Texts are usually a reflection of the time period and the values held during that time period. When compared, William Shakespeare’s play Othello written in the 16th century England and Tim Blake Nelsons film O produced in 20th century America, accentuates the reflection, when analysing the contexts, purpose, form, audience via characters and themes arises the context which are historical, social and cultural as well as the values held during the time periods. In Othello and O the distinct historical contexts of 16th century England and 20th century America is accentuated when the form, audience and purpose are analysed.
The form, audience and purpose of Othello and O reflect the two distinct society’s value for entertainment, morality and communication. William Shakespeare’s Othello is in the form of a play. This can be identified through the use of stage directions e. g. “He strikes her:”and through the number of soliloquies and asides e. g. “That Cassio loves her, I do well believe’t” spoken by Iago, who is revealing his inner most thoughts to the audience. The Elizabethan period was poised to be the golden age of English literature and plays were a popular and accessible form of entertainment which reflected the great works and was valued.
Shakespeare’s audience was a mixed bunch ranging from aristocrats to peasants. The play was targeted at all types of audiences and this is identified by the use of verse and prose. The use of verse in the format of iambic pentameter e. g. “goodnight, goodnight, god such me uses send. Not to pick bad from bad but be bad mend” appealed to the upper class society as it was rich in literature while the use of prose, which was mainly exhibited as the language of comic characters and characters of lower positioning e. g. “then put up your pipes in your bad, for ill away! Go vanish, into air away! said by the clown, appealed to the lower class of society as it was more simplistic. These forms of Old English language were very specific to the period of time when Shakespeare wrote which reflected Othello’s distinct historical context. It is also revealed that as a society, what were valued were the varied forms of language as an effective way of communication. The purpose of Othello is to entertain; this is supported by the use of pun, creating a humorous environment for the audience in the clown’s dialogue “If there is any music that cannot be heard, to’t again”.
Othello also has the purpose of delivering didactic messages. Through the motif of “The green eyed monster” the audience is being warned against the dangers of jealousy. Shakespeare’s attempt at pleasing all members of his audience resulted in a great range to be found in his play including bawdy humour and the examination and close focus of the human psyche which accentuated the society’s value for entertainment and morality. Comparatively Tim Blake Nelsons O is in the form of a film. The use of cinematography e. g.
Camera shots, and camera angles” supports the medium to be a film as well as the use of diegetic and non diegetic sounds which efficiently convey the themes and values to the target audience. The modern society of 20th century America was more appealed to the medium of film which was both popular and accessible as well efficient in delivering messages accentuating the societies value for communication through artistry and visual effects as opposed to members of the Elizabethan society who valued the use of language as a form of communication and format for conveying themes.
The film O was targeted at a teenage/ adolescent audience, this is identified through the use of modern colloquial language e. g. “bro” and “tripping” as well as the use of expletives e. g. “He twisted my head, he f****** it up”. The form of the language used were specific to the audience of teenagers, as opposed to the target audience of Othello who ranged from aristocrats to peasants, who were able to access the film more effectively through the language which revealed the modern 20th century American society to value language as a form of communication towards distinct socioeconomic groups.
The purpose of O was to entertain through means of reflecting the current teenage issues e. g. “It wasn’t some hood rat drug dealer that tripped me up” the personal prop of the drug is alluring and entertaining to the target audience as it a relatable topic and the dramatic consequences of the drug is also compelling. O also had a purpose of delivering didactic messages. The body language and facial expressions of Oden during the slam dunk competition, when he breaks the glass and looks at desi sitting with Mike shows that he has become a jealous monster, and this thus warns the audience of the dangers and external forces of jealousy.
By comparing Othello and O of 16th century England and 20th Century America, the relative features of form, audience and purpose are highlighted as the distinct qualities of each text which makes the historical context become apparent. Both texts exhibited the society’s values: entertainment, morality and language as a form of communication and established the distinct ways in which it was reflected. In Othello and O the distinct social context of 16th century England and 20th Century America is accentuated when the characters are analysed.
The characters of both Othello and O reflect the values held in 16th century England and 2oth century America. During 16th century England, the Elizabethan society was one of a patriarchal society this in turn is reflected in the play Othello when Emilia begins to echo her husband’s thoughts on women “They eat us hungrily, and when they are full, belch us” the use of metaphor and visual imagery illustrates a society of a male dominated culture and the fact that women had only the purpose to serve men.
During Act 1 Scene 3, Brabantio constantly refers to Desdemona being bewitched, this in turn shows the values and beliefs of society who believed that “men possessing/bewitching women = possession”, as well as the hyperbole of “stolen” and “corrupted” in his quote “She is abused, stolen from me, corrupted” gives the impression that women more like objects, trophies and properties of a man, further accentuating the value held by society of men over women.
In the movie O the characters reflect the democratic society of 20th century America. The use of dolly shot to show the movement of Emily towards Hugo as she discovers she’s been played and betrayed shows the audience her physical battle with him and his body language also shows how he is restraining himself from physically hurting her accentuating the democratic society during 20th century America and the value of equality between men and women as well as women’s rights.
Further emphasis on the democratic society O was a part of and its values is the scene between Desi and Bob, when he ask her relationship with Oden and she replies “that’s none of your business, the use of level camera angle suggests equal status between the two, the body language of Desi who has a straight back, assertive eyes, and tone shows her strength, confidence and Brabantino’s body language when he speaks to her, crouching so he is of equal height to her shows the respect between the two and a sense of equality.
By comparing Othello and O of 16th century England and 20th century America the relative features such as characters are highlighted as the distinct qualities of each text which makes the social context become apparent. The society in which Othello was based valued men over women, while the society in which O was based valued equality between men and women and women’s right. Both texts explored the position of women and the distinct values of each society accentuate the overall assumption that texts are a reflection of their time period.
In Othello and O the distinct cultural context of 16th century England and 2oth century America is accentuated when the themes are analysed. The themes in both Othello and O reflect the values held in 16th century England and 20th Century America. Before Othello in previous Elizabethan drama black characters were usually villains, however in Othello the Moor is shown in a positive light to the audience but not to some of the characters in the play e. g.
Iago uses an explicit reference through animal imagery ”An old black ram, Is tupping your white ewe” and when Brabantio confronts Othello, he expresses his disbelief that his “fair” daughter would “Run… to the sooty blossom, of such a thing as though” the language of the characters conveys their attitudes towards Othello’s ‘otherness’. Iago is implying Othello is bestial and Brabantino’s use of “thing” dehumanises Othello and excludes him from Brabantino’s world. This in turn accentuates the Elizabethan’s Societies value for racial prejudice and the superiority of the more fair people.
Comparatively in O, Odin continually questions his position in society inwardly while appearing as a confident young man on the outside; the issues discussed by characters in the film and camera focus serve to create racial tension. The use of the word nigger are introduced to establish the racial atmosphere, while blacks are allowed to use the word, whites are not e. g. “I can say that because I am a nigger. You can’t because you aint. Don’t be jealous” this gives two understandings.
When nigger is used by a white person it symbolizes derogatory meanings, amongst blacks however, it means solidarity or serves as self identity. Mike demonstrates this later in the film when he says “the ghetto popped out of him … his a crazy nigger” the use of racial slur indicates his anger and disgust towards Odin. Much of the racial tension in the film is developed by camera focus. The first image in the movie shows hundreds of white doves and then a single dark brown hawk, which represents Odin, the only black amongst many whites.
Black and white imagery continue throughout the film, there are many close ups of Des’s and Odin’s hands on each other’s bodies, clearly showing the difference in colour, as well as the cut scenes that moves from her face to his face and back several times. By comparing Othello and O of 16th century England and 20th century America the relative features such as characters are highlighted as the distinct qualities of each text which makes the cultural context become apparent. Othello reflects Elizabethan society’s values towards racial prejudice and white superiority.
O reflects the post modern American values towards racial stereotypes and acceptance. In conclusion, both composers from different contexts have used a variety of techniques to explore the distinct historical context of purpose, form and entertainment, the social context of characters which has reflected the democratic and patriarchal society and the cultural context of themes which have reflected race and colour. Both texts are similar however, in that they portray universal themes and values that are relevant to their context.