Shakespeare's play Othello has many different views on the behavior of people in society and what people deem socially acceptable. From interracial marriage and mixed race people to how people feel about their spouse cheating and how each gender is supposed to act. Othello and Desdemona being in an interracial marriage and having the possibility of mixed race children, and how Desdemona's father reacts to their marriage; how Othello deals with being cheated on. Cassio in a relationship with Bianca, a prostitute and more.
At the time this takes place, circa 1600, interracial marriage was highly frowned upon, in fact even in some places it was illegal, and could be punishable by death. In Othello Othello and Desdemona, Othello being a Moor and Desdemona being Eastern European, are married, one would think that Desdemona's father, Brabantio, would be ecstatic; Brabantio wasn't pleased with this choice, in fact he was livid, even yelling at Othello, "Oh, you foul thief, where have you hidden my daughter"(Shakespeare 43)? In fact some believe there was "No other text of the time has an intimate meeting between an older black man with a younger white woman"(Zabidi 28). However, during this day and age most people would look the other way and just be happy two people are in love; the color of their skin meaning nothing in the scheme of things, however in the 1600's, as stated earlier, people would be executed for this type of behaviour.
In in the 1600's interracial children, children of mixed race, were looked at in disgust, and faced extreme prejudice. They were considered subhuman in some cultures, especially in 1600's. There is still scrutiny against mixed race people now however it is significantly less than it was in the 1600's. In the 1950's there was a group known as the "Carmel Indians" who lived in Magoffin county, Kentucky, all of these people were of mixed origins, "The group look mixed; a few of them are nearly white, but most are identifiable by their brown or tan skin; many of them have curly black hair, and many have straight black hair. Few, if any, really look like Indians, but identifying negroid features are not usual"(Price 282). This mix of people were scrutinized and in some cases even murdered, most lived in Magoffin due to being pushed out of "normal" society, these people, some still live there today, but have slowly spread out and moved around, due to the more accepting nature of people in this time. However in 1600 some people were killed for being mixed race. However being mixed race was not the only thing you could be executed for in the 1600's.
In the 1600's people viewed cheating very differently then they do in the 2000's and late. In the 1600's most would look the other way, woman at least, where in men would be extremely upset and even go onto beat their wife. Some would even have their wife executed for cheating; in Puritan colonies, circa 1620, people were executed for this very thing, one example was in Massachusetts, circa 1640, was Mary Latham who was executed for adultery after her affair was discovered. Othello even goes on to threaten to strangle Desdemona after Iago manipulates him into believing Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. One of the main reasons Othello is lead to believe Desdemona is unfaithful is due to Iago, who most believe is honest. "If lago is honest,' then, by his reports, the affair between Desdemona and Cassio cannot be anything but true" (Zabidi 40). Othello after being made aware of the affair not only beats and murders Desdemona, but also orders the death of Cassio. If Othello was to be cheated on in the 21st century he would most likely be upset, but not driven to the extreme of considering murder, during the time divorce had a terrible stigma surrounding it so that was not considered an option. Now divorce is not frowned upon as much meaning that then the option may have been murder or suicide, now the option is divorce. Not only was marriage different in the 1600's gender ideology was too.
Gender can be considered toxic and suffocating in the 21st century, however it was significantly worse in the 17th century. For example "Women are regarded as their fathers' property"(Baraliu 12) until married, once married they were their husbands property, which may lead to why Brabantio, Desdemona's father, was so enraged at the fact that Othello and Desdemona were married without even notifying him, as it was not up to Desdemona who she married but up to her father, as during the time it was considered his "right" to give her away. In the modern world, that "right" would be considered degrading and sexist, perhaps even illegal. People are not property, one does not give away another human.
Cassio and Bianca are together, Bianca a prostitute; Cassio an important soldier, they love each other. Most people would look at this in disgust, even now. An important official loving a prostitute may not be unheard of now but it is definitely frowned upon. The diseases that prostitutes can carry are extremely deadly and can ruin a life; however Cassio and Bianca are happy together. Most people both then and now cannot even fathom this; they do not understand how it would work.
Ultimately people and society are complex and the societal differences between the 1600's and present day are vastly different. in roughly 400 years people have become much more tolerant and understanding in how people feel; people now tend to judge people on their personality rather than skin color or something the person cannot control. From affairs and gender roles to interracial people and marriage people have changed a lot, tolerance is much more widespread. Society changes over time and is ever evolving; for better or for worse. Shakespeare intricately displays, in his time, controversial and societal issues through Othello and Iago. Prejudice runs rampid in Othello's life. The world is a everchanging place, and people must be ready, tolerant, and understanding of others unlike Othello and the other people of Venice.