Racism in Hamlet's "Othello"

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Racism in Othello, by William Shakespeare, plays a major role in the play, and Othello’s racist roots eventually destroy all of the main characters. Othello, on the outside looking in, does not seem like a racist play because it is about a marriage between two people of different races, but it is most certainly racist. Upon close examination, it is clear to see that the union of a white and a non-white is not accepted, and cannot possibly persevere. The outcome of Othello is quite predictable when taking the racist backbone of the play into consideration. There is no hope for a happy marriage, and poor Othello and Desdemona are doomed from the start. It is made clear right off the bat that Othello is black or non-white, and that fact is used against him as soon as the first act begins. Throughout Act 1, Othello is described to the reader by Iago as “thick lipped” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 66), a “black ram” (1.1.94), and a “Barbary horse” (1.1.110). These demeaning descriptions of Othello are undeniably racist, and they are used to paint a savage and barbaric picture of him, even though Othello is truly quite the opposite. Iago’s personal problems with Othello bring out Iago’s feelings of racism, but his racism is only expressed to other racists, and never to Othello. Othello is referred to as “the moor” (1.1.39) and “old black ram”. (1.1.94) Referring to someone as a moor may not be racist, but referring to someone that you know on a personal basis as “the” moor, is certainly meant to be derogatory. The use of the term “Barbary horse” by Iago in Act 1 is quite possibly one of the most racist lines in the play. By Iago calling Othello a “Barbary horse”, Othello is being compared to an animal. A Barbary horse, big and dark, gives the image of an animal intended to work for humans. Not only is this line a description of Othello’s physique, but by comparing Othello to a horse, it is also a dig at his intelligence to be portrayed as an animal. By using the...
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