Power, Race and Women in Othello by Shakespear and Sax

Topics: Racism, Othello, Sociology Pages: 6 (1428 words) Published: March 5, 2011


• A fear of foreigners during Elizabethan times fostered misogynistic and racist values, which is evident in the way Othello’s blackness becomes a symbol of alienation to which all characters in the play must respond.

• Using grotesque animal imagery, Iago voices an explicitly stereotypical view of Othello, as a “Barbary horse,” depicting him as an animalistic outsider. Through the image of conflict in black and white, Iago emphasises on the racial demarcation between Othello and Desdemona, that “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe,” associating Othello with uncontrolled animalistic sexuality. Iago’s overt and vicious racism becomes representative of the reigning stereotype of the African on the Elizabethan stage

• Insecure because of his race, Othello echoes Iago’s choice of bestial image “I had rather be a toad and live upon the vapour of a dungeon,” reflecting his barbaric nature and status as an outsider.

• Shakespeare demystifies and questions the racial hierarchies in the society due to which meritorious people like Othello have to suffer.


• In Othello, Sax centres on the issue of race as an important social and political theme in the modern context, and makes a harsh comment on the institutionalised racism of the Metropolitan police force, and by extension, the society in general.

• Like Iago, Jago’s outburst to the audience is filled with indignation as bestial imagery, “you stupid, patronizing ape,” pervades his dialogue. Jago conceal his racist sentiment with pretentious affability in a seemingly jesting comment, “you clever black bastard,” yet the bitter undertones of this statement evokes tokenism and dramatic irony. This hypocrisy is representative of the façade of racial tolerance which the government and law enforcement systems hold up for political correctness.

• The idea of tokenism is reinforced through the juxtaposition of the bathroom scene, where Commissioner Carver makes racist comments, and the diner function, where he declares to promote Asian and Black officers. As an outsider, John is a victim of reverse racism, used as a political pawn to obliterate the accusation of racism.

• Both John and Othello are tormented by insecurity because of their race. As John becomes anxious he alienates himself from his friends at the dinner party, asserting “just like the old ideas – blacks waiting on whites…you people brought my people over there to work and die as slaves on your plantations,” which portrays his perception of himself as an outsider.

Gender: Shakespeare and Sax echoes and challenges the adherence to patriarchal rules and stereotypes within two contexts.


• Shakespeare demonstrates ideas in relation to female virtue and the subordinate position of women in the 16th century.

• With little autonomy, women were treated as possessions of men. This is evident in the way Brabantio describes the loss of Desdemona as though she was a piece of property that is “stolen from me and corrupted”.

• Desdemona is represented as the virtuous daughter who is “A maiden never bold, of spirit so still and quiet that her motion blushed at herself.” This reflects the patriarchal expectations towards women of being pure and modest.

• However, Shakespeare challenges these expectations to an extent through Desdemona as she falls in love unconventionally and defies her father’s authority. As she speaks clearly and truthfully in her words, “My noble father, I do perceive a divided duty.” While these words establish for the audience her courage and her strength of conviction, Desdemona’s allegiance and the role of women in a patriarchal society is nevertheless further explored as she transfers her duty from her father to her husband.

• In her dying breath, Desdemona represents the virtues of solid faithfulness of a wife in supporting her husband, “No body, I myself, farewell,” where she...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • othello Essay
  • Othello Power Essay
  • Race in Othello Essay
  • Racism in Othello by Shakespear Essay
  • Gender and Race I Othello Essay
  • Othello
  • Women in Othello/ Elizabethan Times Essay
  • Women vs. Men in Othello Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free