Racism in Othello

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Racism in Othello It's not hard to imagine that Othello was probably Shakespeare's most controversial play. In the play, Othello Shakespeare's shows the audience a transformation of a barbarous black man into a respected soldier and nobleman. At the time this play was written, black people were only known as slaves. That is why there is a clear theme of racism throughout the play. Society rejects the marriage of Othello and Desdemona, sees it as an act "against all rules of nature"(act 1.3, line 102). Society has no real reason to reject the marriage of Othello and Desdemona. Othello matches or even exceeds the other men trying to win Desdemona hand in marriage. Nothing separates Othello from "the wealthy, curled darlings of our nation"(act 1.2, line 68) except his skin-color. Iago, Brabantion, Roderigo and Emilia are all main characters that have racist feeling toward Othello. Out of these main characters Iago shows the most racist in the play. In the play Othello, Iago is a character that obviously has a plane to bring Othello down from his high place in society. Iago hates Othello because when Othello chose his lieutenant, he chose Cassio and not him. Iago believe he should have been the lieutenant because he has war experience and Cassio doesn't. In the play, Iago is the catalyst of all the destructive events within the play.


This event supports the idea of white purity equals goodness and that other race, such as African-American, represents darkness and evil. When cabining the blackness of Othello and the fair whiteness of Desdemona in marriage, the audience will see nothing but chaos coming from it. This seems to be the concept that Shakespeare was playing with. That White and Black natural can't mix, which by today's standers in society is considered very racist. In Act 2, while conversing with Roderigo, Iago states that she will find the fault in her choice because she will notice how Othello lacks, IAGO: love liness in favor, sympathy in years, manners and beauties. (act 2.1, lines 226-228) Everyone seems to think that marrying Othello was not a smart thing for Desdemona to do because of Othello's skin color. All characters seem to see the marriage as becoming an inevitable failure. In Act 3, scene 3, the audience starts to see the methods of Iago in progress to make Othello doubt Desdemona, by making him doubt himself. Following Othello's refusal of believing that Desdemona has cheated on him with Cassio. Iago reminds him of his nature as an outsider and assures Othello that "I know our country's disposition well"(act 3.3, line 204). Making Othello believe he is an outsider, Iago can also makes him believe that he is lacking in the knowledge of Venetian woman.


Othello acknowledges the fact that he is different and realizes his faults. When choosing to take his own life, Othello's last words are to those standing around him. He tells them to speak of him as he truly is, and know that, OTHELLO: Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe (act 5.2, lines 345-346). All of this was brought about by Iago, but only because he was able to play on the insecurities that Othello had about his race. Although Othello is not made out to be the cleverest and most cunning character in the play, he does have a certain wit about him that is uncommon among a European Moor. Othello is a romantic man who has won the heart of Desdemona, the senator's daughter, with his stories of battles. Othello is also a hero whose life is full of good deeds. With all he has accomplished, he should be able to escape from preconceived notions of his race. But the play shows all too clearly how thin the value of his reputation was, in the eyes of others and to himself. Othello is an example of a noble black man at a time when black men and woman were not known except as slaves. The racism in the play reduced a black nobleman to a barbarous state, which everyone, at the time the play was written, expected. We can criticize Shakespeare's use of racism, but we have to remember that racism was part of the culture in which he was writing in.

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