General problems — what is the religious significance of Cyprus in Othello?

There is no significant religious significance of Cyprus in Othello. However, the mention of the island in the play serves as a dramatic device to create a contrast between the emotions and actions of the characters in Venice and Cyprus.

Detailed response question

While there may not be a directly religious significance to Cyprus in Othello, the island does serve as a crucial setting and symbolic backdrop for the play. Shakespeare’s portrayal of the island is as a place of contrasts and tensions, where the beauty of nature and the exoticism of the location is contrasted with the harsh realities of war and the destructive forces of jealousy and betrayal.

As one critic notes, “the island is presented as a haven of natural beauty, but one which is also a place of imminent danger where the veneer of civilization is liable to erupt into savagery at any moment.” (Ronald Knowles, Shakespeare’s Classic Plays: Othello).

One of the most significant aspects of Cyprus in Othello is the way in which it represents a challenge to the authority and order of Venice, the city from which most of the play’s characters originate. In contrast to the cosmopolitan, sophisticated world of Venice, Cyprus is a remote outpost of the empire where the rules and norms of society are much looser.

This contrast is highlighted by the character of Iago, who draws on the supposed wildness and primitivism of the island to whip up his fellow soldiers into a frenzy of violence and bloodlust. As Othello himself notes, “This is a subtle whore, / A closet lock and key of villainous secrets / And yet she will with ease induct a sot” (Othello, 4.2).

One interesting fact about the place of Cyprus in Othello is that it was not a commonly-known setting for English audiences at the time the play was written. Cyprus had only come under Venetian control in the late 15th century, and would not have had a lot of resonance for an English audience. Shakespeare may have chosen the location in order to give the play a sense of exoticism and novelty.

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With its themes of jealousy, betrayal and violence, Othello remains a powerful play that continues to resonate with audiences today. And while the religious significance of Cyprus may be minimal, the symbolic importance of the island to the play’s themes and characters is undeniable.

| Cyprus in Othello |
| Theme | Symbolism |
| Setting | Location of a remote outpost |
| Authority | Challenge to the authority and order of Venice |
| Iago’s manipulation | Draws on supposed wildness and primitivism |
| Exoticism | Chosen to provide a sense of novelty |
| Resonance | Continues to resonate with audiences today |

As famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote, “Othello is universally interesting, because human nature is universally the same.” In this sense, the significance of Cyprus in Othello is not just about the specific events of the play, but about the timeless truths it reveals about the complex human emotions of love, jealousy and betrayal.

A video response to “What is the religious significance of Cyprus in Othello?”

The video explores the significance of the settings, Venice and Cyprus, in Shakespeare’s play, Othello. Venice, a powerful and threatened city, is explored through its symbolic fairness. Meanwhile, Cyprus is described as a meeting point between the east and west, society and liberation, order, and chaos. The video delves into various scenes in the play, including the opening in a dark street and the personal scene between Emilia and Desdemona. The change in setting from Venice to Cyprus is also discussed, with the evil and darkness in Cyprus symbolizing blindness to reality. Finally, the video prompts viewers to engage in independent learning and compare the similarities and differences between Venice and Cyprus before exploring the sources Shakespeare drew from in the next video.

Other options for answering your question

Ironically, Cyprus was also revered as the birthplace of Venus Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was reputedly born in ocean foam and washed ashore near Nicosia. Inspired by this amorous deity, Cyprus provides the perfect location for Iago to convince Othello of his wife’s sexual infidelity.

Venus, the goddess of love

The island of Cyprus has important mythological significance as it has long been associated with Venus, the goddess of love. The action of The Tragedy of Othello moves to Cyprus when the Turks invade Venice, leading Othello and Desdemona to flee to the military encampment in Cyprus where they mistakenly believe their safety can be assured.

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What is the religious reference in Othello?
In fact, since the arrest scene is associated with Othello’s marriage to Desdemona, it suggests that Othello is a Christ-like husband to his bride — alluding to the well-known Biblical picture of Christ and His church.
How does religion play a role in Othello?
The answer is: The play never explicitly states that Othello is a convert to Christianity, but as “the Moor of Venice” he would be associated with a part of the world where religious conversion between Christianity and Islam was frequent and where conversion from one religion to another was associated with “redemption” from slavery.
What do Venice and Cyprus represent in Othello?
In Othello, Venice represents civilization, while Cyprus symbolizes the wilderness. The idea is that what happened in the Cyprus never would happen in the civilized city of Venice.
What are the religious allusions in Othello?
Answer will be: Shakespeare’s two main sources of allusions were the Bible and classical mythology. In Othello he alludes to the Bible to associate Iago’s actions with evil, while he uses the story of Venus and Mars to add a mythological dimension to Othello and Desdemona’s doomed romance.
What is the significance of Cyprus in the tragedy of Othello?
Response to this: The island of Cyprus has important mythological significance as it has long been associated with Venus, the goddess of love. The action of The Tragedy of Othello moves to Cyprus when the Turks invade Venice, leading Othello and Desdemona to flee to the military encampment in Cyprus where they mistakenly believe their safety can be assured.
What happens when Othello moves from Venice to Cyprus?
When Othello moves from Venice to Cyprus he experiences a shift in how he acts and how he is treated, leads to his downfall. While in Venice, Othello is introduced as a smart and loving man. He won the heart of Desdemona honestly, and he loves her without question. He is also a peaceful man.
Why is Othello caught in the middle?
Othello himself is tragically caught in the middle, as a man of non-European descent giving his loyalty and love to the Venetians and to Desdemona. The transition of setting from Venice to Cyprus puts Othello outside the immediate control of Venician authority and Desdemona beyond the disapprobation of prating Brabantio.
Why is Othello involved in the theme of Desdemona?
Response to this: Othello, though he is not overtly disrespected because of his gender, is involved in this theme because he is the love interest of Desdemona. Good question! 1. Religion–while Othello is not as overtly religious as The Merchant of Venice. The play relies heavily on Garden of Eden allusions.
Why did Othello go to Cyprus?
Response: Cyprus is threatened by the Turks; Othello’s peace of mind and marriage are threatened by Iago. Othello is sent to Cyprus to govern and restore peace. Instead of bringing peace, Othello destroys his wife and then himself. Cyprus is also an isolated setting, which is psychologically appropriate.
Where does Othello take place in Shakespeare's tragedy?
Response: Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello takes place in two very different locations: peaceful Venice, and war torn Cyprus. While the change of setting does have an effect on the environment of the play, it has an even greater effect on Othello himself.
Is Othello a Christian play?
The answer is: Othello has converted to Christianity and the preoccupation with good and evil in the play suggests its religious context. The central figures of many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Othello, are frequently individuals beset by temptation and the lure of evil.
Why is Othello important?
Answer will be: As a result, Shakespeare’s Othello has been appropriated worldwide as a vehicle for the exploration of racial and ethnic tensions. In the opening scene Iago refers to Othello as ‘the thick-lips’ (1.1.66) and later he raises a toast to ‘the health of black Othello’ (2.2.29).

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