The Bard of Avon’s tragic play Othello expresses racism; there is no doubt about this among most critics. However, to what degree – to a vulgar extent? Or to an excusable level?
In her book, Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies, Maynard Mack comments on the audience’s reaction to the black-white union in the play:
That a beautiful Venetian girl should fall in love with “a veritable negro” seemed to many implausible, in fact “monstrous.” The words are Coleridge’s, but the sentiment was widely shared and, on the nineteenth-century stage, was increasingly taken into account by “orientalizing” the hero, making him appear to be what one of the century’s best-known actor-directors declared he emphatically was: “not a negro” but “a stately Arab.” (129)
In the opening scene, while Iago is expressing his dislike, or rather hatred, for 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. David Bevington in William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies describes how racism is obvious from the very outset of the play:
Othello is unquestionably a black man, referred to disparagingly by his detractors as the “thick-lips,” with a “sooty bosom” (1.1.68; 1.2.71); Elizabethan usage ap...
... middle of paper ...
...rsity. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
Wayne, Valerie. “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello.” The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ed Valerie Wayne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
Witt, Mary Ann Frese, et al., eds. “Black and White Symbols in Othello.” The Humanities: Cultural Roots and Continuities. Vol.1. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1985. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “The Engaging Qualities of Othello.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Introduction to The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare. N. p.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The polysemic nature of the play Othello enables a myriad of interpretation and perspectives take explained and accepted. This is evident through the various critics and films that have all interpreted Othello in different yet plausible ways. Issues such as racism, sexism, jealousy and love have been frequently noted in the play allowing Shakespeare to convey how he felt about his society at the time. Applying these matters to his works, not only has he expressed his views on the society, he has also allowed us to grasp what it was like during that period of time.... [tags: Shakespearean Literature]
590 words (1.7 pages)
- Explain how language and/or generic conventions are used to construct unequal power relationships. Explore how this occurs in at least one dramatic script you have studied. David Cushieri once said “The mind is a powerful force. It can enslave us or empower us. It can plunge us into the depths of misery or take us to the heights of ecstasy.” In Othello, written by the playwright Shakespeare, the power in each and every relationship has taken the majority of the characters down to the depths of misery through enslaving each of them.... [tags: Othello, Iago, Michael Cassio]
1283 words (3.7 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)
- 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.... [tags: Othello essays Shakespeare]
1765 words (5 pages)
- Racism and Interracial Marriage in Othello 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 tai... [tags: Othello essays]
3668 words (10.5 pages)
- Racism in William Shakespeare's Othello The play, Othello, is certainly, in part, the tragedy of racism. Examples of racism are common throughout the dialog. This racism is directed toward Othello, a brave soldier from Africa and currently supreme commander of the Venetian army. Nearly every character uses a racial slur to insult Othello at one point in the play. Even Emilia sinks to the level of insulting Othello based on the color of his skin. The character that most commonly makes racist remarks in Othello is Iago.... [tags: Othello essays Shakespeare]
1065 words (3 pages)
- Love and Hate Expressed by Characters in William Shakespeare's Othello In the play Othello, by William Shakespeare, different characters contribute to the development of particular themes. Three strong themes portrayed by the characters are of; misplaced trust, love vs. Hate and jealousy, and shattered innocence. The first theme of misplaced trust is clearly evident in most of all the characters that are manipulated by the depraved Iago. Roderigo is the first character to be entangled in his web of deception, whom I will focus on.... [tags: Othello essays]
689 words (2 pages)
- Othello’s Loss for Words Othello’s character throughout the play demonstrates a skill and confidence in the art of language. From the beginning we see long, eloquent speeches that dazzle his audience – eloquently mixing complex words that help portray him as not only a strong warrior but also a fighter with a sound mind. However when Iago pressures him about the possible relationship between his wife Desdemona and Cassio, Othello’s passion for his beloved wife breaks down his self-control.... [tags: Othello William Shakespeare Essays]
1591 words (4.5 pages)
- Othello: Racism Just how serious is the problem of racial prejudice in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. Is it pervasive or incidental. This essay intends to answer questions on this subject. Blanche Coles in Shakespeare’s Four Giants maintains that the racial discrimination in the play may be overstated by critics: In the first scene, Roderigo has referred to Othello as “thick lips.” No other character in the play attributes any such negroid features to Othello, and it should be remembered that Roderigo has a half-insane prejudice against and hatred for Othello.... [tags: Othello essays]
1897 words (5.4 pages)
- Racism in William Shakespeare’s Othello In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello racism is featured throughout, not only by Iago in his despicable animalistic remarks about Othello’s marriage, but also by other characters. Let us in this essay analyze the racial references and their degrees of implicit racism. Racism persists from the opening scene till the closing scene in this play. In “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello” Valerie Wayne comments on the racism inherent in the final act of the drama: When Othello finally kills himself and says he is killing the ‘turbaned Turk’ who ‘beat a Venetian and traduced the state’ (V, ii, 349-50), he is killing the monster he became... [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Othello]
2605 words (7.4 pages)