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Othello Racism Essay
Racism In Othello
Othello Shakespeare has written many classic play writes that in time people fall in love with is literature repeatedly. Othello, is one of the many classics that he wrote and perhaps may be one of the most controversial play writes that involve racism, betrayal, and love. The story goes in depth about interracial relationships and the status of a black man in a white privileged societies’ uprising. Othello’s first man in command, Iago and other citizens in the Venice spout racial slurs throughout
European society while living in England through his play Othello which is unique in the sense that it features a non-white hero as the protagonist. Although race is not at the center of Othello, it plays a pivotal role in deciding the course of the play and explains the actions and motives of the characters. Shakespeare’s culture consisted of a homogenous pool of residents who all very likely looked like one another, so seeing someone like Othello, whose appearance is quite different from theirs, was
Racism And Racism In Othello
of Shakespeare’s play “Othello” is the numerous references to Othello’s race, not only by Iago, but by other characters as well. Othello is one of the first black heroes in English literature. He is a general, he advanced to a position of power and influence regardless of his race and his status as a foreigner in Venice. Despite Othello's role in the army as a distinguished soldier and leader, he is nonetheless a victim of racism from the very beginning of the play. The racism focuses on his marriage
Othello or The Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare is a tragedy of race. Shakespeare creates a hero who does not fall under a racist stereotype, Othello is a nobleman, a decorated soldier, very well respected by his men (with the exception of Iago). One of the few characteristics that harms, rather than helps him, is that he is dark-skinned in a society utterly dominated by men prejudiced against those with dark skin. At the start of the play, he appears confident that, "My parts, my title, and
Shakespeare’s Othello: an intense tragedy of an admired military general, who is driven to kill his wife and himself out of jealously. Othello is of Black African descent, which separates him from many in his Venetian world. Throughout the play, Othello’s race is seen as a negative aspect of his character, which is used by the antagonist, Iago, as a weak point to initiate chaos. The play depicts racism and uses the influence of radicalized perspective to create a tragedy. Shakespeare created Othello to be
recently as 2009. Shakespeare's Othello illustrates this with how the Venetians treat the protagonist, Othello. He is treated as not only equal but in many cases superior and senior. Racism in Othello is remarkable, because of its absence, yet we find it challenging to hear shakespeare's words without projecting our experience of racism onto them. Shakespeare's Othello is remarkably tolerant of racial differences that would soon come to shame the western world. Othello, “the moor” is held in high esteem
Examples Of Racism In Othello
In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, Examples of racism are visible throughout the story. That racism is geared toward Othello who is a Moor from Africa and general of the Venetian army. The character of Othello is a nobleman and a very respectable general in the army but, nonetheless, there are three crucial structural elements of Shakespeare’s play are Othello’s blackness, his marriage to the white Desdemona, and his killing of her. Throughout the play, Othello struggles with personal conflicts
Racism In Othello Essay
The role of racism is evident throughout Othello, however, in this drama it is clear that other issues collide with the aspect of racism. The position of love, lust, and hate plays an enormous component in Othello. Right off the bat the reader’s discover that Othello and Desdemona are secretly married. Iago characterizes this love as “unnatural” because no white woman could ever love a black man unless witchcraft was involved. Also, Brabantio praises Othello for being a heroic general, but despises
Racism In Othello Analysis
of Racism in Othello.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, Oct. 1993, p. 304. In this article, the author relates the idea of primal scene to racism in “Othello”. Primal scene is a psychoanalysis theory by Sigmund Freud. This theory claims once a child imagines or sees their parents having sexual relations they will be unable to repress this image from reappearing in their mind. The author relates this theory to the play “Othello” by
Racism in Shakespeare's Othello
Racism in Othello Racism seems to be a big concern in Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello. Because the hero of the play is an outsider, a Moor, we have an idea how blacks were regarded in England, in Elizabethan times. There are many references that bring about the issue of racism from the very beginning to the end. In the tragedy, where Othello is coming from is not mentioned, yet through the descriptions the reader is informed that he belongs to one of the Eastern nationalities such as African
In the play Othello, William Shakespeare discusses some conversations that can be rather racist. For example, in Act III Scene III, Othello adds, “Farewell, farewell! If more thou dost perceive, let me know more. Set on thy wife to observe. Leave me, Iago.” Another example is used in Act IV Scene III, Desdemona says, “My mother had a maid called Barbary. She was in love; and he she loved proved mad and did forsake her. She has a song of “Willow”;.”Last example used is in Act V Scene II. “And say
Theme Of Racism In Othello
Throughout history, those who experienced racism were often not given proper representation of their struggles in literature. However, during the Elizabethan period, racism began to be acknowledged in society more frequently. Shakespeare’s play, Othello, shows the struggles of an African general, Othello, as he faces prejudice by an envious soldier, Iago. Shakespeare often focused on the stereotypes in Elizabethan society to depict the character Othello, while giving him a personality that did not
Racism And Desire In Othello
Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragedy of a Venetian black moor Othello who fails to understand the conspiracy of a white man, Iago who destroys his nuptial life for his mere suspicion that Othello has immoral relationship with his wife Emilia and makes Othello kill his ‘unfaithful’ wife Desdemona. The present article explores the unconscious play of racism and image of black man in the unconscious mind of the white man as Othello is the only black man in the play. Fanonian and Freudian perspectives
Victim Of Racism In Othello
Othello is one of the Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy which illustrates a tragic downfall of a black protagonist, Othello. Although in the play, Othello is a socially secured man working as a military general, his social status seems to be cancelled out by his colour. In the society of Venice, Othello is referred to as an outsider not only because of his cultural difference but also his colour, Therefore, in the play, Othello is depicted as a victim of racism even though he himself does not seem to
Shakespeare’s Othello depicts the downfall of a highly respected war general and explores themes such as jealousy, gender, and deception. The exploration of these themes evinces the racial, cultural, and social climate of Venice. The primary philosophies of the seventeenth century about race are a substantial part of Othello’s doubt and insecurity, which ultimately lead to his tragic demise. The encounter between worlds with differing values and ideas plays a considerable role in the context of Othello. There
Othello Racism Analysis
In William Shakespeare's Othello, racism can be seen as a common thing throughout the dialogues in the play. Almost every single character have made racial slurs towards Othello. The protagonist, Othello is seen as an isolated individual from the rest of Venice due to his skin colour. Othello feels insecure about his race. The antagonist, Iago is able to take advantage of Othello’s insecurities and weak emotions by endlessly convinces him about Desdemona’s infidelity. Racism in his society and Othello’s
Othello: Racism Essay
Othello: Racism Just how serious is the problem of racial prejudice in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello? Is it pervasive or incidental? This essay intends to answer questions on this subject. Blanche Coles in Shakespeare’s Four Giants maintains that the racial discrimination in the play may be overstated by critics: In the first scene, Roderigo has referred to Othello as “thick lips.” No other character in the play attributes any such negroid features to Othello, and it
Racism In Othello Race is a critical component in Othello . It is one of the numerous variables that Othello feels makes him a pariah, somebody who is on the outside of social and political force. There are numerous issues that he needed to encounter. One of them is that he is Black. Iago takes a shot at this by recommending that his being of shading will affect his cooperations with others, including Desdemona. The way that Othello is dark is critical in a few ways since he feels this is a piece
1600s, England went through a time called “Elizabethan Era.” During this time, racism was common. People of color were called “savage.” However, in Othello by William Shakespeare, had issues about race. Throughout the play, we see a difficult relation between Othello, a black man, Desdemona, a white woman and the everyone. They weren’t happy that Desdemona and Othello were together. The crime that was committed by Othello was called a pressure group because he was pressured by Iago words. However,
English II Honors 21 May 2018 Racism Yesterday and Today People discriminate for many different reasons; fear, envy, power, or the need to segregate themselves from others. Racial prejudice is a poisonous fruit of racism, and it turns lives into hell. In Othello, examples of racism are common throughout the dialog. Racism is directed toward Othello, a brave soldier from Africa and supreme commander of the Venetian army. Othello and Desdemona find racism unleashed upon them, in the form of
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A+ Student Essay
Discuss the role that race plays in Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello. How do the other characters react to Othello’s skin color or to the fact that he is a Moor? How does Othello see himself?
Othello incurs resentment for many reasons. He is from a land that Venetians consider exotic and mysterious, he has had unique adventures, and his military accomplishments far exceed those of the men around him. The most visible indicator of his outsider status is also the one that provokes the most poisonous responses: Othello is a Black man in white Venice. Whenever characters such as Iago feel jealousy, fear, or simple hatred toward Othello, they give vent to their feelings by using racist slurs. For much of the play, Othello resists, ignores, or seems indifferent to the racism that dogs him. But eventually he internalizes Iago’s and others’ idea that his Blackness makes him barbarous. This belief, as much as his conviction of Desdemona’s guilt, allows Othello to kill his wife. When he turns the race weapon against himself, he dooms both himself and Desdemona.
Among Iago’s many repulsive qualities, his eagerness to hurl racial epithets is perhaps the most shocking. In an attempt to enlist Brabanzio in his anti-Othello cause, Iago refers to the general as “the Moor,” “the devil,” and “a Barbary horse.” These terms reduce Othello to a crude stereotype, turning him into a villain and an animal. When Iago tells Brabanzio that “an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe,” he demeans a passionate and loving relationship between two intelligent adults by characterizing Othello as a mindless rutting animal who has soiled the pure Desdemona with his lust. Iago hopes to disgust Brabanzio with this animal imagery and with the contrast between Othello’s Blackness and Desdemona’s whiteness.
Like Iago, other Venetians resort to racial slurs to deal with their own feelings of inferiority or powerlessness. Roderigo, on the defensive and trying to present himself and Iago as a unified front, casually refers to Othello as “the thick-lips.” This epithet is both an attempt to undermine Othello’s military achievements with a cheap stereotype as well as a way to pit Roderigo and Iago’s physical similarity against Othello’s unfamiliar appearance. Brabanzio, outraged at his daughter’s elopement, expresses disbelief that Desdemona could shun the curly-haired young men of Venice in favor of Othello’s “sooty bosom.” Brabanzio channels his own insecurity about his daughter’s loyalty to him by expressing sneering disgust about Othello’s race, implying that Othello’s Blackness is a dirty coating that threatens to soil Desdemona’s purity.
While Othello is barraged by racism, he manages to resist its pull for some time. But in Act IV, he crumbles. Othello discusses his race throughout the play—usually in response to something a white Venetian says—but here he makes his first negative reference to it, suggesting that perhaps his Blackness is to blame for his lack of conversational ability. It is a quiet moment, but a hugely significant one. It marks a turning point: Othello has fallen victim to the same racist logic (or illogic) that rules the thinking of people such as Iago and Roderigo. Like those men, Othello wants to place the blame for his feelings of inferiority somewhere and winds up laying that blame not where it belongs (in this case, at Iago’s feet), but on his own skin. The floodgates have opened, and now Othello is in danger of believing all of Iago’s racist nonsense. In the next lines, Othello compares himself to a toad living in a dungeon, as if he has begun to suspect that his Blackness makes him a loathsome animal, somehow less than human.
Only when Othello buys into the absurd idea that his race inherently makes him dangerous does he begin to creep toward the possibility of doing violence to his wife. When he sees himself through society’s eyes, as a barbaric interloper, Othello begins to despise himself, and it is that self-hatred that allows him to kill what he loves most.
Read more about the weaponization of race in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give .
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In the book, Othello, by William Shakespeare, we see a big impact of racism and racial prejudice. Othello shows a lot of this and how it gets in the way by restraining love in society. He is a black man who is also a great and successful war soldier. He dedicates himself to serve society’s goals by fighting for his country. Even though, Othello is a Moor, he is the most hardworking and the most respected. When it comes to his love life with Desdemona, he is very different. This truly affects Othello’s life and the structure of the course throughout the plot.
- 1 Prejudice in Othello
- 2 Racism in Othello
Prejudice in Othello
Racism in othello.
Throughout the book, racism just keeps getting worse for Othello. Iago doesn’t seem to stand him at all because of the fact that he’s a Moor and that he’s black. Iago believes that an African American person person cannot be successful or good in any way. He also believed that Othello couldn’t marry a beautiful woman who was white. Iago is angered when he finds out that they get married. He bugs out and uses racist language. Iago uses a term to abuse Othello as a “black ram. This shows his true hatred for Othello and black people in general.
As Othello’s awareness of others in society and what the people actually think of him gets to him, he isn’t surprised at all. He begins to realize that everyone in his society actually does think less of him because of who is as a Moor. He sees that Iago was a bad and racist person. The insecurity about his race and the realization that he is different than every person in his society leads to his hatred and anger to really come out. This anger really gets to Othello in which he kills Desdemona. He felt less upon himself and started to lose his self-confidence as a person. He comes to conclusion that Cassio would’ve been a better husband towards Desdemona because he was white and that he was considered a “ladies man. Othello thinks that he was never meant to marry Desdemona.
Throughout Othello’s life, he was greatly affected by race and racial prejudice. He changed as a person because of this and many bad actions took place while realizing it. Othello shows a great role of a strong and loyal soldier until he realizes what society really thinks about him. His non acceptance in society leads to the killing of his wife.
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Essay Service Examples Literature Othello
Racism and Race In Othello by Shakespeare: Essay
- Topics: Othello William Shakespeare
- Words: 1519
- This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.
Racism and prejudice, two of the most devastating elements that is engraved into every society and civilization since the beginning of history are a topic of debate and discussion. Racism, a word that looks quite simple on paper, but holds so much more meaning when looking at the whole picture. Racism is something that appears in many shapes and forms directed at those of deemed inferior to those of the opposite race. Although the worlds society has progressed in the last couple of decades, racism still continues to exist as it has in the past. Most literature is inspired by the overall theme of being human and being able to make mistakes but, this does not exclude the theme of racism. The Elizabethan Era was the most obvious time period where the discrimination of race was very evident. The famous Shakespearean play, Othello, is an example of literature that displays the effects of racism. Therefore, Othello is a tragedy that deals with racial conflict rather than other works that deal with the feeling of jealousy that comes from being the opposite race, or the feeling of being outcasted due to being the minority. The play shows racism that places a restrain on love, and also destroys the happiness that one feels when faced with prejudice from fellow peers.
In Othello, the protagonist is a successful, brave soldier from Africa who is also given the title of supreme commander of the Venetian army. Although he is only a Moor, Othello is dedicated to serving his society. When it comes to serving his country, Othello can be seen as a significant and physically powerful figure respected by those around him. However, his deep rooted insecurity of his race makes it difficult to enjoy the sacrament of holy matrimony. Othello is surrounded by the countrymen who do not wish to see the interracial couple that is Othello and Desdemona.
The duration of the play consists of verbalized racism represented by the words ‘Moor’ and ‘Black’, these names are not associated with anyone other than Othello creating this divide and feeling of being an outsider. In the beginning of the play, Othello’s own name is not used when he is introduced, in fact he is instead called ‘thick-lips’ and ‘an old black man’. As the play develops the audience can see Iago’s growing hatred towards Othello’s race. In Iago’s mind a black soldier cannot be as successful as a white soldier, a black man is not worthy or deserving of marrying a white woman. When Iago hears the news of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage he becomes enraged, spitting out racist language in response. In the Elizabethan Era, marrying behind a father’s back was unacceptable, however when it is revealed that Desdemona married a black man, this aggravates the situation further. As Othello ‘steals’ Brabantio’s daughter from him he furiously says to Roderigo, ‘O, that you had had her!’. Brabantio would have been more pleased with a marriage to a man he did not approve of compared to a marriage to a black man.
Due to all of the damage that Othello caused, his reputation of being a good soldier is destroyed. Othello’s fellow soldiers were able to see pass his race in some aspects due to the respect of his kills, however when the truth of the secret marriage is revealed the respect Othello had once had is gone. Othello is angered by the idea of being judged merely by the color of his skin.
It remains clear that Brabantio will never accept the marriage between Desdemona and Othello. In Brabantio’s eyes nothing good can come from the Moor. Othello’s good soldier illusion is shattered due to him being another race. To him, if Othello is black then Desdemona and his love cannot be real and thus is questioned. Brabantio is so blinded by Othello’s skin color that he believes the only way that Desdemona could be in love with Othello is if she is bewitched. From this idea Brabinito proclaims:
O thou thief, where hast thou stow’d my daughter? Damn’d as thou art, thou hast enchanted her; For I’ll refer me to all things of sense, Save your time! We can take care of your essay Proper editing and formatting Free revision, title page, and bibliography Flexible prices and money-back guarantee Place Order If she in chains of magic were not bound, Whether a maid so tender, fair and happy, So opposite to marriage she be shunned.
When Desdemona is given the chance to respond the audience is keyed in on how she truly feels about her husband’s race. Desdemona admits that she is not necessarily impressed by Othello’s appearance but instead is with him more for his mind replying ‘I saw Othello’s visage in his mind’.
When reviewing the play, it is easy to see the root of the conflict was due to the matrimony of Desdemona and Othello. Othello’s greatest fault is marrying the white Desdemona. The fault between the two is not the love and affection that they share, but the fault was not taking the impact of his race into consideration. It is evident for the beginning of the play that Othello is outcasted, however the marriage sparks the flame of racism. Once the marriage is revealed this fuels Iago’s hate fire even more. When the position of lieutenant goes to Othello rather than him he becomes infuriated. This rank shift is the what Iago bases his revenge on. He cannot stand the idea of having someone he see lesser than him being in charge. This sparks jealousy in Iago’s heart and from then on his sole mission is to destroy Othello. At this point, the thing that pushed Iago into setting his plan into motion was Othello’s blackness and now deemed devil image. From these ideals, Iago believes that Othello and Desdemona’s relationship will end quickly, mainly from his doing.
This feeling of jealousy ties in with the film ‘O’, a Shakespeare adaptation filmed by Tim Blake Nelson. In Nelson’s adaptation the character of Iago is portrayed by the character Hugo. Hugo is the son of the basketball coach and during the course of the film the audience can see that his father prefers Odin over his own son. This favoritism influences Hugo to always seeking for attention and approval from his father and peers. Odin is the ‘token’ black boy of school and ultimately is the star of the basketball team. Hugo’s true jealousy begins when Odin overlooks him for a position he believes he deserves. Instead, Odin bestowes MVP to an underclassmen, Michael. Just like Iago in the play Othello, Hugo burns with jealousy and anger to such a high degree that he is willing to do anything to knock Odin off his throne and become ‘king’ of the court. Just as in the play, Hugo uses manipulation to betray anyone who stands in his way of revenge.
The first step in Iago’s revenge plan is to team up with Roderigo, who is undoubtedly is in love with Desdemona. In his speech to Roderigo, Iago comes to the conclusion that Roderigo’s feelings for Desdemona will fade and that she too will eventually get fed up with her betrothed. He supports this theory by saying Desdemona will get bored of the Moor’s stories and intelligence and that she will settle for his looks, seeing as she did not marry him for his looks in the first place. As mentioned previously, Iago’s plans are purely motivated by his deep set prejudice towards Othello. Iago believes he will achieve his goal of ruining Othello, if he can make Othello suspicious of his own wife. Iago only feels that he can be successful due to his vigorous feeling of inferiority over Othello. In doing, Othello is cast-off and Iago is able to turn everyone against the Moor. Once Othello is alienated he comes to the conclusion that Desdemona is cheating on him, just as Iago wanted. Othello may lack the confidence of his marriage due to his own ethnicity and culture. Othello knows that the color of his skin does not match the ‘pure’ white color of his white Venetian companions, thus creating a distrust in his relationship because he feels as though he is not good enough for her.
Earlier in the play, Othello’s reputation was upstanding, Othello was a honorable and trustworthy demeanor, in other words he was viewed as good by everyone around him, despite being Black. Once Othello kills Desdemona his reputation is ruined and his race is put on display. Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s servant, never brings up the subject of Othello’s race yet, once Desdemona is murdered at his hands Emilia cannot help but spit hatred at him: ‘O, the more angel she, And you the blacker devil!’. Othello’s blackness, his marriage to Desdemona, a white woman, and his killing of his wife all coincide creating the perfect formula for a Shakespearean tragedy. Othello’s killing of his wife relates to their marriage and their marriage relates to his being black, this all comes full circle.
Racism in the play consequently ruined the marriage of the two lovers. If a society has any form of hatred, especially racism, it can affect the lives of people, including their love and it ultimately allows people to ruin the happiness of others.
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Jealousy is the main theme in the play Othello where Shakespeare portrays it using different characters throughout the play. The male protagonist Othello who is a bold and brave dark person selected as military general of Venice by the Duke of Venice. Female protagonist Desdemona is in love with Othello and is married to him. Her father is not happy with the marriage as he thinks Othello is not fair enough to marry her and does not deserve to marry...
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“At the heart of any tragedy lies the conflict.” It is undoubtedly true to say that this statement unquestionably applies to William Shakespeare’s Othello, where through the use of a plethora of language techniques, Othello’s internal conflict is effectively conveyed to the reader. Although Othello holds numerous tragedies, it is seen that in every one of these cases, characters fight within themselves trying to convince themselves of what is right. Throughout the play, we see Othello having many internal conflicts...
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Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello explores how the frailty of the human condition can engender dire consequences, and significantly contributes to the play’s relevance across changing societies. Othello’s vulnerability causes his susceptibility to overwhelming jealousy, which compels his transformation from a noble to wicked character. The overpowering nature of jealousy caused the internal collapse of Othello, evoking his descent from a virtuous general to a volatile murderer. Human frailty is further depicted through Iago’s deception, which instigates Othello’s conflicted identities. Iago’s used...
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Effective texts contain recognisable narrative tropes that facilitate new understandings of our world and ourselves. This is evident in William Shakespeare’s play, Othello, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby which both portray new understandings of the tragic hero narrative trope. A tragic hero is a character who begins of a noble status or of great virtue. Though this character is pre-eminently great, he or she is not perfect and has a significant character flaw or hamartia. This tragic...
“Othello” is a play about revenge. The revenge that takes part in the play is so deep and continues throughout the play. The revenge in the play “Othello” is all tied in with jealousy. The only thing Othello wanted was to live a happy life with his wife. There are so many themes in Othello. The most important theme in “Othello” is revenge. Revenge drives the entire play, it is what the play is based off of. Revenge is lead...
It was an exciting time in the 1600s as the famous tragedy Othello was written by William Shakespeare was introduced to the world. Since then, many appropriations of the famous tragedy have been created. A Tim Nelson appropriation of the play Othello into a film from 2001 took a modern-day approach, allowing the play to suit the audience of the 21st century. Although both texts show significant differences being the time frames, many similarities are also evident, exemplified through two...
In the story “Othello”, Shakespeare created a story of 2 men, the villain Iago and the hero Othello. Villain because we tend to see Iago deceives everyone in an elaborate attempt to bring down fictional characters. The premise behind Iago’s deceit is targeted on jealousy of a fictional character that is triggered once Iago isn’t promoted to lieutenant rather than Cassio is given the work. Combined with the racial hate and his suspicions, Othello supposedly slept with his wife Emilia,...
Shakespeare constructs Othello to be the perfect example of how jealousy degrades one’s identity and morals. Jealousy deconstructs the rationalism and nobility that he once upheld. Illustrating his fall from grace, succumbing to the archetypal possessive, patricidal husband that dominated Elizabethan society. Shakespeare portrays how jealousy is an innate emotion that can be triggered in anyone; Lago is used to play ‘devil’s advocate’, acting as a catalyst for the downfall of even the most stable relationship. As he blurs the...
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Anti-Racism in Shakespeare’s Othello Essay
Introduction, brabantio’s case as an example of shakespeare’s anti-racism, racism as an attribute of a villain, could othello be a racist play.
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Shakespeare’s Othello is a play that touches upon the issues that have not lost their relevance throughout the centuries. While in developed countries nowadays, racial and gender inequalities are widely criticized, they are considered the norm in the Venetian society of Othello . Shakespeare challenges these norms, mainly through his portrayals of Othello and Emilia. Overall, Shakespeare’s ideas make Othello a play well ahead of its time.
Numerous characters throughout the play demonstrate implicit racial attitudes, and Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, is one of those. In Act 1, Scene 2, he expresses his disbelief in the genuineness of his daughter’s feelings for Othello and states that the latter must have seduced her using some sort of magic. Witchcraft practice was considered a serious offense in medieval Europe; hence, Brabantio’s accusations are indicative of his extremely negative perception of Othello. Brabantio concludes the scene with the phrase “for if such actions may have passage free, Bond slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be” (Shakespeare 23). His racism is most evident when he expresses his disgust for Othello’s appearance at the Duke’s palace, angrily exclaiming “to fall in love with what she feared to look on!” (Shakespeare 30). While many characters in the play make brief remarks, which are indicative of their racial attitudes, Desdemona’s father is the most persistent in his ignorance.
For Shakespeare, Brabantio’s views are representative of the racial prejudice of the society in general, rather than of his personal feelings towards the protagonist. Othello, telling his story of falling in love with Desdemona, states that “her father loved me, oft invited me” (Shakespeare 32). It proves that Brabantio does not hate Othello, but he can not see him as an equal and definitely can not fathom his daughter loving someone like him. His denial most likely comes from his upbringing and conservative values.
As Desdemona’s father can be considered the voice of the conservative elites in Venice, Shakespeare’s portrayal of this character can shed light on his take on racial issues. Two-character juxtapositions can help to understand the author’s position. Brabantio can be compared to Othello as they both present their points to the Duke. A less obvious, but equally important juxtaposition is the one between Brabantio and the Duke. Much like Desdemona’s father, the Duke belongs to the ruling class of the society, but he exhibits an entirely different attitude and behavior.
From the moment Brabantio enters the palace, he can barely control himself, interrupting other speakers and throwing repetitive accusations at Othello (Shakespeare 28-30). His argument lacks logical reasoning and is based purely on his perception of race. On the other hand, Othello’s story is cohesive and believable; he is humble and respectful of his opponent. Moreover, he expresses willingness to sacrifice his career and even life if Desdemona does not confirm his story (Shakespeare 31). While the Duke shows sympathy for Brabantio’s cause, he demonstrates a lack of racial bias and doubts the accusations, saying “to vouch this is no proof, without wider and more overt test” (Shakespeare 31). When Desdemona confirms the true nature of her feelings for Othello, Brabantio’s witchcraft theory is proven wrong, and he has no other choice but to accept Othello as his son-in-law (Shakespeare 36). The outcome hardly pleases Desdemona’s father, but he admits its fairness. Therefore, Shakespeare does not only expose the flawed logic of racists, but he also demonstrates how empirical evidence can be used to destroy dangerous stereotypes.
Iago regularly uses offensive metaphors to demonstrate his contempt for Othello and manipulate people. For example, Brabantio is enraged when Iago tells him that “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe,” referring to Othello and Desdemona (Shakespeare 9-10). However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that Iago’s opinion of other characters is equally low. His misogyny is especially noticeable, as he compares women to guinea-hen in his conversation with Roderigo, and mocks Desdemona and Emilia later (Shakespeare 58-60). He calls his only ally and accomplice “my sick fool Roderigo” (Shakespeare 75). Overall, the analysis of Iago’s speeches leads to the conclusion that he despises humankind in general.
As the play progresses, it becomes clear that Iago has the traits of a psychopath. He completely disregards the feelings of others and sees other people as dispensable. He uses Roderigo and his wife, Emilia, to achieve his goals and eventually kills both. When Iago encourages Roderigo to kill Cassio, he reveals his true thoughts, saying “now, whether he kill Cassio, or Cassio him, or each does kill the other, every way makes my gain” (Shakespeare 176). Overall, Iago is the most immoral and unlikable character in Othello and one of the most notorious villains in Shakespearean plays.
Shakespeare shows that racism and hatred are integral to Iago’s character. While Iago probably hates Othello more for promoting Cassio instead of him, rather than for his skin color, he masterfully uses the others’ racism to turn them against the protagonist. The racial bias of Roderigo and Brabantio might be a result of ignorance, but Iago’s racism is fueled by hatred, which makes him extremely unlikable. By assigning the most racist lines to this character, Shakespeare clearly shows his disapproval of racism.
Some scholars argue that Othello is a racist play because Shakespeare portrays the protagonist as a jealous fool who loses everything at the end. Indeed, his uncontrolled anger and inability to think logically under pressure could be the traits a Renaissance writer associated with race. However, the analysis of other Shakespeare’s plays shows that this assumption is quite questionable. In Shakespearean tragedy, a protagonist always has a fatal flaw – Hamlet is indecisive, Romeo is impulsive, Macbeth is overly ambitious, and Othello is jealous. These flaws are often the only negative traits that Shakespeare assigns to these extremely virtuous characters. Othello perfectly fits this description, as his superiors and subordinates refer to him as valiant, noble, brave, and “great of heart” (Shakespeare 27, 53, 72, 203). Hence, Othello’s flaw proves that he belongs with the tradition of Shakespearean tragedy, rather than tells anything about the author’s racial attitude.
The fall of Othello is another essential element of the classic tragedy. All Shakespeare’s tragic heroes die suffering – Macbeth is dethroned and beheaded, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide because they believe their love is dead, Lear loses his only loyal daughter and dies. It leads to the conclusion that Othello’s tragic end is not predetermined because of his race, but is an inevitable outcome for a heroin Shakespearean tragedy.
Usually, Shakespeare gives most lines and soliloquies to the title characters in his plays. However, in this case, Iago, not Othello, is the character with the most lines. It could be argued that Othello’s race is the factor that made Shakespeare alter the traditional structure of the play. However, it is not necessarily indicative of the author’s racism. Racial bias existed in Elizabethan England, and introducing a Black protagonist from the beginning could prove to be a difficult task. Instead, by making Iago, in effect, a narrator, Shakespeare lets the public see Othello through his enemy’s eyes. As the story unfolds, and it becomes clear that Iago is a villain, the audience has no other choice but to accept Othello as the hero. Therefore, in Othello , Shakespeare challenges the traditional structure of the play, giving the public a chance to look at the events from the antagonist’s perspective. However, it does not undermine the importance of Othello’s character. On the contrary, by exposing Iago’s cowardice and vileness in intimate detail, Shakespeare ensures that the audience sides with Othello, despite any implicit bias it might have initially developed.
Shakespeare is often praised for writing plays that remain relevant in the modern world. Othello is one of the rare examples of Renaissance literature that tackles the problem of racism. For the first time in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare introduces a Black tragic hero who is noble and virtuous. Through the juxtaposition of Othello with racist characters, Shakespeare shows that one’s personality and values are not defined by race. Therefore, Othello can be considered one of the earliest examples of anti-racist literature in Western culture.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Yale University Press. 2005.
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Theme Of Racism In Othello
The effects of racism in othello.
A wise philosopher once stated, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason” (Schwartsz). It is no revelation that racism often manifests hatred towards minorities. This concept has been widespread throughout the world for centuries. Racism has prevailed through several works of literature including “Othello” by William Shakespeare. In this particular play, the character, Othello, is allegedly a black man who experiences several accounts of racism from other characters, which eventually leads to his downfall. According to psychoanalysis studies, “Hate is grounded in some sense of perceived threat. It is an attitude that can give rise to hostility and aggression toward individuals or groups” (Abrams). Racism is arguably one of the strongest forms
Manipulation of the African Race in Othello In William Shakespeare’s Othello, racism is a principal theme that drives the plot of the entire play. An outlier in Venice, Othello the moor or African, is targeted by his ensign Iago because Cassio who seems to be unqualified, was promoted to a lieutenant before he was. Iago is driven by envy and jealousy and creates a confusing and elaborate plan to deprive Cassio of his position. Iago also shares these envious motives with Roderigo, a man lusting over Othello’s wife.
Prejudice And Racism Exposed In Shakespeare's Othello
Othello 's own brainstorm when he describes murderous green eyed monster as innate in the married man married woman relationship which suggests the wife as the exclusive possession of the husband and is thus at betting odds with the man status wherein one California n never know another individual's inmost persuasion and desires: "O curse word of marriage observance! That we can call these delicate beasts ours and not their appetite!" Several Recent critics have sought to explain Othello's behavior as arising from his insecurity as a blackness in a racialist White person society. However, I would contend that the child's play forcefully combats racism which suggests blacks and egg white s as essentially different precisely by its presentation of Othello as not at all different from any white husband. The maturation of his jealousy, the words of prop possession
What Are The Interlopers In The Great Gatsby
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Crisis Of Identity In Othello Essay
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Danger Of Jealousy In Othello
For example, when Roderigo shouts, “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe!” Shouting racial slurs about Othello, blatantly calling him black and constantly referring him to an animal says that Roderigo is jealous that Othello has managed to win Desdemona’s love. Insulting Othello is cruel and is a malicious act on Roderigo’s behalf, but his motivation for being so vengeful is that he is extremely jealous of Othello. Another example of how Shakespeare conveys that jealousy is the motivation behind committing malicious acts is when Iago states he will ruin Othello, “I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets. Has done my office.
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The Role Of The Outsiders In Othello
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Othello Research Paper
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Othello IO Tinatin Kakabadze Period F 9/1/15 Word Count: 1222 “Race” in the context of Elizabethan England Race, in Elizabethan Era, which was from 1485 to 1603 and was known as the Golden Age of England, was usually ignored. People with dark skin were thought of as exotic and bizarre, though they had no rights as they were forced into England despite many protests. Due to the way North/West Africans clothed themselves, many people in Elizabethan England would call them ‘devils’ and other obscene things. Though, they soon grew a few rights and weren't ridiculed as much, but were still thought of as a lower race.
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Outline: How could the text be read and interpreted differently by two different readers from different race and gender. Key points: -Point of view by the readers could matter depending on the type of person such as feminist or a racist. -The interpretation of the character Othello -Iago being racist to Othello Throughout the play Othello by William Shakespeare, there could be many different interpretations and disagreements with other readers, depending on what time period you have lived in, what race you are and what gender you are.
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Racism in Othello, Essay Example
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Given the age and the setting in which Shakespeare’s Othello was written and first performed, racism as a component in the drama is surprisingly less evident than a modern audience would likely expect, at least not in the way racism is thought of today. It is ordinary to think of racist views as far more a product of older and less enlightened days, and Othello’s approximate date of creation as the year 1603 would certainly make an audience of today anticipate powerful racism within it as a matter of course. Moreover, England as a nation was adamantly insular and xenophobic, particularly as the defeat of the Spanish Armada of 1588 was still resounding in living memory. Shakespeare was himself notorious for writing to suit the public taste of his day, as he also tailored plays to please the power bases at court.
The basic reason, however, that racism as such is not a predominant factor in Othello is easily explained by the man who wrote it. Shakespeare’s genius would never have been content to present a mere racial motivation as a pivotal plot device, or even as a defining character trait; his art was too expansive and he knew the complexity of human beings too well to allow that. There is racism in Othello , to be sure. So, too, is racism revealed as an element in Iago’s intense hatred of the Moor. Shakespeare’s vision and presentation, however, is too enormous to rely upon so primitive and ultimately uninteresting a foundation. In exploring Othello’s tragedy and Iago’s evil, Shakespeare goes further to explore how racism itself is never a single, blind trait. In Othello , as in life, various factors collide within men, and “racism” is merely one manifestation of the wider, darker path these may take. “Only a very intelligent and highly imaginative writer could articulate the fusion of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny… in such psychically plausible terms” (Dollimore 132).
The England of Shakespeare’s day was, as stated, fiercely insular. Insularity typically breeds xenophobia, which may be seen as the structure in which racism resides. The ancient feud with France, for example, fueled within the British character a proud disdain of all French people, which led to a widespread and violently racist view of the French as a weak and immoral people. Then, antisemitism was not a hypothetical issue. Rodrigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth’s personal physician for years, was a Portuguese Jew. When the Earl of Essex, desperate to gain the Queen’s favor in the 1590’s, had Lopez brought to trial on scant evidence of treason, the interrogation centered on the doctor’s Jewishness. As is universally acknowledged, this fueled The Merchant of Venice , simply because “…Lopez was the best-known of the few Jews in England when the play was written” (Afran, Garber 3).
This is essential to note in regarding Othello as a victim of racism, because Shylock and Othello are the greatest representations of racism victims in Shakespeare, if not in all of Western literature, and how Shakespeare dealt with Shylock goes far in explaining why he presents the racism in Othello as he does. Shylock is not rendered as an especially likeable character; Shakespeare knew his audiences would never accept a fully dimensional Jew, and Shylock is presented in a very stereotypical manner. He is relentlessly grasping and he lives to make deals, which is how Jews were generally perceived at the time. Shakespeare, however, is incapable of drawing characters in single dimensions of any kind, and the humanity and pain of Shylock as a man is known to all the world.
With Othello , which is a later, and more subtle, play, Shakespeare does not focus on racism as such. It should be understood, in light of the comparison with Shylock, that the English had a different view of Moors, or people of African descent: “…The Elizabethan social situation was not indisolvably ( sic ) categorical, black versus white. Some Elizabethans knew about and appreciated Moorish culture, which of course relates to Othello’s character” (Kolin 15). To the greater and more cosmopolitan Elizabethan audience, Moors were nearly mythically powerful warriors, and aristocratic in their own traditions. This admiration itself has within it elements of racism, of course, yet it was by no means a simple dismissal of a Black man as a lower order of human. Consequently, Shakespeare was free to more carefully explore the many elements that go into what is often simply assessed as “racism”.
Many critics of Othello disagree, and they have the relentless hatred of Iago on their side. “There’s no denying that racism was the motivation, the means, and the end in Iago’s systematic destruction of Othello” (Robinson 94). This viewpoint overlooks the play’s greatness, as well as the brilliance of Iago’s mystery. To begin with, Iago only occasionally hints at a dislike of Othello because of his race, as he even admits that his hatred is too large to be attributed to one cause. It is simply there, within him, and the intrinsic evil of Iago is a far more fascinating character presentation than that of an angered and envious racist. To say that Iago’s racist disgust at Othello is the driving force of the play is to remove the heart of the play, and to insultingly over-simplify Shakespeare’s art.
Other critics come closer to the mark when they investigate the sexual component in the mixed race relations of Othello and Desdemona, if only because a dread of a supposed greater African potency underlies a good deal of white racism, then and now. To the racist, few things are as horrific as the notion of a Black man taking a white woman, and Shakespeare brings this up again and again, in Othello. If there is racism here, it is sexually-based.
It is not simple, either, for this sort of deep look inside racism reveals the even greater fear: the race will be polluted, and forever. In a discussion of the animalistic references to sex in the play, many of which involve different species having sex, Daileader comments: “These copulative images highlight the idea that inter-racial sex creates a new creature – and not only in the future progeny, but at the very moment of sexual union” (23). This is the overpowering fear at the heart of racism, that something unnatural will result when races combine. It is never directly referred to in Othello , but Shakespeare effectively makes the audience confront the irrational terror possibly in their own hearts.
Another aspect of racism itself, often overlooked and employed within Othello as further evidence of the author’s genius in capturing fully-dimensional characters, is how Othello is himself an active participant in the very racism he must deal with. This is true of any culture; as racist ideas are infused within it, the object of them must in some way share in the bias. Othello makes it very clear, and early in the play, that he is indeed the great hero everyone in Venice sees him as. He is very certain of his accomplishments, as he is of what the city owes him in respect. Any other hero would, then, assume Desdemona’s devotion to be a natural thing. He is a great man and he completely deserves the love of a fair maiden.
Othello, however, knows he is of a different race. “A tawny Moor, a black African, Othello is also the ‘turbanned Turk’ of his own description” (Bloom 126). Consequently, he always marvels at Desdemona’s love, and this is his own racism at play. No hero in Shakespeare is ever this amazed at being loved: “I cannot speak enough of this content/ It stops me here/ It is too much joy” (Shakespeare 22). This wonder is a form of disbelief, and it is this disbelief, born from Othello’s awareness that a Moor warrior does not as a rule have an adoring, white bride, that subtly conveys the sense that Othello views himself as different, if not inferior.
This ties into the sexual component of the drama, for Othello’s uniqueness would not place him in jeopardy if he were not married to a white woman. He has, in a sense, gone too far, and he is aware of it. Iago is as well, because Iago knows he can exploit Othello’s racial insecurities through exactly this avenue. When all is said and done, this mighty warrior is a Black man wed to a woman of a different race, and everyone in the drama, Othello included, knows that this makes him vulnerable.
The most comprehensive criticisms of Othello concede that it is a mistake to view the racism within the play as racism is understood today. In fact, the study of Othello offers vast opportunities for a better understanding of what is a truly complex issue, and it is in any culture’s best interests to seek to explore all the shades of motive within it, from the xenophobic to the sexual. Studying racism is very much a matter of studying humanity, because racism, for good or ill, has always been a reflection of human interaction.
Finally, it must be conceded that Shakespeare’s genius in presenting racism in Othello was to reveal how subtle and universal a force it can be. In a very real sense, everyone is a victim of racism because both object and racist alike live within the same world that allows the racism. This is one of the massive undercurrents in Othello, and it greatly overshadows any concept of a biased Iago as the critical instrument of the drama: “…To say that Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio seek only love and honor in the play is to gloss over the ways in which they are themselves ‘flawed’ by the racial structures: we need to guard against viewing any of them as simple oppositions to a racist Iago” (McDonald 814). Because of the scope and genius of Shakespeare, a brilliant drama revealing the many shades of motive and feeling within racism is always available to be more deeply explored.
Afran, B., and Garber, R. A. Jews on Trial . Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 2005. Print.
Bloom, H. William Shakespeare’s Othello . New York, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2010. Print.
Daileader, C. R. Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-Racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
Dollimore, J. Sex, Literature, and Censorship . Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2001. Print.
Kolin, P.C. Othello: New Critical Essays. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002. Print.
McDonald, R. Shakespeare: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory, 1945 – 2000 . Malden, MA: Blackwood Publishing Ltd., 2004. Print.
Robinson, E. L. Shakespeare Attacks Bigotry: A Close Reading of Six Plays . Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
Shakespeare, W. Othello: A Tragedy in Five Acts . New York, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1954. Print.
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Racism in Othello by William Shakespeare
Jessica Scott is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where she majored in English and Humanities and minored in Literature, Linguistics, and Classical and Modern Languages. She has over 14 years of experience writing, editing, and tutoring students on literary and educational topics, and is a certified TEFL instructor.
Ellie holds a B.A. with Honors in English from Stanford University. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature at Princeton University.
Table of Contents
Racism in othello, racism theme in othello, analysis of racism, lesson summary.
Racism is prejudice toward or discrimination against a person of another race solely because they are of that race. It is a belief that people with another skin color or of another ethnic group have distinct qualities or characteristics that make them inherently "less than," even if this is not the truth.
In William Shakespeare's tragic play, The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (usually referred to simply as Othello ), racism takes center stage. In fact, one of the most common connections drawn by literary critics is between Othello and race. Most of the racism in Othello is directed at the titular character, who is described as a Moor in Europe. "Moor" is an antiquated word for people who hail from North Africa. It describes someone whose skin was black or very dark as opposed to the white skin of everyone else in this play.
Despite being from another country, Othello is serving as a general in the European military; his heart is in Venice with the woman he married there, Desdemona. Trouble brews, however, when Iago, an ensign in Othello's unit, fools Othello into believing that his wife and Othello's lieutenant, Cassio, are having an affair. Already self-conscious about his skin color and the fact that he is older than his young, lovely wife, Othello does not question it when he finds his wife's handkerchief in Cassio's possession. He does not realize that the wicked Iago planted that handkerchief just to enrage him, and this pushes him over the edge. In the end, he kills Desdemona in a fit of jealousy, all because of Iago's manipulation.
Iago and Racism
The manipulation carried out by Iago is, at times, racially charged. When he speaks to Desdemona's father, attempting to get him riled up about Othello marrying his daughter, he speaks in a vulgar manner about the two of them, likening Othello to a brutish, dirty farm animal. "An old black ram is tupping your white ewe," he tells him, knowing that the man is already prejudiced toward those who are not white like him. He wants him to visualize something crude violating his pristine, pure daughter, and his language has the desired effect. He takes this even further by telling him that Desdemona and Othello "are making the beast / with two backs." This is a very derogatory way of saying they are having sex by implying that the Black man is more comparable to an inhuman "beast" than to an upstanding man like Othello. This, too, is racist, as it was a stereotype at the time that those from Africa were more likely to give in to their sexual urges, which was seen as disgusting and uncouth by the European elites. In addition to referring to Othello as a "black ram," he also uses other terms like "a Barbary horse" (a type of horse from Africa) and even "the devil" throughout the play, which both have racist connotations.
There is something else hiding behind Iago's racism, however. While it is clear from the beginning of the play that he is already a hateful man at heart, his wickedness is kicked into high gear when Othello promotes Cassio to the position of lieutenant instead of Iago. He also seems to believe that Othello may have slept with his wife ("I do suspect the lusty Moor / Hath leap'd into my seat," he says at one point) but there is no proof of this in the rest of the play. It is unclear if this affair is something that really happened or if Iago is just being paranoid, but his hatred toward Othello as a person melds with his racism toward people of his skin color to produce a character that is even more despicable.
Brabantio and Racism
Brabantio, Desdemona's father, shares Iago's disdain for people of color. He, too, has another reason to hate Othello — he eloped with his daughter without his permission — but much of his attitude toward Othello is based on racial stereotypes and mistaken beliefs about other cultures. He asserts, for example, that the only reason that Desdemona married Othello was that Othello used potions and magic to steal her away. "She is abused," he says, "stol'n from me, and corrupted / By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks." Mountebanks, in this case, are sketchy swindlers, who he thinks are the type of shady characters someone like Othello would be associating with. He is certain that "sans witchcraft," there is no possible way his daughter could ever naturally love a man like Othello because he can't see past his skin color.
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- 0:05 The Tragedy of…
- 3:19 Acts I and II: Iago's…
- 8:20 Acts III and IV:…
- 13:44 Act V: Tragic Action
- 15:44 Themes: The…
- 19:10 Lesson Summary
Some literary critics have theorized that Shakespeare wrote Othello in an attempt to point out the racism that was prevalent in society at the time of its writing. Although the word "Renaissance" sounds like a very enlightened time period, there was, in actuality, a lot of prejudice and discrimination taking place. Much of that prejudice and discrimination was against people like Othello, who were from Africa and/or had darker skin. Many Europeans felt superior to them, which is something that Shakespeare was arguably trying to correct by presenting a hero who was of color. In the end, though, the bad things that Othello did were not due to a flaw of his own or to his own disposition, but to the terrible things that Iago, a white person, had convinced him to do. As such, one of the major themes of the play is racism and its effect on innocent people.
In the text, this racism is presented, not necessarily as a result of some inherent trait of evil within the characters, but as ignorance. Since the Venetians in the play may not have been exposed to many people of other races and cultural backgrounds during the time the play took place, they were quick to assume that there was something "wrong" with them. They feared these "others" and so they assumed they were wicked in some way. But if they had truly gotten to know the Moors like Desdemona got to know Othello instead of acting upon their presuppositions about other races, perhaps the story would have had a different ending.
Race seems to be the main theme of the play, but there are many different critical analyses of it. Some critics assert that perhaps Othello was not actually African at all, but Middle Eastern or just an Englishman with very dark skin. Elizabethans at the time were quick to call any darker-skinned person a "Moor" regardless of whether they actually were from North Africa, and Othello's birthplace is never explicitly stated in the play. So, while some of these critics may agree that the theme of the play is still racism, they say that it is unclear which race (if any) is being discriminated against.
There are also some critics who attempt to set aside the issue of race in Othello altogether or at least diminish its importance to the plot. Others like Laura Reitz-Wilson note that nearly every character in the play shows signs of racism toward Othello. She quotes Edward Berry, writer of "Othello's Alienation", as saying that his race "is not only a mark of his physical alienation but a symbol, to which every character in the play, himself included, must respond." This makes it impossible to view Othello without taking into account the stark differences between the races of the characters. Would Brabantio have been so quick to assume Othello bewitched his daughter had he been a white European like him? And would everyone be so easily convinced that Othello was a bad man if his skin were not dark?
This dichotomy of white versus Black makes the play problematic to perform at times because, according to some scholars, there is still a lingering, unconscious bias in society that makes it too easy for some to see Othello solely as "other" or "less than" because of his race. This same problem is noted in another of Shakespeare's plays, The Merchant of Venice , in which characters also use racial stereotypes (this time against a character from a Jewish background). In that play, however, the character against whom everyone is biased is actually the antagonist, so it is unclear what, if anything, Shakespeare was trying to say about race in that piece.
In Othello , however, it is clear that Shakespeare is attempting to make the audience think twice about how they view darker-skinned people at a time when racism was at a high point.
In Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice , racism is a central theme. This racism is displayed through acts of discrimination and bias toward the main character, Othello, based on his skin color and ethnicity. Unlike nearly everyone else in Shakespeare's works, who are all of European descent, Othello is a Moor , or a man from North Africa. Iago, the play's antagonist, uses this "otherness" to color peoples' opinions about Othello. Iago himself is full of hatred toward Othello because he promoted Cassio to lieutenant instead of him and because he suspects that Othello has slept with his wife. He uses his own racist ideology to stir up racism in others, turning people like Brabantio, the father of Othello's wife Desdemona, against Othello. He then puts Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's possession to make Othello think that the two of them are having an affair, which ultimately leads to Othello killing his wife in a jealous rage.
One of the main themes of Othello is racism, but some scholars downplay this aspect by wondering if Othello is actually from North Africa at all. He is described as a Moor, but this term was often used during the Elizabethan era in England as a reference to anyone from Africa, the Middle East, or possibly even England itself who had a darker skin color than the average Englishman. Since no birthplace is given for Othello, they posit, it is possible that he is not actually African, but simply a person of color. Either way, his race is a focal point of the play and drives much of its action.
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Is race a theme in Othello?
Race is one of the main themes in Othello . Much of what happens in the plot is based on the other characters' perceptions of Othello, who is of a different race. Racism can be seen in the dialogue of several characters, most notably Iago, Brabantio, and Roderigo, who speak of Othello with disparaging tems.
How is Othello insecure about his race?
Othello experiences a lot of racism in the play, but he himself also focuses on his race when Iago tries to convince him that his wife is cheating on him with Cassio. He finds it easy to doubt that his wife loves him because he sees himself as an older Black man while she is a young, pretty, white woman. This insecurity leads him to fall for Iago's tricks and believe the worst of Desdemona.
What role does racism play in Othello?
Many literary critics argue that racism is a central theme in Othello . It drives many of the decisions made by its characters, because Othello is a Black man in a city of white Venetians and is often seen as an outsider. Iago, the play's main antagonist, uses racism to turn people against Othello, such as Brabantio, the father of Othello's wife Desdemona.
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