Race and Loyalty in Othello
William Shakespeare`s Othello is a play set in Venice. The plot is based on a story about two people who love each other dearly and the problems and conflicts they face from the start. The conflicts are, for the most part, tied in with racial issues and questions of loyalty. These conflicts stem from the society around the couple, as well as from the couple themselves as they too are part of this society, but with very different backgrounds: The female protagonist is the daughter of a highly-respected Venetian senator: Brabantio. Othello--also known as the Moor--is a foreigner, black in color, has a past filled with tragic and exotic tales and has proved himself worthy of the title General in the Venetian army.
Even before we, as an audience, have had a chance to meet Othello and Desdemona we learn that the match is considered as disgusting as it is outrageous. From the very beginning everyone and everything seem to work against them, but in the hope that love will conquer all we do not allow ourselves to despair as yet. And indeed, the first act proves us right. After having explained why they love each other the world seems to accept this alliance.
But Brabantio`s comment tells us that everything is not all right: (I.iii.293-4) "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:/She has deceived her father and may thee." By disobeying her faher Desdemona has shown herself able to betray the person she is supposed to love and--according to Venetian norms--obey. The phrase "look to her" suggests several things: that Desdemona needs to be watched closely, in other words; she cannot be trusted, or that Othello should notice w...
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...a`s case, she has, by marrying Othello, lost her own good name--in two senses, because she commited a sin by not doing as her father bid her and secondly because by marrying she acquires her husband`s name. In both cases Othello seems to think she has commited a crime. Her respectable self is lost through her connection with him. He compares this with his own face: "begrimed and black". Whether she is now dirty because he was dirty from the start or he feels that she has made him unclean is unclear to me. What is certain, though, is that he is far from satisfied with his wife, the main root of the problem is his being suspiciuos of her real character. His insecurity makes him act like Olav Tryggvason (kill the traitor) and ask similar questions to the one Håkon the Jarl posed to his lifelong companion: WHY ART THOU SO WAN AND SOMETIMES AS BLACK AS THE EARTH?
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