Discuss and evaluate the view of the concept of Justice in relation to Othello and two supplementary texts. Justice is to live in a society that is fair to everyone, were everyone’s human rights are met and were everyone has equal opportunity to succeed. The concept of justice is portrayed rather unevenly in Othello and does not prevail as the villain, Iago, is still alive while his ‘victims’ are not. Also in my supplementary texts the balance of justice is uneven.
One of my supplementary texts ‘Men of Honour’ is a film about a black sailor, Carl Brashear, trying to become a US Navy Diver but his training officer, Billy Sunday, makes it hard for him because of his colour. In the end of Men of Honour justice does prevail as Carl becomes a navy diver. My other supplementary text the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is about a man, Martin Luther King, telling the world about the injustices against black people in America and how justice should be achieved. My argument is that justice is not achieved in Othello while it is achieved in ‘Men of Honour’ and it is explained in the ‘I have a Dream’ speech.
Othello is written by William Shakespeare in England when Prejudice against women and people of different race was acceptable in society. In Othello racial prejudice, gender injustice and Vigilante injustice are very prominent especially towards the end of the play. Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca are treated like second class citizens because of their gender and Othello feels alienated by white society and feels he is always being judged because of his colour. The setting plays a major role in the balance of injustice throughout the play.
In the beginning it is set in Venice which seemingly appears democratic and just with Othello being given a fair trial when they discover he has married Desdemona. This is in stark contrast to Cyprus which is the setting for the majority of the play and appears less civilized and lacking any real legal structures. This change of setting changes the behaviour of some of the characters especially Othello, who appears a noble soldier and good husband in Venice, changes when the setting moves to Cyprus and starts to make rash decisions.
These changes in Character add to the injustices dealt with by some of the characters. ‘Men of Honour’ is set in America in the 1960s after WWII and during the Vietnam and Cold Wars. This was a time when coloured people were seen as second class citizens and the Navy was also not ready to accept coloured people into jobs of authority. This is represented by “Two table spoons of machine oil can contaminate a whole ships fresh water supply, some things just don’t mix”.
This was the analogy of black people in the military. Even though there was so much prejudice society was aware of the injustices of coloured people and the need for change and there were even laws against segregation in the military but society was still lagging behind the law. The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was presented in America in 1963 during the Vietnam and Cold Wars. It was presented in front of 200,000 people on the steps of Lincoln Memorial after a march for American Civil rights.
It was a time were black people suffered horrific segregation and had little rights and in many southern states white people could commit crimes against them with little chance of repercussions. But it was also a time for social change and people were ready for a change. Racial injustice is where people of different races are not treated equally to the rest of society. In Othello this racial injustice is very prominent and plays a major role in the play. The black army general, Othello, is the man who feels most of the racial injustice in the play.
When Iago and Rodrigo are talking privately they talk of Othello very harshly and make reference to his race regularly, “thick lips”, “the moor” and “black ram” are just some of the words they use to describe him This is also a use of animal imagery in “black ram” which dehumanises Othello. In the play Othello constantly feels like the outsider and having to constantly prove his worth, this is portrayed by “My parts, my tile and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly”. This sense of being the outsider because of race is prominent in my two related texts the ‘Men of Honour’ film and the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
In ‘Men of Honour’ Carl Brashear is a Black Navy man who wishes to become a U. S Navy Diver but because of his colour his trainer, Billy Sunday, makes it nearly impossible for him to become one. His fellow Divers alienate him and insult him in one scene he is spat on and laughed at. “No offence to the President but I don’t bunk with Niggers”. This shows how he constantly has to prove himself to white society just like Othello and is used to create empathy for Carl. In “I Have a Dream” the spokes person, Martin Luther King, is trying to persuade the public to judge people on their personality not their race. They will not be judged by the colour of their skin but on the content of their character”. Luther King uses persuasive language to convey the message and have it heard. Likewise Othello feels like he is being judged on his colour and not who he really is “Speak of me as I am” he uses assertive tone in the verb ‘speak’ as he is afraid of being judged. Gender injustice is where people are judged on their gender and not treated equally to the other gender and their role in society.
In Othello there are many cases of gender injustice and in some cases it is a misunderstanding. Emilia is the woman who is the main victim of gender injustice. Emilia is Iago’s wife and throughout the play she is put down by him and treated like a second class citizen. “Players your housewifery and housewives in your bed”. This is spoken by Iago and shows his view of women as good for nothing. In ‘Men of Honour’ just like Emilia, Carl is constantly being told that he and his race are good for nothing but cooking in the Navy and will never become a Navy Diver.
Bianca, Cassio’s lover, is also a victim and is constantly being called a strumpet and when Cassio is stabbed Iago blames her because no one will believe a woman over a man. Desdemona is another victim of gender injustice as she is not given a fair say by Othello when he suspects her infidelity and kills her. Othello believes that she does not deserve her say and in the end she pays the ultimate price. While Desdemona is pleading with Othello she says “I never gave him token” but Othello does not give her a chance to explain herself and he judges her without cause.
Vigilante Injustice is the act of taking the law into someone’s own hands and acting on something outside the law. In Othello Iago is the main culprit of this as he tries to destroy Othello outside the law. He also tries to convince Rodrigo to help him in his plan of ruining Othello’s life. In ‘Men of Honour’ the commanding officer of the U. S Navy Diving Centre takes the law into his own hands by trying convince Billy Sunday to fail Carl by getting into his head. He says things such as “Did you know that ordinary house dust is made primarily of human skin, makes you think twice about who you invite into your home”.
In Conclusion Othello is not a very just or fair play as throughout the play people are being judged by others because of their gender and race and in the end justice is not achieved. My supplementary texts are also about people being judged and treated unfairly but unlike Othello justice is achieved at the end of my supplementary texts. Othello and my texts also represent the time they were composed, in times when people were judged and treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin or their gender.