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Becoming ChristianRace, Reformation, and Early Modern English Romance$
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Dennis Austin Britton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823257140

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823257140.001.0001

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Transformative and Restorative Romance

Transformative and Restorative Romance

Re-“turning” Othello and Locating Christian Identity

(p.112) 4. Transformative and Restorative Romance
Becoming Christian

Dennis Austin Britton

Fordham University Press

Chapter 4 argues that William Shakespeare’s Othello both reveals the work of genre and geography in the formation of religious identities and enacts a debate about the uses of romance’s two competing goals: to transform and to restore identity. Othello is patterned after Ruggiero in Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso; Ruggiero is a convert to Christianity who, like Othello, marries an Italian woman. Like Orlando Furioso, Othello employs the infidel-conversion motif, which aims to erase the significance of racial, geographical, and cultural difference. Iago, however, seeks to reverse the effects of the infidel-conversion motif in order to restore Othello to what presumably is his prior Muslim identity. Because romances usually figure marriage and baptism as sacraments that work complementarily to create Christian identity, Iago aims to disrupt the marriage bond between Othello and his wife; dissolving Othello and Desdemona’s marriage undoes Othello’s Christian identity.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, Othello, Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, romance, genre, geography, religious conversion, Muslim identity, Christian identity

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