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Racism in Play “Othello” by William Shakespeare Essay


This essay discusses the play Othello by William Shakespeare. Characters such as Desdemona, Brabantio, and Othello are analyzed in terms of racism and ignorance. Besides, the paper expounds on racism, discrimination, and attitude towards black skin in Europe during the era of this play. In addition, the treatise discusses the irony of Othello’s greatness as a general but being deceived by Iago.

Across the play, it is clear that the character Othello is often called by other characters funny names depicting racism and discrimination based on his dark skin. For instance, the father of Desdemona; Brabantio cannot stand the imagination of Othello being an item with his daughter. He is seriously enraged on finding out that Othello had been dating his daughter behind his back. Different from the other characters who call Othello racist names behind his back, Brabantio frequently refer to him as a “moor” (Shakespeare 1.2.88) on his face.

This is a racist reference to Othello’s dark skin link to North African Arabs. Often, Brabantio uses terms such as” sooty bosom” (Shakespeare 1.2.89) when talking to Othello who is his subject as the Senator of Venice city. Such comments are meant to make Othello understand the hierarchy ladder of control and authority. In my opinion, despite the visible dislike Brabantio has for Othello, these racist onslaughts are influenced by Iago.

Constantly, Iago dwells on Othello’s race when discussing his relationship with Desdemonia to Brabantio. Iago asserts, “Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” (Shakespeare 1.1.97).

Skin color being a serious issue in this society, Brabantio cannot believe that his daughter could fall for such a sooty dark-skinned man. He thinks that Othello must have charmed her with a magic spell and witchcraft to have her in his arms. Without Iago’s influence on his views, Brabantio would not be so mean to Othello. Instead, he would practice racism on the fine solder only because of race difference.

In the early 17th century, in England, race dictated the role allocation in the society. The term moor was symbolically used by the whites to show disapproval for a character of undesirable traits (Julius 20). Despite the spirited writings depicting black people as equal to white people, Shakespeare’s writings were criticized.

It would be unimaginable for a Negro to claim royal birth. Blacks were considered outcast blood that is not worthy to stand in the courts of Venetian. They represented the opposite of ego, pride, cynicism, and amorality. Racist slurs were hurled at them in every slightest opportunity irrespective of the class (Julius 23). Despite Othello’s vast experience in military and holding a coveted post of a general, Brabantio refer to him as a moor (Shakespeare 1.2.88).

Reflectively, this gives an impression of a lesser human being who cannot be granted the same privileges and freedom of choice. Iago incites rejection in Othello’s love life. Since Othello is dark-skinned, the society is against his marriage to the daughter of the senator of Venice. Iago says, “Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe” (Shakespeare 1.1.97).

In role allocation, the white were the masters and blacks their servants. Some roles were reserved for the white supremacy. When in authority, whites were arrogant and insensitive when interacting with the blacks. With every slight opportunity, a white person would exercise authority and superiority. Openly, Brabantio calls Othello a sooty bosom (Shakespeare 1.2.89).

Being amoral being, Iago interestingly use this trait to manipulate his ways throughout the play. He is delighted in his own cunning. Besides, he is adoptive to every situation and can align himself to assume any form a situation might need. In company of any character, he is coarse, bluff, and genial. Moreover, the characters in the play prefer his easy solutions to every problem and he pretend to have best interest on Othello at heart. Though everyone is above him professionally and socially, he interacts without any ego.

For instance, in the fight between Roderigo and Cassio which he instigates, Iago tells Cassio, “I should rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offence to Michael Cassio. Yet I persuade myself, to speak the truth” (Shakespeare 2.1.80). He later convinces Othello to replace Cassio in the army for gross misconduct. This move is meant to win Othello’s trust and favor and facilitation of his scheme to replace Cassio as a lieutenant.

His goodness to Othello only serves his personal interests .Iago’s pride is of sly vindictiveness. In line 280, of scene 1 in act 2, Iago justify his hate and for Othello and is determined to cunningly revenge for a “twint my sheets…done my office” (Shakespeare 2.1.88). In pretence of loyalty, he vividly plots to break Othello’s marriage by vowing that, “till I am evened with him wife for wife” (Shakespeare 2.1.88).His vengeance insight is declared on Othello for what he presumes as a trodden pride.

In summary, the play Othello is captivating and presents racism as it was. The character Othello is gullible and easily manipulated by Iago who is below his class. Brabantio cannot approve Othello’s marriage to his daughter since he is dark-skinned. Generally, in the times of Shakespeare the blacks were despised as inferior being irrespective of their position in the society.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, W. Othello. Cambridge: Plain Label Books, 1968. Print.

Julius, L. Othello. New York: Turtleback Books, 1998. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 7). Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/othello-3/

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"Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare." IvyPanda, 7 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/othello-3/.

1. IvyPanda. "Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare." July 7, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/othello-3/.


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IvyPanda. "Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare." July 7, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/othello-3/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare." July 7, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/othello-3/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Racism in Play "Othello" by William Shakespeare'. 7 July.

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