northern land masses of Great Britain. The general tone of the early Greek writings were basically respectful of the people they wrote about, even though there was a tendency to exaggerate and fantasize about the specifics (i.e. descriptions of animals, unfounded concepts of animal origins, and ‘tall tales’). This body of information has to be viewed with respect to the existing state of possibilities in that time period. Problems of geo-graphic error in the writings of the early Greeks is consistent with the limitations of exploratory technology in that period of time. Even so, the early writings of Horotodus and Pliny the elder most certainly do acknowledge the existence of Africa- even on levels that present day academicians would prefer not to think about ( i.e. Africa is the mother of Western Civilization, Africa as the birth place of mathematics and geometry, Africa as a place where new ideas always appear, and more important {to me} Africa as a place that ‘is different’ from Europe). The early writings would also generate the image of Africa as a mysterious land where strange animals existed within a totally different environment state. By the middle of the fiftieth century the beginning of the initial encounter documentation would make itself felt to the greater Renaissance intellectuals. The year 1555 would be an important year for geo graphical writings in Renaissance documentation as well as the emergence of scripture and philosophy as primary sub themes that would outline the psychological model for intellectual and image-model perceptual constructs. There are two books that show a confluence of Englishman notions about Africa in the sixteen hundreds that are relevant to the subject of character and aesthetic modeling; 1) ‘The Gardle of Facions’ by William Waterman and 2) The Decades of The New World’ by Peter Martyr. Waterman’s book acknowledges early Greek sources as the supreme source and authority of the early writings about Africa and the thrust of his efforts sought to reestablish and distribute that information in the ‘modern’ context of Medieval printing and distribution. He writes; “The Fardle of Facions conteining the Auncient maners, customes and lawes of the people enhabiting the two portes of the earth called Affricke and Asie’. Mr Waterman’s approach is more akin to the spirit of story telling rather than science. Even so, his book establishes a set of themes that would be consistent with the composite writings of his countrymen, that being; a) the legend of Prester John b) the strange monsters and people of Africa c) the fabulous wealth and gold of Africa d) the heat and rain of the African continent and e) the deserts. In the book ‘Othello’s Countrymen’ by Eldred Jones {pp. 10} Mr. Jones writes          ‘Personal accounts of strange people like the King of Benin must have fertilized the imagination of creative writers. This is the kind of suggestion that may have led by devious ways to a black Othello’. The voyages of Sir John Hawkins would also affect the restructural image-model of the African man. In his writings would be found a) the first use of the word ‘Negro’ b) first mention of contact with an African King who did not keep an immoral bargain to give Hawkin’s slave at the end of an immoral bargain between the two men ( this King is reputedly the King of Mina). This historical incident is viewed as connected to Robert Peele’s play ‘The Battle of Alcazar (where a Negro King (Muly Hamet- known as ‘The Black King’ lured a young Portuguese King Sebastian, and the ‘flower of Portuguese youth’ into a battle in Africa- to their deaths. Richard Hakluyt’s book ‘Principal Navigation’s would also be an important source of global information. The focus of this book would a) establish a global perspective that would influence business people, investors , traders as well as artist and poets b) Hakluyt’s book established new sources of imagery and c) new background material for character development (i.e. sea fight imagery, new island scenes). The writer Lois Whitney says that ‘The History and Description of Africa by John Leo could have also been a model for Shakespeare’s creation of Othello. In this book can be found a) passages on the solder ship of the Moors b) their credulity c) their capacity for love d) their high regard of chastity e) their jealousy and f) the fury of their wrath. All of this information would set the tone and image parameter-spectra  of the African man in English literature.

The historical documentation of early English exploration in Africa is important because it clearly establishes that: 1) the English explorers initial-encounter (reception) to the inhabitants of Africa gave insight into more than any ‘one zone’ of information transference  2) that the base assumptions behind the recorded documentation of the explorers opens a door into the psychological reality of the English explorers as much as it describes the particulars of African reality 3) that fantasy and factual information of Africa in the Elizabethan time period would become its own ‘separate category’- for European curiosity, science and entertainment (with its own set of dynamic implications for the expanded world stage). In the first category the early explorer writings clearly establishes that the African people the English explorers encountered in the early journeys were ‘in the process of living their lives’ and that there was also a sense of individual and group experience in the various ‘native’ groups they encountered. The Mandeville writings are important to establish the genesis social/aesthetic/and spiritual climate that the English sought to understand and document. Of the Numedians Mandeville writes: ‘The folk that wone {live} in that country are called Numedians and they are christended ..But they are black of color, and that they hold a great beauty , and aye the blacker they are the fairer them think them. And they say that and they should paint an angel and a fiend, they would paint the angel black and the fiend white. And if they think them not black enough when they are born, they use certain medicines for to make them black withal, That country is wonder hot, and that makes that folks thereof so black’ {   }. This paragraph establishes one of the most central aspects to the whole question of ‘applied aesthetics’ and the trans/image-model of the African man. Because the initial encounter experiences of the early English travelers would contain, and in some cases initiate the iconic quality constructs of an African image model based on a premise that implies ‘the most basic crime of the African is that he is not European’. To understand this phenomenon is to be confronted with how the significance of interpretation-interjections from outside the African community would be used to undermine African reality, identity and value systems.

The early English writings on Africa establish eight zones of perceptual reality: 1) that the physiognomy of the African people were not beautiful in the eyes of the English 2) that the consideration of skin complexion would become a focus unto itself 3) that Africans were a particularly libidinous sort of people when compared to the Europeans 4) that there were no unified religious structures in the country and every man had his own religion (‘pagan time’) 5) that the African man could not be trusted to keep his word 6) that the land of Africa contains many strange beast  7) that the continent possessed magical things and the promise of riches (gold) and 8) that the African man was either a separate strain of humanity or was bestial (i.e. so-called primitive). In the first category the physiology of the African people would become a polarity tool that allowed Europeans to ‘like themselves better’. A special psychological ‘sentiment’ would surface immediately in the early English exploratory writings- a ‘sentiment’ that viewed the physiology of the African as distasteful, repellent and ugly – that is to write, that the physiology of the Africans did not look Caucasian. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the meaning of black before the sixteenth century as, “Deeply stained with dirt; soiled, dirty foul… Having dark or deadly purposes, malignant; pertaining to or involving death, deadly; baneful, disastrous, sinister.. Foul. iniquitous, atrocious, horrible, wicked. …Indicating disgrace, censure, liability to punishment, etc. Black was an emotionally partisan color… the handmaid and symbol of baseness and evil, a sign of danger and repulsion.”. All of these factors are involved in the summation image that formed the image-construct of the African man in the Renaissance period. In Alden T. Vaughan’s book ‘Roots of American Racism’ he writes ‘… the English name for central and southern Africans came from their skin color. Throughout Europe, in fact, Africans were “blacks, “”blackamores,” or “Negroes”; to the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italians, they were “negros’ and “negras”; to the Dutch, they were “negers.” And in each language the word for “black” carried a host of disparaging connotations. In Spanish, for examples, “negro “also meant gloomy, dismal , unfit , and wretched; in French, ‘noir’ also connoted foul, dirty, base, and wicked; in Dutch , certain compounds of ‘zwart conveyed notions of anger, irascibility, and necromancy; and “black” had comparable pejorative implications in Elizabethan and Stuart England. { pp. 6}. The combine weight of these ‘aesthetic associations’ can be viewed as a kind of ‘stacked deck’. The word Black could also mean dark skin- as in satanic; “black comedy”; dark, as in ‘darkest Africa’.

The aesthetic background information that provided the terms of meaning and value system judgments of Renaissance culture is the second category of historical modeling that influenced the image-model creation of the Othello character. The spectra of that information reflects on 1) the tenet constructs of Christianity 2) the aesthetic dimensions of color 3) the emergence of Calvinist movement 4) the ‘sacrificed position’ of European women 5) the separation between body and mental identities and 6) the emergence of modern scientific constructs. In the first consideration, the old and new testament established the mythical notions of Adam and Eve and their son Ham who commits the first of the ‘new violations’ (after the Garden of Eden experience). This concept reappears in the new testament , after the flood, where the story of Cain and Abel recounts a ‘second profound violation’ by Cain. In this same set of writings (the Bible) the subject of ‘light’ and ‘Divine Providence’ would actualize the image-model existence of Jesus (i.e. and his physical racial properties) would become the new God head (logos) of the trans Christian Religion. The composite solidification of the Renaissance period is important because it is in this time space where the genesis constructs of the trans-Christian movement is brought to its most elaborate extension- that is, the Renaissance period as the fulfillment of Christian mysticism and ceremony. As a spiritual logos, the phenomenon of color in Christian theology would establish the color white as synonymous with the color of the Deity and black as representative of the attributes of the Devil. And to complete this construct a concept of Divine Providence was formed as a gradient-logic construct (paradigm) that would allow for the concept of ‘proximity’ (to the Divine) to be isolated and measured. With this innovation it would then be possible to establish a concept that measured ‘light reflected through darkness’ ( ‘White is the goal’!).

The third category that influenced the image-model construct of the Othello character is the evolution of restructural Medieval theater. In this area of focus can be sited 1) the iconic mystical constructs of the early theater movements 2) the emergence of the Masque and its related form-state 3) the impact of the new visitors on the continent as ‘visitors’ of the ‘Crown’ and 4) the extensions of ‘new continental mythologies’ (from the new ‘acquired lands’).  The evolution of the Masque ceremonies of the middles ages can be viewed as one of the principle domains that sought to ritualize and identify the iconic and symbolic experiences ( and relationships) of Christian ceremony. In itself, the Masque and pageantry movement was a short lived movement that existed for one hundred and fifty years. The formal characteristics of this form utilized 1) dance as a nucleus of the creative experience (art form) 2) the use of applied ‘blackface’ and 3) the image-characterization of the Devil is portrayed as black. The extended practice of ‘blackening’ would enter into the more ‘sophisticated court spectacles in the 1600′s and even nobility would take part. Queen Anne requested the use of a ‘Blacke-More’ in a Masque as well. By the year 1555 the color black had been firmly positioned to represent the opposite of Christian values (and images). In this new form of pageantry the image of the ‘black person’ would be used to solidify ‘grotesqueness’ and foolery. So powerful was this imagery for the English that the Moor would become a central sub-theme inside the form; a category unto itself (i.e. the Masque of Moors). This iconic figure would lead the way in the parades that started the Masque as a transitional formal state. Mr. Jones in ‘Othello’s Countrymen’ wrote that from the very beginning of the Masque, vague connections to African imagery can be found throughout the form, from poetic descriptions to ceremonial depiction’s (i.e. dress and ‘zones of exotica’) and that these references would solidify into ‘an African image’ with the composite formal state of the Masque. John Leo book is sited by Ben Jonson in his “Masque of Blackness’ work ( which was a pivotal work that would scandalize the English nobility). Leo writes, ‘Pliny, Solinus, Ptolemey, and of late leo The African, remember unto us a river in Aethiopia, famous by the name of Niger, of which the people were called Nigritae, and now negro’s; and are the blackest nation of the world’. The story of ‘The Masque of Blackness’ has a character called the King of Egypt who had a black face and was the father of Saint George’. This relationship is another example of the profound connections that existed in the ancient world. Another character of the Masque is the use of dance as a nuclear identity focus that solidifies ceremony ( and even more special, that solidifies mutable ritual logic’s and fantasy symbolism). The name of this form of dance
was ‘Morisce’ or “Morisco’ which has an association with the word Moor and/or Morocco. The use of African symbolism in the Masque extended into the meta-image ‘genesis associations’ that gave insight into the ‘spiritual essence’ of the form.  In the black Masque existed twelve Nymphs, Negro’s, and the daughters of Niger (referring to Nigeria- ‘The blackest nation of the world’. And finally, the fantasy story itself involved the challenge of whether this group of charact-ers could survive and bath thirteen nights in the ocean, and if so, ‘they would gain whiteness and beauty (pp. 32). This is a gradient logic formal symbolism that extends the same formal constructs that defined the ‘ the closer one is to light, the nearer one is to God’. The recognition of change of complexion in time( i.e. sound/color mass recognition) as a domain of identity in itself. The use of this concept as an image- construct (icon) would accelerate and amplify the forming of the black and white Moor concept, as dramatic tools that could be used in a way that would be consistent with Christian iconography and ‘dynamic motivation’ (!) (?).

By the opening of the decades of the sixteen hundreds there would be two established image models of the African fantasy character. The first of which is 1) the image of the villainous Moor 2) the image of the ‘tawny Moor’ or white Moor and 3) the arrival of Othello as a signal of ‘universal adjustments’. In the first example, the character Muly Hamet in the Battle of Alcazar, Aaron in ‘Titus Andronicus, and Eleazer in ‘Lust’s Dominion are examples of characters who clearly demonstrated the unchristian way with their ‘modern behavior’. In the second category, the character abdilmelec is generally viewed as an example of a more dignified Moor (even if still capable of cruelty like the other Moors). The character Othello is an example of the universal Moor whose actions the theater go’er can relate to from a composite human perspective. Othello is presented in the story as a human being with human faults, and his ‘Africanness’ becomes a prism that is used to postulate universal assumptions. Even so, the play Othello is shot through with set up situations where the theater go’er is given an opportunity to laugh at the’way of the African’ ( and how ‘primitive they are when compared to the Europeans’). Humor becomes a layer of this construct, for throughout the play Shakespeare gives his audience ‘quick vibrational slice thought flashes’ – like Emilias ‘traditional contempt’ for Africa quickly returned without missing a beat when she discovers the truth about Othello ( this is just like the O.J. Simpson affair). The most profound use of humor in Othello for me is the scene where Othello talks to Emila after the murder of Desdamona. When she keeps repeating ‘My husband? { 5. 2. 140}. Suddenly the theater go’er is laughing and crying at the same time! Shakespeare the conceptualist covers all of the primary bases of the African image-construct; take for instance 1) Iago’s total contempt for Othello’s intellect ( and the story back’s up Iago, not Othello) and 2) the credulity of the African nature ( Iago; “These Moors are changeable in their wills’). These concepts are the backbone of the modern era.

The concept of the libidinous African man was established in the early writings of the English explorers. In this concept the African is portrayed as somehow ‘not natural’, or maybe ‘too natural’ for the psychology of the early explorers. Yet when the subject of sexual dynamics comes up from the global perspective it is the Renaissance viewpoint that is called into question. This is not to comment on the documented impressions of the early explorers but rather it is important to not confuse the actual ‘reality experiences’ of the African people ( in the act of living in their own world and territories and experiencing that world in a way that made sense to them) with the viewpoint of pan-Christian colonialists. The writings of the early explorers really tell us more about the writers themselves rather than the African people. Wintrop Jordan in ‘White over Black’ writes that ‘the undertone of sexuality run throughout many English accounts of West Africa {pp33}. Mr. Jordan sites as an example of this phenomenon the so-called lustful embrace of Othello were “the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor”. Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (ca. 1624) referred to “an holy hermit” who “desired to see the Spirit of Fornication; and there appeared to him a little foul ugly Aethiop”. There would also be much mention of the size of the African penis     (and comparisons to apes and Gorillas). All of these attempts to understand the physical nature of the African man would help to solidify one component of the natural philosophy movement that would lead to the construction of ‘chain of being’ postulates and the emergence of Linnaean biological classification concepts. In its extended form, the European Renaissance man would find the need to ‘control their sexual urges’ (and make a restructural separation between mind concept of body ‘affinities’) and even more important, ‘control their wives sexual urges’. To understand the depth of sexuality as a sub-category of Renaissance drama, and Othello in particular, one needs only to examine the text of the play. What can be said about the character Iago, who soliloquizes upon his own motives in the play; “I hate the Moor,/ And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets/ He has done my office.” Later in the play Iago says “For that I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat.” But these examples are only the beginning of the ‘hidden secrets’ of the play. The character Iago is really voicing the aesthetic ‘lessons’ of the play. And when Othello finally accepts Iago’s premise he begins to accept that physical distinction do matter; “For she had eyes and chose me.” He then goes on to say: ” Her name, that was as fresh, As Dian’s visage, is now begrim’d and black  As mine own face. Then the play becomes ‘clearer to the point’: Iago says ” your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs”, and later “and old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe’ and still later “your daughter cover’d with a Barbary horse.” and for Brabantio, the marriage of Othello to his daughter was “against all rules of nature”. Later still he says …what was responsible for this sad change of events when he ask Othello what other cause could have brought a girl” so tender, fair, and happy’ / To incur a general mock / Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom / of such a thing as thou. later after Othello had killed his wife he groans to Emilia, “Twas I that killed her”; and Emilia responds with a torrent of condemnation or , rather, of expulsive repudiation; “O/1 the more angel she,/ And you the blacker devil.” Of Desdemona; “She was too fond of her filthy bargain.: To Othello: “O gull! O dolt/ As ignorant as dirt!” In this new world of rationality the women were expected to be a) loyal and obedient b) house keepers and cookers c) and to obey their husbands – right or wrong. These concepts had nothing to do with Africa.

The evolution of the Othello image-construct model can also be traced to the extended fantasy materials that came from contact with the new worlds. These experiences would provide the seeds for fresh storytelling models for restructural Renaissance poetry and theater. There are three aspects of character image-modeling that is related to the Othello character that is relevant to this paper 1) the psychological nature of Othello the play 2) the psychological nature of the character Othello and 3) the significance of inter-racial union in the Renaissance period. Before the play can be approached there are several psychological assumptions that must be accepted. The first of which is;  a) that the character Othello exists in a fantasy context that takes his ‘inferior status’ (as a human being) as an accepted fact that needs no debate (Throughout the play one is reminded of this sub-human status)  b) Brabantio accuses Othello of ‘black magic’ in getting Desdemona to marry him right at the beginning of the play – as a way to ‘acknowledge’ the impossibility of natural attraction to Othello from his daughter c) four billion mentions of Othello’s ‘vile race’ from the beginning of the play to the end. In Mr. Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ black characters are always apologizing for their color because Shakespeare would have us believe that an African man must naturally accept ‘the perception of inferiority’ when viewed from a European construct. This is true even when the African character is a Prince, as in the Prince of Morocco. How strange it is to hear a Prince apologize for his color, “Mislike me not for my complexion,/ The shadow’d liery of the burnish’d sun,/ To whom I am a neighbour and near bred.”  As for the character Derdamona, she is the epitome of grace, beauty and honor, even to the point of honoring her husband on her death bed- (even ‘after death’ she comes back to do good- ‘what a lady’!).

When the Othello character speaks in act 5, scene two, he helps the audience to choose between hierarchical or multiple ‘correspondences (and I could relate to a guy who needs to unify ‘a theme’). ‘It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul;’……’ Put out the light, and then put out the light;’. Othello is referring to the mystery of existence and the wonder of men, women and sex. The vibrational weight of this soliloquy frames the journey of a guy who thought he’d done everything right by trusting his ‘base assumptions’. Obviously, Othello must be a fool! Because those were not the right assumptions in the first place. ‘It is the cause’,  this is a character who has evolved in the ‘man’z world’ of the military where the quality of ‘so-called’ honor is not supposed to be questioned. Sure, it is true that the guys have always ‘stacked the deck’ against the women; but in this play we now are led to believe that a man’s best friend and colleague would do him in ( right in the back) and ‘breach’ the ‘code of men’. And the answer is, of course, this is the case. For Othello not to know this universal fact was a serious error. The concept of ‘put out the light’ has a profound Egyptian connection, for the imagery of light (and ‘the cult of light’) came out of ‘the old country’ ( and I am not referring to ancient Greece). That the phenomenon of ‘light’ was not perceived as ‘an instinctual quality,’ as opposed to a rational or meditative quality, might imply that Othello had separate from a ‘relevant sensibility’ ( that could have maybe increased the outcome of the play to his advantage- certainly, it could not have made the situation any worse, that’s for sure). For Iago to sing; “And let me the canakin clink, clink; And let me the canakin clink. A soldier’s a man; O, man’s life’s but a span; Why then let a soldier drink.” Some wine, boys!” (11.iii. 70). Othello should have known then something was up.

And what of the political social implications of the image-logic construct of the Othello character as a phenomenon that influenced  the spread of extended European colonialism in the 1660′s? This is a subject that can never be resolved on any one plane of inquiry; yet even so, one is left with the residue (‘odor, if you will) of a very special period in human history that begs the following associations:  1) the role and aesthetic purpose of restructural theater in the Renaissance period, 2) the use of image-manipulation as the first degree of ‘esthetic-realignment’(!)(?) 3) the continental route of European ‘revealed’ racism 4) and the esthetics’ of trans-planted Christianity.  In the first category, let me state my viewpoint clearly and with no complexity: I have only wonder and awe for the existence of the great Renaissance theater tradition and even more, I have benefited in my personal life from the existence of this body of information. My attempts to better understand this subject is based on the challenge of growth and change ( and ‘so-called’ curiosity) as well as a need to better understand the composite arena of the sixteen hundreds. The ‘dynamic implications of this time period is important because the full weight of western imperialism (i.e. colonialism and slavery) would solidify as a ‘cultural Identity’- that would later be translated into a cultural political process.  The role of Renaissance theater in the Elizabethan theater time space is important because the theater was a component in the ‘inner intellectual’ life of the people – especially the nobility ( and the artists). Shakespeare most certainly recognized this relationship as the documentation makes it very clear that the poetic intellectual tradition was very much aware of the expanding news of world discovery and ‘exotic curiosities’. The beauty of Shakespeare’s work for me involves how he is able to take a spectrum of fantasy characters that draw on the available pychologies of their time space and make it live. In taking this position Shakespeare is in agreement with the aesthetic viewpoint of art as a reflection of composite reality. To experience the play Othello is to enter into a fantasy world that gives insight into an expanded psychological period in human history- suddenly for the first time sense the ‘ancient experiences’ humanity would be confronted with the existence of new people, new lands for exploration, new foods, materials as well as the first scent of secular freedom. To probe into the inner dimension of Renaissance psychology is to better understand the value systems and motivations that dictated the events of an era.

The vibrational ‘radiance-impact’ of restructural Elizabethan theater presentation established a unique fantasy context (platform) that allowed for an expansion of formal and conceptual constructs. To understand this phenomenon is to recognize the uniqueness of a theater approach that 1) contained symbolic-spatial references 2)  established demarcation zones that allowed for multiple time-space story assumptions to happen in ‘real time’ and even more important for this paper 3) allowed for ‘real-time’ response actions to take place between the actors and the audience. To experience a play like Othello would be to enter into a ‘ritual contract’ between the characters, story and the ‘secret’ celebration of the inner ‘codes’. The summation ‘realness’ of Renaissance theater would come to provide an intellectual and aesthetic platform that commented on the changing life of a culture in transition. The dialogue in Othello tells us something about the vibrational reality of human nature and human experience. My point is this, the documentation seems to clearly suggest that the psychological fantasies demonstrated in the works of Shakespeare’s work Othello were consistent with the value systems that led to the colonial experiences- but there is more. From the vantage point of three hundred years we can now view the documentation of the English as the fulfillment of the Old and New Testament writings ( that established Ham and the notion of black as evil and/or ‘fallen’ – leading into, after the flood, the story of Cain and Abel; leading to the concept of God as the source of all things, to the idea of Man ( not woman- but this decision cannot be blamed on Africa either) as created in the image of God, to the idea of certain sectors of humanity can be viewed as ‘not as God-like as others’  and as a result can be put into slavery ( or destroyed). This is not to say that any one sector can be blamed for anything- this is not my point at all. Rather, the restructurual tools of Renaissance theater would help to open the psychological ‘notions and tendencies’ of a culture in a way that was both unique and effective. Audiences at a given play got involved with the drama in a way twentieth century audiences sometimes fail to recognized. The Renaissance theater was a living tradition that reflected the poetics of its people.

The internal social reality dynamics of the Renaissance Period cannot be separated from the composite changes reshaping world communication and travel. Emily Bartels writes in “Making More of the Moor: that ‘a prime target of racism becomes not the outsider, but the insider, the population that threatens by being too close to home, too powerful, too successful, or merly too present.’ I read this viewpoint as an awareness of the profound complexities that come into play when one seeks to understand an era of such magnitude. This concept also recognizes the ‘boomerang’ effect of cosmic time cycle and ‘earth wonder’. It was one thing to erect a concept of reality that imposes an ‘aesthetic-position’, and another thing to live in ‘that same aesthetic position’. The profound implications of the spiritual and iconic postulates of the trans-Christian movement would create a new world order that demonstrated the greatness of Europe on one hand, while at the same time create ‘existential pychologies’ that would also create ‘restructual complexities’ ( if I can write it that way). I agree with Michial Neill when he writes of a ‘racialist ideology’-was taking shape within such representations alongside and ‘under the pressure of ( Neill suggests) the nation’s “nascent imperialism’. Neill then goe’s on to write, ‘When Queen Elizabeth writes to the Moslem leaders of Turkey, attempting to represent herself as the “most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries”- a ‘signature axiom’ was already ‘in the works’. Nor have I meant to in any way dis-respect any particular religion – this is the ‘stuff’ of history’.

The subject of Othello as a image-model construct that reflects on the political and social dimensions of the sixteen hundreds transcends any one domain and reflects on the internal balances on composite European expansion (and interaction dynamics). This is the time period in European history where concepts developed that discussed  the proper domain and boundaries of religious control (versus religious freedom) and the character and purpose of society. That the acceleration of the slave trade would come from this region of people in this most ‘epiphanial time’ cannot be dismissed as inconsistent with what appears to be a most unique aesthetic disposition. In the play Othello, the character Desdamona has shocked the whole world by marrying a black general. Somehow the nature of this ‘shock’ is connected with the seemingly ‘impossibility’ of a Caucasian woman having an attraction to a black man- and with the abundance of literature written in that time period, it is easy to see why African men were viewed as bestial and ‘smelly’. But what is one to think when reading about the life of Olaudah Equiano and the works of the Freed African blacks in the seventeen hundreds; ‘He married an English woman in 1792, and one of their two daughters lived to inherit the sizable estate he left at his death on march 31, 1797′. Evidently in less than a hundred years there are records of interracial marriages – unless poor Miss Equiano was the only English Lady of her generation to marry an African man. This is not only the case for the English but applies to the whole of Europe in transition (and later, the Americas). Not to mention the profound sexual experiences of the European explorers in their new encounters. I write this not to point fingers at the Europeans but only to state that the existence of different kinds of people on a planet is not an intellectual construct that involves only one dimension (where someone can agree and not agree with the ‘fact’ of a peoples existence’). The works of William Shakespeare are important because it documents the dynamic complexities that were in the air, and it hints at the undercurrent nature of the human species. To write that the play describes a racist people and a racist culture is to mis-read the challenge of theater and fantasy.

In the end, we do know this about Othello: 1) even though he is a great general he can never afford to ‘not watch his back’. 2) that the concept of friendship and alliance can be complex 3) that by killing his wife whatever the character says as justification will make us hate him even more 4) that Othello’s last lines of the play ‘mean nothing’ (because there can be no symphethy for a murderer 5) that Iago’s wife Emile is a hero type character who I still hate, because at her heart…. she is a racist 6) that Desdamona took the wrong time to play handkerchief games with her husband 7) that no matter his success in the military ‘a nigger is still a nigger’ {taken from ‘Roots’ (smile) } 8) that if a woman marries someone her father disagrees with, no good will come of it (?)  9) that five hundred books can be written about whether or not their relationship was consummated- but it was always clear that they were ‘moving in that direction’ – either way, their union continues to fascinate us and 10) that maybe Othello should have stayed in north Africa and not changed his name to O.J. Simpson.