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Stromboli And Othello


Task: Which Country Links The Following Two Words, Othello & Stromboli?


Which Country Links The Following Two Words, Othello & Stromboli?

The words Othello and Stromboli are linked by one country – Italy.

A quick glance at the play 'Othello' by William Shakespeare will immediately place you in Venice, a thriving city in Italy during the late sixteenth century. The tragic play was first performed in 1604 and explored the themes of jealousy, betrayal, racism, deceit and loyalty.

Now, most people have heard of 'Othello', but not many are familiar with Stronboli. It is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. The island witnessed its last major eruption in 1921.

The Importance Of Italy In ‘Othello’:

Geographical location has always played a significant role in Shakespeare’s plays. The beginning of 'Othello' is set in Venice, a prosperous Italian city.

Most of the people in Venice are white, and amongst them, Othello stands out like a sore thumb being a “dark-skinned Moor.” Now. The play ‘Othello’ is one of the earliest instances in Shakespeare’s play that deals with blatant racism. While Othello is renowned and well-loved for his military prowess and character, people like Iago and Roderigo look down upon Othello because of his dark skin.

However, their sway doesn’t affect Othello until Shakespeare changes the setting and they arrive in Cyprus. The island is cut off from the mainland and becomes the complete opposite of Venice.

While Venice is a thriving city where Othello and Desdemona’s love flourished, Cyprus becomes their grave. The feelings of jealousy that rise within Iago for Cassio and Othello lead to him plotting their downfall. Planning to kill two birds with one stone, he fills Othello’s mind with poison against Cassio and Desdemona.

And the volcanic eruption of jealousy in Othello finally leads to him suffocating his wife and taking his own life once Iago's scheme comes to light.

The ending of ‘Othello’ is surprisingly similar to the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. The audience watches in anticipation as the anger and jealousy within Othello consume him completely to the point where he cannot form rational judgements any more. And just as an eruption leaves behind ashes and destruction all around, so do Othello's actions that leave behind the ashes of his love for Desdemona.

The Importance Of Italy For Stromboli:

Stromboli is an Italian island where you can find one of the few active volcanoes – Mount Stromboli. Towering at 924 metres, the volcanic mountain originates from the Tyrrhenian Sea and is located to the north of Sicily.

It is known as the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ because its eruptions can be seen for long distances at night.

It has been active for the past 2000 years.

The jet fountain-like eruptions at Stromboli are so distinct that geologists use the word ‘Strombolian’ to denote volcanic eruptions of the same kind.

Stromboli has been erupting continuously form 1932.

The island came into existence because of volcanic eruptions approximately 200,000 years ago.

Stromboli remains one of the popular tourist destinations in Italy, thereby helping with the tourism industry.

You can also find the island featured in popular works of fiction, such as 'The Journey to the Centre of the Earth' and 'The Lord of the Rings.'

It’s not surprising that Italy is the setting for several reputable fictional works. The seaport was once a thriving area during the Italian Renaissance. Music, art, literature, architecture and other art forms flourished as the Renaissance movement took Italian culture to new heights.

But alongside, Italy also struggled with political depravity, amorality, cynicism, pragmaticism, and all kinds of uncouth behaviour. Prostitution thrived along with other social evils, and Italy was almost on the verge of self-destruction.

It’s crucial to note that Shakespeare highlighted his depraved aspect of Italy in ‘Othello’ as well. Iago’s character is a prime example. He does not treat his wife as a human being but more like property. He feels slighted by Othello because he believes that he might have slept with his wife.

But his anger and jealousy do not arise from the possibility of Othello taking advantage of his wife, but from him sleeping with someone he considers his property. As a result, he believes that they would be even if he could sleep with Desdemona.

Therefore, Shakespeare has been able to bring out two sides of Italy in ‘Othello’ – the flourishing and the depraved.

However, Italy of the twenty-first century is entirely different from the sixteenth century. It is now known worldwide as the home to great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, thinkers like Machiavelli and Gramsci, and writers like Boccaccio and Calvino.

In Conclusion,

Italy connects the two words – ‘Othello’ and Stromboli. At first glance, the renowned Shakespearean play and one of the most active volcanoes in Italy might not have much in common. But upon closer inspection, you can equate the events of the play progressing like a volcano about to erupt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Islands Are Part Of The Aeolian Islands?

Ans: The Aeolian Islands are part of the volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily. They consist of seven islands, including Lipari (the largest island), Stromboli, Panarea, Vulcano, Filicudi, Salina and Alicudi. This group is termed the Aeolian Islands after the Wind God, Aeolus.

Why Did Shakespeare Choose Venice In ‘Othello’?

Ans: Venice, and Italy in general, was a popular choice of setting for Shakespeare. Experts believe that his choice might be based on drawing the reader's interest in his plays since Italy was a popular tourist destination for the British. Other scholars believe he used Italy as his setting to freely criticise political issues that would have lost him favour with the royal family if he had based his plays in England.

Which Famous Literature Refers To The Island Of Stromboli?

Ans: The island of Stromboli has found a permanent place in Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth,’ where the setting for the conclusion is Stromboli. Furthermore, according to Clyde S. Kilby, J.R.R. Tolkien based Mordor’s Mt. Doom on Mount Stromboli.

What Contrast Can You Draw Between Venice And Cyprus?

Ans: The play ‘Othello’ takes place in two locations – Venice in Italy and the island of Cyprus. In Venice, art and culture thrive. Law-abiding citizens maintain peace, and Othello enjoys a sweet love affair with Desdemona before marrying her. But Cyprus, located on an island far away, is the opposite in terms of civility since it is detached from civilisation. Here, jealousy and deceit result in Othello taking his wife's life and then his own.

Can You Find Instances Of Similarity Between Characters In The Play ‘Othello’ And Stromboli?

Ans: Stromboli is an active volcano that has been erupting continuously for the past 2000 years. Now, several characters in the play ‘Othello’ exhibit a volcanic temper. Iago, the main antagonist of the play, boils in jealousy because of Othello and Cassio. His plot results in Othello being suspicious of his wife’s fidelity and Cassio’s loyalty. In the end, Othello’s jealous fit erupts like a volcano, resulting in his own doom.


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