Race In Othello Essay

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The early modern definition of race very much differs from the current usage and definition of race today, according to Margo Hendricks, “the word race referred not to the linking of character with physical appearance, but to family and lineage” in addition to cultural customs. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello is esteemed for his military power; he is welcomed by Barbantio, and invited into his homes to tell of his adventures. Yet, in many instances the fact that he is a moor takes precedence over any military prowess he may possess. As a general in the Venetian Army, it is expected that utmost respect be shown at all times, yet this is not the case for Othello. Regardless of his acclaimed position of general in the Venetian military, the prejudices held by Iago and Barbantio outweigh his credentials as a civilized human being. His ally Barbantio questions his methods of getting Desdemona to marry him, and concludes that it had to be of some sort of Moorish witch craft or drug. Othello is also disrespected by Iago, a trusted confidant; his very essence is degraded and compared to that of a wild animal while Desdemona is seen as a pure white lamb, whom Othello has corrupted. Iago purposely uses the preconceived notions about Moors to convince others that his culture represents chaos, sexual immorality, and corruption. Iago also preys on Othello's jealousy to twist Othello’s emotions and convince him that Desdemona has been unfaithful. In the Shakespeare’s play Othello, Othello is recognized as a moor and according to the Oxford dictionary the term moor, is defined as, “a native or inhabitant of ancient Mauretania, a region of North Africa corresponding to parts of present-day Morocco and Algeria. Later usually: a member of a Mu... ... middle of paper ... ...ituation Iago is finding ways to twist the innocent actions of Desdemona and Cassio to make it seem as if they are flirting and carrying on this affair for almost everyone to see. Enraged and eventually consumed by his emotions Othello’s takes Desdemona’s life due to the manipulation of this so called friend and confidant. A ‘friend and confidant’ who has been to battle with Othello and fought side by side, yet Iago is the one who ultimately uses and betrays Othello. Therefore, Othello status as an esteemed general, does not overshadow his status as a moor. If anything his status as a moor in most cases overshadows the fact that he is a general, and that he is a civil human being. Unlike the portrayal that the Elizabethan had of moors, Othello was not uncivilized and he was not ruled by lust, chaos and corruption.

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