The Racism in Othello Essays

The Racism in Othello Essays

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The Racism in Othello  

 
    Throughout the duration of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, there is a steady stream of racism. It is originating from not one, but rather several characters in the play.

In the opening scene, while Iago is expressing his dislike, rather hatred, for the general Othello for his having chosen Michael Cassio for the lieutenancy, he contrives a plan to partially avenge himself (“I follow him to serve my turn upon him”), with Roderigo’s assistance, by alerting Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, to the fact of his daughter’s elopement with Othello. Roderigo shares Iago’s prejudiced attitude toward Othello: “What a full fortune does the thicklips owe / If he can carry't thus!” The word thicklips is a disparaging reference to a facial characteristic of many members of the black race. When, by loud shouting, Brabantio is awakened, Iago commences with a series of racial epithets:

 

Zounds, sir, you're robb'd; for shame, put on

     your gown;

     Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;

     Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

     Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise;

     Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,

     Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you:

     Arise, I say. (1.1)

 

The phrase old black ram and the word devil both make reference in an offensive manner to dark skin color. The allusion to white ewe has the effect of putting Othello’s darkness into sharp contrast. A few lines later Iago once again turns his invective fully on Othello with three stinging racial epithets:

 

     'Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not

     serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to

     do you service ...


... middle of paper ...


... the blacker devil!

 

 OTHELLO. She turn'd to folly, and she was a whore.

 

 EMILIA. Thou dost belie her, and thou art a devil! (5.2)

 

Following Iago’s murder of Emilia, he is captured; Lodovico addresses Othello, who is so dejected at having been deceived by his ancient:

 

     O thou Othello, thou wert once so good,

     Fall'n in the practise of a damned slave,

     What shall be said to thee? (5.2)

 

Needless to say, damned slave has racial overtones. Shortly thereafter, the hero, in remorse for the tragic mistake he has made, stabs himself and dies on the bed next to his wife, his sorrow being as deep as his love.

 

WORKS CITED

 

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

 

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