Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Othello is portrayed as a passionate and noble hero. He is represented as of honest character and holds a high rank as general in the Venician Army. Although Othello is depicted as a great man, he is also treated as an outsider because of the fact that he is a Moor. The union between Othello and Desdemona is not rendered as wrong to the audience, but shown as being torn apart by the Elizabethan society in 1604. For Shakespeare to give Othello such characteristics, put him at such a high position, and at the same time show how differently he is treated because of the color of his skin, Shakespeare writes a play about racism--not a racist play.

Brabantio and Othello had a good relationship until Iago got between them informing Brabantio of the marriage between Othello and Brabantio's daughter, Desdemona. "Even now, very now, and old black ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise: Awake the snorting citizens with the bell, or else the devil will make a grandsire of you," this was Iago's first attempt to turn Brabantio against Othello (I, i, 88-91). Brabantio is the father of Desdemona, and also the one who appointed Othello as general. When referring to Othello as the General of the Venician Army Brabantio has great respect for Othello. When it comes to the marriage between Desdemona and Othello Brabantio refers to it as "against all rules of nature," yet before Brabantio found out about the marriage Othello tells the Senate about how Brabantio "Еlov'd me, oft invited me; still question'd me the story of my life," (I, iii, 101-129). This shows that Othello's race was not an issue before the marriage, Othello tells the Senate he was often invited to Brabantio's house and there was respect between them.
There is hatred towards Othello from Brabantio because of the marriage that takes place between Desdemona and Othello behind his back. Othello, being a Moor comes out as a big issue, but the fact that Desdemona lied to her father is also a big part of the reason for the hatred Brabantio has towards Othello. Brabantio admits "if she confess that she was half the wooer, destruction on my head, if my bad blame light on the man," (I, iii, 175-176). He finds it unbelievable that Desdemona fell in love with Othello on her own, or was part of the courtship. Brabantio even accused Othello of using magic spells or tricks on Desdemona stating that, "she is abused, stol'n from me, and corrupted by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks; for nature so preposterously to err, being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense, sans witchcraft could not, (I, iii, 60-64).

This play has many racist comments coming from its main characters, but the comments are not made because of the color of Othello's skin, they are made only as a way to attack Othello for other reasons. The characters do not actually have something against Othello because he is a Moor; they have hatred towards Othello for other reasons, and use the color of his skin to strike against him. Iago comes across as the most racist character in the entire play, not only does he act racist towards Othello, but he tries to get the other characters to turn against Othello as well. Iago makes several racist remarks about Othello, but he makes these remarks behind his back because he doesn't Othello to know, since he is in a higher position than him. He doesn't have hatred towards Othello because he is black; his hatred is because Othello didn't give him the promotion that Iago believes he deserved and because he suspects that Othello slept with his wife. Othello chose Cassio, who has no experience in the army, to be his lieutenant. Another character that makes some racist comments is Roderigo, but he also does not carry his hatred towards Othello because of his skin color, but mainly because Desdemona is married to someone else, when he had asked for her hand. Emilia also makes a racist remark, saying "O, the more angel she, and you the black devil," but this is the only time during the play that she comments on his color, and this is out of anger, right after Othello kills Desdemona (V, i, 130-131).

Shakespeare does not use Othello's race to portray black people of lesser value. In fact, the Duke even says to Senator Brabantio, "Your son-in-law is far more fair than black," showing that Othello's positive characteristics are far more important than his skin color (I, iii, 287). Othello may be a minority, but he holds a high place in society. By Othello being black he is more obviously shown as an outsider, without this element the play would lose most of its meaning and value. The outsider quality explains some of his insecurities, which cause his jealous behavior and lead to his downfall. Iago put suspicions in his head about Desdemona having an affair, and OthelloТs already showed that he doubted that Desdemona truly loved him.

This play deals with love, jealousy, and racism. It is not written to make blacks look bad, but fixes on the complications that they must deals with, especially so long ago in an Elizabethan society. Shakespeare shows Othello and Desdemona's love being torn apart by outside sources. The marriage is not depicted as wrong to the audience, but shows that the relationship had to forgo the racist community that surrounded it. Othello is already presented as an outsider because of his color, and by other characters, trying to break apart the relationship for one reason or the other, fixing on his insecurities it all builds up to cause the tragic ending that takes place.

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