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Is The Play Othello 'Racist'?

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This Play is Racist. Discuss. The term racism is one, which has raised very controversial issues and is associated with negative events and feelings from both the past and present. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, racism can be defined as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. The statement 'The play Othello is racist', is one which is likely to be a majority view especially from a non-European audience and reader. In the light of this, there would be an analysis of the both sides of the argument in order to provide a fair justification for a controversial topic such as this. Racism in this play is clearly depicted in the words of the characters. However, there are two groups of characters involved here. The ones who are outright racist such as Brabantio, Iago, and Roderigo. There are others whose racism only becomes evident after a closer look on their words and actions. Without questioning, it is obvious that Othello, the moor of Venice is the only victim of whatever perceived racism there could be. ...read more.


The fact that it was a white man who deceived him shows the superiority which Europeans felt they had over the Africans. Othellos weakness is further shown in his physical breakdown in act IV scene 1, which follows a breakdown in his speech 'It is not words that shakes me thus! Pish! Noses, ears, and lips! Is't possible?-confess? Handkerchief! O devil!' Othello is also shown to be weak in character and temper when he strikes his wife and feels no remorse than 'if the earth could team with woman's tears, each drop would prove a crocodile-out of my sight!' The audience at this point would have no sympathy for him at all because it was not acceptable for the men to physically maltreat their wives. As we go further, the least people we expect to be racist do make some racist comments. They include the duke, Desdemona, and Emilia. The way the duke indirectly defends Othello over Brabantio does not show him as understanding and considerate, but rather points out the fact he would accept anything in order to exploit the physical powers of his black officer, which is evidently for his own gain. In concluding his conversation with Brabantio, he tells him 'your-son-in-law is far more fair than black'. ...read more.


In addition, most of the racist actions and comments are from the characters themselves. Hence, it could be a deliberate intention by Shakespeare to expose some of the wrongs in the society. It is also worth pointing out that each of the three main racist characters loses their lives in unpleasant manners. Brabantio dyeing of a heart attack, Roderigo being brutally murdered by Iago, and Iago being prosecuted. Shakespeare's presentation of Othello as a jealous person may not necessarily be racist as this is an emotion shared among humanity regardless of their colour. In addition, the villain in the play whom his endowed with the most evil virtues from deceit, to murder, and jealousy is a white man. Iago also asks for 'hell and night to bring this monstrous birth to light'. Here Shakespeare does something, which the audience may find hard to accept as he presents the white man as evil. With this in mind, how then can we say that this play is completely racist? Evidently, I am of the opinion that this play is not racist. If we are able to isolate Shakespeare from the characters, then it may become clear that this play is not entirely racist but rather, it is about racism. ...read more.

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