Essay On Othello Racism

The play, Othello, partly is the tragedy of racism, however I don’t believe that racism actually dominates the play. A few examples of racism may be seen in the dialogues that clearly state racist attitude of the British people towards Othello.

The play takes place in England in 1604. Othello, the soldier from Africa, is active supreme commander of the Venetian Army. Even though practically every character uses a racial slur to offend Othello throughout the entire play, there is a romantic union between black and white which gets ruined as most people believe this relationship is wrong.

Most racist remarks in the play have been demonstrated by people who are angry or upset. For example, when Emilia learned that Othello had murdered Desdemona she was very mad and she called him a “Blacker devil.” As you see, it was the only time in the whole play that she mentioned anything racist about Othello.

The character who made the majority of racist remarks was Iago. Iago’s hate towards Othello can be seen from the very beginning of the play since Othello had chosen Cassio as his lieutenant instead of Iago. Iago became very angry because of the fact that Cassio, in contrast to him, didn’t have expertise in warfare. Iago doesn’t express anything racist to Othello’s face, but he’s got much to say against him behind his back, meanwhile planning to destroy him and anyone in his way as well as Desdemona and Cassio.

Iago’s first racist comment is made during his conversation with Brabantio about Othello and Desdemona: “Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.”

Iago uses racist comments all the way through the play, as he tries to turn people, including Brabantio, against Othello, for example, calling him a “Barbary Horse.” He never says anything racist to … …


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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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