Race And Racism In Othello Essay

Racism In Othello Essay

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). Othello struggled a lot during the play because of his dark skin color. He was called several racist names like “the Moor,” “Old black ram,” “Barbary horse,” and “Thick lips.”
Othello was the black sheep crowded around a herd of white sheep. Racist comments were made by many of the characters like Iago, Brabantio, Roderigo, and Emilia. Iago got the trophy for the most used racial comments. Racism in Othello had a tremendous impact on Othello. Being the only black person in a mostly white ethnicity area influenced him in a bad way. He was judged by the color of his skin and not his personality. Othello’s race and the racism around him affected his life by ruining his marriage with Desdemona, alienating him from everybody in Venice, and by making him an easy target to be manipulated by Iago.
Firstly, Othello and Desdemona was a good couple, but you know what they say, all good things must come to an end. Almost everybody had a problem with their relationship. In that time, interracial relationships and marriage wasn’t allowed. While Brabantio was sleeping, Iago and Roderigo woke him up out of his sleep saying that Othello was having sex with his daughter Desdemona at that very moment. Brabantio didn’t believe them at first, but when he found out that they were telling the truth and his white daughter was with “the Moor” Othello, he didn’t take it lightly. He couldn’t believe that she would want to be with someone like Othello. He said that Othello must’ve used some type of magic to get Desdemona to fall in love with him. At that time it had to be a miracle for a black person to be with a white person, it was unheard of. Then he started calling Othello a Moor to his face and orders his guards to get him.
It’s obvious that mostly every character in Othello is racist. If the color of Othello’s skin was white, Othello and Desdemona would’ve lived happily ever after. Racism was shown in many ways in Act I of Othello. When Iago and Roderigo talked about Othello, they called him an “Old black ram,” and made a sex reference with Othello and Desdemona by saying that they were “making the beast with two backs.” “The Moor” is a reference to his black skin color, features, and represents the people from North Africa (Bartels 434). Most of the characters, including Desdemona called Othello a Moor.
Othello’s blackness, his marriage with Desdemona, and the murder of her are all three important structural elements of Othello and are all related (Little...

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Othello, himself, is unaware of any existing racism or of the power of such thoughtless hatred. He declares, “My parts, my title and my perfect soul/Shall manifest me rightly” (I.ii.31-32). He does not believe that discrimination can determine his guilt. At first, this notion of universal equality works against Iago’s claims that Desdemona is cheating on Othello because of his skin color. Othello confidently declares, “Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw/The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt/For she had eyes, and chose me” (III.iii.187-89).

However, he goes on to say, “And yet, how nature erring from itself—” (III.iii.228). This indicates that, perhaps deep down, Othello believes that it is in Desdemona’s inherent nature to favor men of her own race. Iago draws upon Othello's doubt and says, “Her will, recoiling to her better judgment/May fall to match you with her country forms/and happily repent” (III.iii.226-28). By saying this, Iago implies that Desdemona compares Othello with other white Venetian men and regrets her marriage. Persuaded by Iago's words, Othello starts to believe that Desdemona is cheating on him because he is black.

Left alone with these thoughts, Othello states “I’ld whistle her off and let her down the wind/To prey at fortune (III.iii.263-64). His words suggest that if Desdemona was proven false, he would cast her out of his household. However, after he brings up the issue of his own race and recognizes how he is different from the rest of society, Othello lashes out in anger at Desdemona, the scapegoat for his overpowering sense of self-loathing:

Haply, for I am black

And have not those soft parts of conversation

That chamberers have, or for I am declin’d

Into the vale of years (yet that’s not much)

She’s gone. I am abus’d: and my relief

Must be to loathe her (III.iii.264-69)

Othello does not just criticize Desdemona for her infidelity nor condemns her for her sins, but he, in a way, justifies her actions by assuming that his own race-related weaknesses motivated her to have an affair with another man. This quote shows a change in Othello. He begins to hate Desdemona because he now believes that she cheated on him because of his race. He will not be content with just throwing her out, but is now consumed with loathing because he believes her cheating and discrimination has caused him to feel pain and inferiority.

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