Othello: Race

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The Issue of Race in Othello
An aspect of reading Othello that cannot be overlooked is the issue of race in the play. Attitudes towards race in Elizabethan England were negative. If we look at representations of different races in theatre of the period, we find that there are many negative connotations through the language that arise. The Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice says “Mislike me not for my complexion.” (The Merchant of Venice.) This foreshadows some of the language of Othello. This however is quite soft language when we consider how Elizabethan theatre represented other races as being violent and bloodthirsty. In this we have, “In the night-time secretly would I steal to travellers’ chambers, and there cut their throats.” (The Jew of Malta.) This was said by the Turkish character in Marlowe’s, “The Jew of Malta.” Furthermore in, The Battle of Alcazar we have, “Dammed let him be, dammed and condemned to bear. All torments, tortures, plagues and pains of hell.” So as you can see through out Elizabethan theatre this villainous image of black men, and blackness in general was prevalent. In this period in London it wasn’t necessarily a common place for blacks but there were defiantly African Americans living in London. They appear in England in the late 16th century, and it was not entirely uncommon for people of wealth to have black musicians, servants, and even Queen Elizabeth had black musicians in her service. However, in 1596 she tried to have them all expelled. What historians have found is that there were hardly any really expelled, because people who had black servants in their household, refuse to give them up because there was no compensation. According to Imtiaz Habib, Shakespeare would have definitely ...

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... it. It will be quite interesting in the next realm of history of this play, how new imaginings of the play will shift what kinds of meaning we make from it. Racism in today’s world is not nearly the way it was during that period. We sadly still have racism in the world, which is something we will sadly have for a long time, but for the majority of the population, we don’t look down upon African Americans and we view them as equals. Poor Othello just wanted to love this girl, and he got so much criticism because he was black and she was white. Not to mention, Iago stirring up all the drama. I was hoping for a happy ending for Othello, but sadly it ended tragically with him killing his love. I truly found this story to be interesting. Shakespeare’s, Othello is one of those pieces that can be appreciated through the centuries for the great story that it is.

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