The Importance of Race in Othello

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Throughout time, writing has evolved such that gender, race and creed have taken on a more pivotal role in fiction. Some people argue that race in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello,” is hardly an issue. However, to many people, race is everything in “Othello. The challenges that Othello, the lead character, faces are directly attributed to his “Moor” complexion and if he were of a different nationality, the outcome of his situation would have been drastically different. These claims are supported by the articles of “Othello’s Alienation” by Edward Berry and “Race Mattered: Othello in Late Eighteenth-Century England” by Virginia Mason Vaughan that argue that race is a major element in “Othello.”

Within the first scene of “Othello,” the antagonist, Iago, shows his true feelings for Othello. He confides in Roderigo that he deserved the job that Othello gave to Cassio. In Iago’s rant, he proclaims that Cassio has been given the job of lieutenant while he would be the “his Moorship’s ancient.” Iago goes on to say, “Now sir, be judge yourself, /whether I in any just term am affined/to love the Moor. Yet, again, Iago refers to Othello’s race as if it were a deciding factor in his actions.

His statement leads to the question: Would Iago feel any more loyal to Othello if he were of a different complexion? Would Othello have the same problems if he were white? And ultimately, why would Othello so undisputedly believe the lies that he was told?

In the article, “Othello’s Alienation,” Berry explains that Othello’s race is “not only a mark of his physical alienation but a symbol, to which every character in the play, himself included, must respond” (Berry 319). In this alienation comes insecurities; Othello cannot help but to be...

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...his proclamations on Desdemona’s infidelity and hating the appropriate people, Othello is seeking Iago’s acceptance. He is trying subconsciously to appeal to Iago’s better nature even though Iago’s actions contribute to Othello’s demise. Because Iago is white and Othello is black, the events that incur are inevitable.

William Shakespeare’s “Othello” is a change from the norm in regards to play write in regards to race. Because Othello is black, Shakespeare was able to open up to new means of producing extreme emotions from the cast. These emotions entail rage, passion, jealousy, and love. All these emotion are attributed to the race of the main character and the tension that arises. Iago’s hatred for Othello relies solely on his race and provides a vehicle for which Iago can exact his hatred. Because of this malicious intent due to racism, “Othello” is possible.
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