One of the major issues in Shakespeare's Othello is the impact of the race of the main character, Othello. His skin color is non-white, usually portrayed as African although some productions portray him as an Arabian. Othello is referred to by his name only seventeen times in the play. He is referred to as "The Moor" fifty-eight times. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) states that a Moor is "Any individual of the swarthy races of Africa or Asia which have adopted the Mohammedan religion. In Spanish history the terms Moo, Saracens, and Arabs are synonymous." This indicates that Othello is constantly being degraded and set up as an evil person throughout the play. What this really means is that Othello is being judged by his skin color rather than the person under the skin. The view that whites and non-whites are equal is a relatively new concept in our society. In institutionalized racism, such as American slavery, those of a different color were often viewed as inferior. As Shakespeare wrote Othello, this idea was becoming quite prominent as England entered the African slave trade. One can look at the racial issues from the perspective of color, slavery, and society.
There are many references in the play to indicate that Othello was dark colored. The first image we, as a reader, are given of Othello is that of a black ram having sexual relations with Desdemona (1.1.89-90). Later on in the play, there are many other references to Othello's color and race. Desdemona's father, Brabantio, is appalled to learn that his daughter is having a relationship with a "sooty bosom" (2.3.27). Emilia refers to Othello as a black devil (5.2.132). Othello even calls himself black (3.3.265). Iago also...
... middle of paper ...
...hello is driven mad by the force of Iago's suggestions, indicating that he is merely a victim of another man's jealousy.
1 Norman Sanders, ed. Othello. Cambridge: New York, 1995: 12.
2 C. W. Slights. "Slaves and Subjects in Othello," Shakespeare Quarterly v48 Winter 1997: 382.
3 C. W. Slights. 380.
4 Norman Sanders, ed. 10.
5 J. Adelman. "Iago's Alter Ego: Race as Projection in Othello," Shakespeare Quarterly v48 Summer 1997: 130.
6 C. W. Slights. 388.
Bradley, A. C.. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Di Yanni, Robert. “Character Revealed Through Dialogue.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Literature. N. p.: Random House, 1986.
Muir, Kenneth. Introduction. William Shakespeare: Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Although some try to avoid it, most people’s opinions of others are sadly regarded based on race. These ethnic groups cause people to think of others as superior or inferior to them, sometimes becoming so extreme that people start to doubt themselves. These ideas are incorporated in Shakespeare’s play, Othello, a tragedy about a black war general named Othello, who is often referred to by many racial names, such as “the Moor.” He has recently married a young woman named Desdemona, a character completely opposite in race and status.... [tags: Othello, Race, Iago, Black people, Desdemona]
1682 words (4.8 pages)
- The Issue of Race in Othello In his production of Othello for BBC television (1981), Jonathan Miller asserted that Othello's race does not greatly impact his downfall in the play. He maintains that while Shakespeare touches upon the issue of race, the cause of Othello's demise lies elsewhere.1 However, the implications of race in the play directly lead to its tragic ending; it is this issue that impels the characters to set the tragedy in motion. Brabantio would never revolt against the union of Othello and Desdemona if it were not for Othello's blackness. Roderigo could never be motivated to pursue Desdemona were it not for his belief that their relationship is unnatural. By far t... [tags: Othello essays]
3236 words (9.2 pages)
- The Downfall of Othello Isolation, by definition, is the act (condition. ) of being separated from the mainstream society. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the protagonist, Othello is isolated from the rest of Venetian society because of racism. Racism is a common factor throughout the dialogue of the play, as almost all characters have directed racial slurs towards Othello. Iago, the antagonist, is able to take advantage of Othello’s insecurities and vulnerabilities about his race and convince him of Desdemona’s infidelity.... [tags: Race, Othello, Black people, Miscegenation]
1020 words (2.9 pages)
- The Downfall of Othello (Intro Paragraph) Isolation, by definition, is the act of being separated from the mainstream society. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello, the protagonist, is isolated from the rest of Venetian society due to racism. Racism is a common factor throughout the dialogue of the play, as almost all characters have directed racial slurs towards Othello. Iago, the antagonist, is able to take advantage of Othello’s insecurities and vulnerabilities about his race and convince him of Desdemona’s infidelity.... [tags: Othello, Tragic hero, Race, Emotional insecurity]
858 words (2.5 pages)
- While there have been a great number of changes in the world since Shakespeare wrote Othello, there are a few truths about humanity and society that remain true. Othello is notorious for it’s examination of race, but is not given enough credit for its observations of gender. Iago embodies masculine gender roles in a severe and exaggerated way, allowing his desire for proving his masculinity to corrupt him morally. Iago then turns and uses his own fears of inadequacy against Othello as the root of his revenge and to improve his own self-image.... [tags: Othello Essays]
1061 words (3 pages)
- Racism is just one of the many problems that we have here in the United States today. Racism isn’t as bad as it used to be but it’s still here. In Othello, written by the one and only William Shakespeare, racism is the main theme and focus. England became involved in the slave trade during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Slights 377). Racism started in the twentieth century after this was written but the way the Elizabethan era viewed black people was similar to how racism is today (Bartels 433).... [tags: Othello Essays]
1062 words (3 pages)
- Manipulation is viewed in a negative light in society, but if used correctly, such as advertisement, can be quite effective. Despite the fact that Iago is considered to be Othello’s right-hand man, he uses conniving and manipulation to get revenge, shaping every odd occurrence and event to his own cowardly schemes. Iago gets inside of Othello’s mind and uses his jealousy and persecution as the Moor against him. He controls Rodrigo and ultimately destroys his reputation as well as influences Cassio when he is depressed.... [tags: Iago, Othello, Michael Cassio, Emilia]
1386 words (4 pages)
- Othello’s Insecurity of Manhood “Insecurity kills all that is beautiful” in Shakespeare’s Othellothe tragedy clearly testifies to this theme as it tells the story of marriage of beauty and passion that turns to ashes all due to insecurity. More specifically, the story of Othello, a successful Black Mauritanian general of the Venetian army, tells of an interracial marriage to a White upper middle class Venetian wife, Desdemona, who is determined to make their love eternal. However, due to Othello’s decision to appoint Michael Cassio over his trusted ensign Iago, Iago tells Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with the newly appointed white lieutenant, Cassio.... [tags: Othello, Iago, Michael Cassio, Jealousy]
1248 words (3.6 pages)
- The Impact of Gender on Shakespeare’s Othello In the book “Gender Trouble” (1990), feminist theorist Judith Butler explains “gender is not only a social construct, but also a kind of performance such as a show we put on, a costume or disguise we wear” (Butler). In other words, gender is a performance, an act, and costumes, not the main aspect of essential identity. By understanding this theory of gender as an act, performance, we can see how gender has greatly impacted the outcome of the play in William Shakespeare’s Othello.... [tags: Literary Analysis, Judith Butler]
1373 words (3.9 pages)
- Use of Imagery in Othello In William Shakespeare's Othello, the use of imagery and metaphors is significant in conveying meaning as it helps to establish the dramatic atmosphere of the play and reinforce the main themes. Through this, the audience is able to grasp a better understanding of the play. Throughout Othello, images relating to poison frequently occur. These references are predominantly made by Iago. This seems appropriate for Iago who exhibits the characteristics of poison; they being fatal and deadly.... [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Othello]
645 words (1.8 pages)