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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 1824 words

How important is it that Othello is black?

Extracts from this essay...


How important is it that Othello is black? Othello's race and colour are explored in the play, especially in terms of his interracial marriage with Desdemona and therefore are very important and significant. The play 'Othello' generates dichotomy views on the issue of race at that time and the different confrontations of it allow us to acquire a perspective on Elizabethan attitudes as well as to consider our own argument. One could argue against the importance of Othello's colour like A.C. Bradley who introduced a contention, which acquaints us with such an argument. However, even though Bradley's aspiration to respond to race in a humane manner is hesitant, it is reasoned as he focuses on character and motivation. Bradley fails to observe the racial issue a very significant one and considers it to be: 'unimportant in regard to the essentials of Othello's character.' He does not find Othello's colour damaging to his dignity either: 'He comes before us, dark and grand, with a light upon him from the sun where he was born' and recalls that in his view an Englishman would have been as much a victim as this Moor in these circumstances. An interesting issue that many critics debate about is Othello's precise ethnic origins, taking great pains to prove that Othello would have been Arabic in appearance.


The pressures of Othello's marriage and the negative reactions of those around him do add to his downfall, all of which race is a major factor of, and that underlines the importance of Othello's race in the play. Calderwood set up Othello as a terrific monster, and attempted to renovate him as a Christian, who was worthy of being accepted into his surroundings, however in my opinion, in attempt to explain why he feels Othello deserved the acceptance because of his Christianity, Calderwood's contention is unconvincing but interesting as its an intriguing justification for such a important question of matter in the play as 'race'. It is difficult to settle on one aspect of the dispute as the contentions introduced by Bradley, Adamson and Calderwood seem to evolve into an assumption against the importance of Othello's colour and race. I must however stress to extend the argument in favour of the importance of Othello's race and colour. All criticism of the marriage is based solely on 'racial considerations' and this provokes characters to turn against Othello. At the beginning of the play Othello sees himself as worthy of Desdemona's love and his self-perception is that of equality with Desdemona. He accentuates this when he says: 'She had eyes and chose me' (III.3.192). Othello begins as a respectable Christian general, however, with extensive criticism such as Brabantio's, Othello loses confidence and becomes easily persuaded by Iago who views Othello as a 'violently jealous fool like all Africans' and 'a lascivious moor' (I.1.125).


Whereas in modern day criticisms, such a matter would not be concerned as an issue worthy debating about, because ethnic groups became very accepted in England and the different approaches to the issue of race help us acquire different interpretations. Elizabethan environment at the time of the play was tense and the generalizations that were made during that time. Her observation on these generalizations helped to clarify and explain the stereotypes made during the play. Despite the insight into the reaction and thoughts of the Shakespearean audience, the article tended to be repetitive by restating the negative qualities that were associated with Othello's race instead of explaining why they were associated with one another. Concluding could it be argued that Shakespeare made Othello black in order to explore dislocation along with opposition and the consequences of such issues? It would be inconsiderate to ignore the importance of Othello's race in the play because it is most definitely a significant matter. In order to slightly captivate his audience, Shakespeare could have easily added a slight feature in Othello's complexion to add the foreign affect that would be enough, or he could have even made him completely white, nonetheless Shakespeare insisted upon the blackness of Othello as otherwise there wouldn't be the mention to intentionally repellent imagery. 1

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