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Colour as a theme in Othello

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Colours in Othello Racism-a topic which has always caused conflict throughout history whether it be during the Crusades between European Christians and the Muslim Turks, the Holocaust between the Nazi Germany and the Jewish people, or the slavery and segregation of black people in the United States. It is clear that racism is a serious issue in the play Othello by William Shakespeare as well. Considering the fact that Othello is a Moor, a black man who is married a black man who is also married to Desdemona, a white Christian woman, the stage it set for Shakespeare to explore the theme. Although Othello is highly respected for his achievements in war, his race plays a majour role in the play for it brings out the latent racism that was hidden among many of the characters, leaving the audience to ponder the significance of race. Throughout the play, many characters use racist language to describe Othello in moments of their frustration and anger. When Iago finds out that Othello secretly married Desdemona, he sees it as a great opportunity for revenge since Othello chose Cassio to become his lieutenant instead of himself. "What a full fortune does the think-lips owe,/ If he can carry't thus!" (I,i,65-66) ...read more.


In several parts of the play, Shakespeare uses black and white imagery in describing Othello. In the beginning of the play when Iago is talking with Brabantio, he says, "Even now, now, very now, an old black ram/ Is tupping your white ewe" (I,i,88-89) illustrating how the moor and Desdemona are having sex and their contrasting skin colours. Othello later points out Desdemona's whiteness as he watches her sleep before killing her and says, "Yet I'll not shed her blood,/ Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,/ And smooth as monumental alabaster" (V,ii,3-5) meaning that he will not ruin her beauty by shedding her blood, but he also acknowledges Desdemona's "whiter skin". He recognizes once again his difference in their colours and also thinks that if he scars her white skin, he will be "tainting" it like his own as though destroying the goodness still left in her appearance, if not also in her character. When Othello murders Desdemona for her infidelity with Cassio, Emilia says, "O the more angel she,/ And you the blacker devil... Thou dost belie her, and thou art a devil" (V,ii,132-135) describing how Desdemona is like a white angel and how Othello is like a black devil. With this being said, the black and white imagery also relates to the good and evil contrast wince colours are very symbolic. ...read more.


Despite the fact that many characters use racist language such as animalizing and demonizing him as well as using black and white imagery which enhances the disparateness of Othello as a black man, it seems as though Othello himself is not offended by this even when they are said straight to his face. This is seen quite clearly because Othello uses black and white imagery himself and says "[Desdemona's] name, that was fresh/ As Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black/ As my own face" when he is confused whether Desdemona is truthful and is struggling to figure out if he still loves her or not. This demonstrates how racism leads to self-loathing and makes people feel inferior to others and Othello himself probably decided not to bother whether his society treats him as a black man for he noticed that he will not be able to change how he looks from the outside, but rather he can only change who he is form the inside through accomplishments. This leaves the audience pondering whether it is race and external aspects of people or if it is internal aspects such as personality and the way a person lived their life that really determines a person's success in life. In the end, Iago knows what people really are, and his ability to unleash the latent racism in so many of the other wise noble characters is what leads to the tragic outcome of the play. Word Count: 1356 ...read more.

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