Racism And Racism In Othello

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Othello deals with the tragic events following the elopement and wedding of the “Moor” Othello and the Venetian Desdemona. Over 400 years since the infamous Elizabethan play was first written, questions were already raised regarding the nature of race, its social implications and furthermore, the correlation of a person’s outer appearance and inner self.1
The issue of racism and stereotyping is obvious in the play and is pivotal for the interpretation of the play. In this essay, I plan to analyse the role of
Othello, his racial background and along with other key characters, to see if the play itself, or rather the society in Venice would be considered racist.2
In order to answer the question of whether Othello is a racist-based play, one must need to define the word “race”. As the definition and concept of race has changed and continuously been changing, the investigation will examine
Elizabethan attitudes towards foreigners and how strangers were portrayed on stage in this time period.3
Moreover, I will analyse the play itself and the characters within it. The essay will look at their differing roles and separate prejudices towards Othello’s skin colour and how they influence his self-conscious and eventually, his personal fate.4
In Othello, “skin colour” is much more than a physical property or cultural background. It defines the character’s inner life, and hugely determines the eventual outcome of the play. The significance of racial concepts and stereotypes, along with Shakespeare’s intentions of racial bias will be touched upon in the last part of this investigation.5
As reported by the Oxford English Dictionary, the first record of the term
“race” dates back to 1508. Scottish poet William Dunbar first co...

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... to fail, not because of their biological differences, but due to the social, political and cultural obstacles they had to face.”63
Despite this, Desdemona’s true love for Othello shows it is possible for a white woman of such beauty to fall in love with a black man. The failure of their marriage is not caused by a lack of love, or even racial differences, but rather, a society who fails to integrate the outsider.64
Shakespeare portrays Othello as a human being with deep feelings, which address the audience emotionally. He is shown as a hero, a victim and a perpetrator at the same time, and it is probable that the audience hoped for
Othello to realize Iago was deceiving him before it was too late. Shakespeare made it possible for the audience to identify the society’s racism at the time, and by doing so, he did more than portray racism… he challenged it. 65

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