I am composing a rather lengthy article on Othello and how renaissance ideals apply to the story. I need research notes, etc. that highlights:
1 - How does the story relate to renaissance ideals?
2 - How does Shakespeare make the reader sympathetic to the main characters?
3- How does Shakespeare suggest the character can change the course of the story or make a difference?
There are many places to begin when speaking of Othello within its Renaissance context; in other words, take these indeed as notes instead of a prioritizing of that context. Work with what you can the best and, at least structurally, put the weakest points you can develop towards the middle (it's always best to end with the strongest point). That said:
The first place I'd want to go would be the question of the relationship between religion and what we'd now term 'secular humanism'. This relationship would be divisive for some time, and would create plenty of challenges for people. We need look no further than Iago to start examining that relationship in Renaissance times. A few reasons for this:
- Iago tends to symbolize the embodiment of evil.
o His duplicity is obvious. He offers multiple reasons for anything, often trying to make an argument (either to himself or to the audience) in order to justify his actions. In reality, we know Iago will do what he wants to do anyway.
o Iago tempts Othello continually, but in a drawn out way. In other words, it is a deliberate and intricate plan to confuse and take advantage of Othello.
o Iago appeals to Desdemona as if she is an object.
- Iago also reveals the need to address humanistic philosophy.
o While it is true that he is set on his behavior, the fact that "reason" can be used calls into question the need and effectiveness of SOUND reasoning, not just any reasoning at all.
o Iago is not a specter or a ghost, which was certainly an option for Shakespeare (and in fact used by him in Hamlet), but a living person, with capacities, intellect, emotion, desire and all the rest.
- Iago's effectiveness lies in appealing to human desires.
o Othello is a man of honor, someone of "the old guard" as we might term it, and yet he is both duped and tempted. Religion itself is not sufficient for him to overcome these.
Naturally, Iago isn't the only place to look when it comes to the relationship ...
Major effects of the Renaissance both in and through Shakespeare's play Othello are explored, with notes of previously specified length on character reflection and development, changing ethos, new values, and the relationship between reason and religion. References are provided for further exploration. Response is also attached in document form.