Drama Othello

Topics: Othello, Black people, Desdemona Pages: 7 (2486 words) Published: September 14, 2006

Jessica Higgins

Throughout the centuries, people have been marginalised on account of their ethnicity. It is a timeless issue. The process begins with one dominant group, who exclude the minor group, on basis of inferiority. The feeling of superiority from the dominant group or culture may not be intentional, but is often a prevailing attitude at the time, which subtly influences people. Human kind through all of time is known for rejecting the unfamiliar, which is surely demonstrated in Othello, by William Shakespeare. In Othello, one man is excluded or set apart on the grounds of his being an outsider. His name is Othello. There are many methods, subtle and obvious, that Shakespeare uses to show Othello's exclusion and how he is devalued.

Othello is a black protagonist in the play, Othello. He differs from all of the other characters, because he is not a native European. Other characters notice and use his race and ethnicity as a means to belittle him. He is identified by other characters as being a ‘..Moor.' The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. The way that other characters respond and speak and about Othello enlightens the viewer on their feelings towards him, and makes the viewer feel that perhaps there is a certain amount of racism happening in the time that Othello was written. The characters certainly demonstrate signs of being xenophobic, which perhaps reflected the general feeling at the time. An example of this is when Iago blackens Othello's name in the first act, to Brabantio, a Venetian Senator, and Desdemona's father. He uses crude, racist language to appeal to the senator's established attitudes, including such phrases as, "Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe! (1.i.87-88) Iago even goes so far as to suggest that Brabantio's grandchildren will be animals because of his daughter's base marriage with a black man. "You'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans." (1. i. 110-113) Further into the play, the audience can observe for themselves that Iago's motive is jealousy and he uses the method of racism to undermine Othello, playing on Brabantio's prejudices to incite him, even though, as Othello tells later, 'Her father loved me, oft invited me.' (1.iii.129) A surprise and a few crude comments from Iago is all it takes to make a respected figure turn against a close friend of equal stature simply because of skin colour. This suggests a deeper underlying current of racism, running in the people.

Characters in Othello, were not overtly racist to Othello, because of his colouring and specific mores, but because he was different. From the start, the audience is aware of Othello's separateness. Iago describes him in prejudicial and derogatory terms before the audience even knows his name, calling him an "old black ram" and "the devil." Yet, when Othello appears to for the first time to the audience, his actions and words show that he is an upright, honest, and confident man. In the beginning of the play, Othello was a respected general, in the Venetian army. Although racism was not systemic or institutionalised at the time, an example is Othello's being chosen as a general which was a position of honour and prestige. However there was obvious underlying racism in the society of the time, manifested by the broad cross-section of people who discriminate against Othello. There is a clear theme of racism throughout, one which was firmly embedded in the Venetian society which rejects the marriage of Othello and Desdemona as erring, 'against all rules of nature, (1.3.102) Another good example of this is Brabantio, Othello's unwilling father-in-law. He lost a daughter to a foreigner who was welcome as a guest, but not as a son-in-law. Under the prejudices that Brabantio had, Othello becomes...
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