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Authority is a legitimate or socially approved use of power which one person or a group

holds over another. The exploration of authority is evident in the Shakespearean play
Othello and Pauline Hansons Maiden Speech. According to Othello and Pauline Hanson,
authority is the right to give orders and make others obey. The reflection of authority is
subdivided in the texts through hierarchical and racial authority, including the authority
of emotions on an individual.

The exploration of hierarchical authority is portrayed in Othello through the utilisation of


military rankings and in terms of social status. A factor of Othello’s authority is the deep
held respect in society towards him due to the experiences he has overcome as a person
and as a general ‘ From year to year-the battles, sieges, fortunes that I have passed…Of
being taken by insolent foe and sold to slavery….’ Othello’s past deeds as a slave and his
victories as general present an authoritarian and influential figure in society and is a
contributing factor to his place on the hierarchy ‘Let him do his spite, my services which I
have done the signiory shall out tongue his complaints’(Example of Othello’s influence
from his past deeds/services). The relationship between Othello, Cassio and Iago
presented by Shakespeare draw attention to the rank and status of military officers and
the effect their titles as soldiers has on their attitudes towards one another. Through the
hierarchy of the military rankings, Othello is placed at the top, holding his position as
general, maintaining great responsibility and supreme authority due to his experience and
post. ‘Sir, the duke does greet does greet you, general’ (Cassio to Othello). ‘It is
Brabantio, general’ (Iago to Othello). Through the dialogues between Othello and his
lower ranking officers, it is evident that a hierarchical structure is maintained, as he is
referred to only as ‘sir, and general’. Likewise Cassio, the lieutenant is sumpreme to the
ensign, Iago, in terms of military rankings, which is evidently portrayed in their
conversations ‘Sir, would she give you so much of her lips..’ ‘Good lieutenant’. Military
values and virtues represent a code of conduct different from civilian laws and customs
and the changes in military standards and practices of the 16th century are reflected in the
play. The military regime is evident in the play and is constitutional to the make up of
hierarchical authority.

Likewise, Pauline Hanson’s Maiden speech is reflective of hierarchical authority through


techniques such as anecdotes and repetition. Being a politician, a member for Oxley,
thereby a figure of supreme authority in the Oxley community. ‘How proud I am to be
here as the independent member for Oxley’. Through the use of anecdotes ‘My
experience as a mother of four children, sole parent, businesswoman…’ Pauline Hanson
is able to relate to the typical mainstream working class Australians presenting hardships
faced and overcome, placing her on top of the hierarchy with experience similar to
Othello. The repetition of commands portrayed in Hanson’s speech emphasises her
authority, as she has worked her way up in political ranks to now be in a position to
express her views on the government, including what they must do. ‘The government
must do it all to help reduce interest rates…’ ‘The government must be imaginative
enough to become involved…. ’ It is evident that through her experience, conforming
with Australian society and expressing her views in a commanding fashion, she is an
influential figure maintaining authority on the hierarchy.
Shakespeare characterised Othello, a black general to maintain predominant authority in
the play and in doing so was able to explore the aspect of racial authority. The white
skinned characters Iago and Roderigo refer to Othello using racial epithets ‘The Moor’
and animalistic imagery ‘Barbary Horse’ and sexual imagery ‘…old black ram tupping a
white ewe.’ The references used towards Othello used by other characters helps
exemplify the authority of race. The references to animals convey a sense of the laws of
nature which is imposed on all characters within the play. Iago is the spokeperson for the
dominant view point ‘hatred is only skin deep’ held by the white society of England, that
black people were considered sensual, lustful creatures more beast than human. Therefore
through Iago, Shakespeare is able to relate to his audience and represent the racial views
contemporary to its time. In Act 1, Iago describes Othello as ‘the devil’ (1.1.92). In Act 5,
Emilia refers to Othello as ‘The blacker devil’ (5.2.132), ‘Though art a devil’ (5.2.133).
For centuries in literature of a white culture, black has represented negative qualities and
forces, including evil, ugliness, sin, the devil, hell and death. During the time Othello was
being written, the black population increased and Queen Elizabeth 1 issued a
proclamation that black African residents to be deported from the country. This was a
decision made purely by negative racial bias, shared by the white society of England at
the time. The play Othello represents the racial authority comtemporary to its time, and
the use of racial authority within the play aids the portrayal of dominance possessed by
the white skinned characters over the black Othello.

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