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Racism in Othello


Racism is a significant subject in William Shakespeare’s play Othello. Has Othello’s race and the Racism that surrounded him ever crossed your mind? Because of his dark skin, Othello has many issues during the play. Racist terms like “the Moor,” “ancient black ram,” “Barbary horse,” and “thick lips” were used to describe him (Shakespeare 1.1.40; 1.1.88; 1.1.111; 1.1.66). Being a Black person in a predominantly white environment at that time must have been difficult, as evidenced by Othello’s story. Othello was the only black sheep among a herd of Dall sheep; therefore, he was seen as an outsider. Iago, Roderigo, Emilia, and Brabantio all uttered racial slurs throughout the play.

Lago is the face of Racism in this play. “Thus, do I ever make my fool my purse? For I mine own gained knowledge should profane, If I would time expend with such a snipe. But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets” (Act: 1 Scene 3: Line: 320). These lines display how offensive Lago was; for the most racially offensive line, Iago would win any prize for the character who made it. Othello’s life was profoundly affected by Racism in the play. Most made snap judgments about him based on nothing more than the colour of his skin. As a result of his ethnicity and the hatred he encountered, Othello’s marriage to Desdemona was ruined. He became an outcast in Venice and became an easy mark for Iago’s manipulation.

One of the grounds for Iago’s hatred is jealousy. Because of the Racism he encountered, Othello and Desdemona’s marriage was doomed. In the end, all good things must end for Othello and Desdemona as a pair. Almost every character in the play had a relationship issue of some kind. Inter-racial romances and marriages were illegal at the time the play was set. Iago and Roderigo woke up Brabantio (Desdemona’s father) while he was sleeping and told him that Othello was having sex with his daughter Desdemona at the time (Shakespeare 1.1.86-92). He didn’t believe them at first, but when he learned that they were speaking the truth about his daughter’s relationship with “the Moor” Othello, Brabantio didn’t take it lightly. Demetria had surprised Brabantio by wanting to be with someone like Othello, and Brabantio couldn’t believe it. In the play’s first act, racist remarks are hurled at Othello. As for Brabantio, Desdemona’s longing for Othello “fell in love with what she feared to look on,” and he was “amazed and shocked” (Shakespeare 1.1.98).

Brabantio said that Othello used sorcery to win Desdemona’s heart and keep her as his wife (Shakespeare 1.2.62-81). There has to be some miracle at that period in history for a black person and a white person to be together. When Brabantio discovered Othello, he hurled insults at him and ordered his men to bring him in. An African-American man referred to as “The Moor” because of his dark skin tone, and features were named after the inhabitants of North Africa (Bartels 434). Desdemona was one of the many characters who referred to Othello as a “Moor.” In Othello, it was clear that nearly all of the characters were racist. Othello’s marriage to Desdemona would have worked if he had been white instead of black, and the two would have lived happily ever after.

Because of his dark skin, Othello has a lot of trouble throughout the play. Because of his mixed race, Othello was easy prey for Iago’s scheming. Othello unwittingly went right into Iago’s ruse. Othello did exactly what Iago had hoped he would do. When Iago envied Othello’s position and achievements, he turned into a racist. Iago realizes that he can use Othello’s race as a tool to control his life and assume his place as a result of Iago’s insults against Othello’s race. Iago was adamant about the success of his strategy. Iago was well aware that Othello’s ethnicity was a source of vulnerability for him. In Venice, Othello felt that his ethnicity was a liability. “Haply, for I am black and do not have those delicate parts of talk That chamberers have, or I have declined into the value of years, yet that’s not much. She is gone,” he regrets his blackness, showing his self-denial. 3.3.263-267 (Shakespeare’s) He feels that Desdemona is abandoning him for the same reason she fell in love with him; because he was different. Iago’s influence on Othello causes this. When it came to evil spirits, Iago was the most powerful. Iago drew inspiration from Othello’s blackness to develop a plan to bring him down. Iago used Othello like a puppet to control his behaviour throughout the play. After hearing him speak, Othello began to believe in his Racism. To motivate the other characters, he uses Othello’s race. He was driven insane by Racism, and Iago didn’t help. Roderigo was surprised when Iago stated that Desdemona was merely seeing a Black guy satisfy her curiosity. Othello’s sex with Desdemona had become monotonous, he claims, and she was looking for something new (Shakespeare 2.1.226-227).


In Othello’s case, his colour and the bigotry around him profoundly impacted his life. One of Othello’s most significant themes was Racism. As a result of his race and the hatred he encountered, his marriage to Desdemona fell apart. He was cut off from friends and family in Venice. He became an easy mark for Iago’s manipulation. Due to the play’s accuracy and relatability, Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works. Racism, stereotyping, manipulation, and jealousy are still prevalent in today’s society. Due to his race and the bigotry he encountered in Venice, Othello was an outcast amongst his peers. Othello’s alienation heavily influenced the drama. Othello’s dark skin tone was more than just a physical indicator of his social isolation. They had a lot of negative stereotypes about black people. Othello’s name was rarely mentioned in this play, which indicated that Othello had been estranged from his family and friends. This meant social isolation, as he had stopped addressing people by their first and last names. Because of this, it appeared that the other characters avoided mentioning him by name. In the previous section, it was claimed that all of the characters were racist toward Othello. Othello’s name was used less and less the more racist the feeling got. While calling Othello “the Moor” twenty times, Iago used his name only five times.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. ” Othello .” THE MOOR OF VENICE n.d.


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