Othello: The Moor of Venice is probably Shakespeare's most controversial play. Throughout this work, there is a clear theme of racism, a racism that has become commonplace in Venetian society which rejects the marriage of Othello and Desdemona as anathema. The text expresses racism throughout the play within the language transaction of the dialogue to question the societal ethos established by Othello, thereby making him nothing less than a cultural "other." Furthermore, the character of Desdemona is displayed as mad, or out of her wits, for marrying such an "other," and the audience sees her slip from an angelic state of purity to that of a tainted character. Also, the menacing Iago, a mastermind of deviant rhetoric, is able to play Othello and Desdemona against one another until their marriage fails, while at the same time destroying his adversary and friend, Cassio. Thus Iago has a specific agenda, not only to get back at Othello for choosing Cassio instead of him, but also to make Cassio the victim of his plan to destroy the forbidden marriage referred to by Brabantio as a "treason of the blood" (1.2.166-167). Essentially, Iago is a representative of the white race, a pre-Nazi figure who tries to inform the public of the impurity of Othello and Desdemona's marriage. He demonstrates how this miscegenation is threatening to the existing social order. Thus, through analysis of racism, the play represents the hatred possessed by mankind -- a hate so strong that society sees the mixing with an "other" to be a curse to humanity and a terrible threat to Aryan culture.
The play is structured so that the climax, or rather the main premise of the play, appears near the beginning; al...
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Neill, Michael. "Unproper Beds: Race, Adultery, and the Hideous in Othello." Critical Essays in Shakespeare's Othello. Ed. Anthony Gerard Barthelemy.
New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1994. 187-215.
Newman, Karen. "'And wash the Ethiop white': Feminity and the Monstrous in Othello." Critical Essays in Shakespeare's Othello.
Ed. Anthony Gerard Barthelemy. New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1994. 124-143.
Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice." The Signet Classic Shakespeare. Ed. Alvin Kernan. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998.
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