Race in Othello

Better Essays
3 paragraphs of Act 1 in Othello ----Sally Fu
RACE
William Shakespeare’s Othello explores the issue of race in his portrayal of the protagonist as a Moor which represents his tending marginal role in a Venetian society. In the play, characters are judged again and again based on appearances and outward characteristics. The protagonist's different ethnic background provides a platform for probing ideas of racial conflict. This is exposed initially through the title of this play, “Othello, the Moor of Venice”, where the juxtaposition of “Moor” and “Venice” imbued within, reveals Othello’s loss of identity and the outsider nature in Venetian society. The dramatic opening of Act 1 Scene1 captures the audience’s attention and gives us a first impression of Othello as an obnoxious “Moor” and hateful “black creature.” This mocking tone is heightened through Roderigo’s description of Othello as “thick-lips owe” and reduces him to mere racial stereotype by referring him as his physical feature. The discriminatory language is amplified further when Iago later portrays Othello and Desdemona's relationships as "an old black ram…tupping your white ewe" and "making the beast with two backs". The use of animal imagery of “ram” and “ewe” disparaged Othello to a simple beast and is stereotyped as sexually overactive as well as bestial force, to foil white people’s nobleness. The antithesis of “black” and “white” instilled within emphasizes the racial discrimination and gap between different ethnic groups at the Elizabethan time, when white people don’t admit black (African) people as part of their Christian society. This antithesis of contrasting colour is widely used throughout the entire play to create character’s hatred toward the Moor, and it is also frequently placed next to biblical justification such as “black devil” and white “noble angel”, as people in the Elizabethan period like to cite examples from Christian theology to support the view that

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Race and Racism in Othello

    • 1789 Words
    • 8 Pages

    In What Way Would A Modern Audience React To The Way Race And Racism Is Portrayed In 'Othello'? In the Sixteenth century, as we see clearly from Othello and other works of both Shakespeare and Cinthio's original version of Othello, race was a topic of great debate and discussion. Today, in the twenty-first century the debate retains its controversy and passion. However, attitudes towards race have taken a dramatic turn during the last century. In the developed world people are now living in an…

    • 1789 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Othello’s race does not prominently impact his demise, although Shakespeare touches upon the issue of race, the reason for Othello’s demise lies somewhere else. However, the allegations of race directly lead to its tragic ending. Feelings of inadequacy and distrust without question aid in the tragedy. The fact that Othello’s skin color is important alters the interpretation of the tragedy within the play. The racism represented in Othello is not just about an instance of prejudices and prejudgments…

    • 634 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race In Othello Essay

    • 1024 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Shakespeare's work such as this analysis piece of Othello written back in 1977. Also, this source was used in a collection of Shakespearean Criticism in its 53rd volume. This can be seen in her analyzation on Othello, as she is among the section of modern day critics, and observers, of Shakespeare's works who argue that the idea, or implication, of race is essential to the story. This author is ecstatic about the idea of the character, Othello, being black in modern day portrayals, thanks to…

    • 1024 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Topic paper : The role of race in Othello. “Although the plots of Shakespeare's plays are specific, the motivations of the characters -- as well as of Shakespeare himself -- have been the source of much debate. Arguments continue over interpretations of Shakespeare's intentions in part because his plays remain so profoundly relevant.” (www.pbs.org, Teachers’ Guide, Othello : Essay on race, web.) Othello is the story of a Berber who in the fourteenth century, has reached the top of the pyramid…

    • 1773 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Sinclaire Mitchell Race is a critical factor in Othello, the story of the ‘dark Moor’ who gives in to sexual jealousy in a white society. Many people have numerous questions about this play. Why does Iago lie to Othello so cruel? Why does Othello believe Iago’s lies, and end up committing the terrible act of killing his dear wife? Shakespeare doesn’t make Iago’s intentions clear and he doesn’t really show us Othello’s personal fears and insecurities. The play starts with soldiers, Iago and Roderigo…

    • 743 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Race identities in Shakespeare’s Othello William Shakespeare (26th April 1564 – 23rd April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and an actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the Bard of Avon. His extant works, including some collaboration, consist of 37 plays, 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems and few other verses. His plays have been translated into every major…

    • 1055 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Early Venice is an enchanting and breathtaking city in Italy. Othello is an African American man that stands out in a city full of white individuals in Venice. Othello falls in love with Desdemona, but when Iago does not receive a lieutenant title, he is furious and starts planting lies in Othello’s mind. Shakespeare illustrates the transformation of Othello, a noble general who turns into a jealous killer. Since this story revolves around the earlier times in history, interracial marriage was frowned…

    • 1154 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Gender and Race I Othello

    • 2283 Words
    • 10 Pages

    Gender and Race in Othello | In many of his works, William Shakespeare explores ideas of gender differences and racial tensions. Othello, a play whose characters are judged again and again based on appearances and outward characteristics, is one such work. The protagonist's different ethnic background provides a platform for probing ideas of racial conflict. Similarly, the presence of well-developed yet opposing female characters adds a dimension of gender conflict and feminist views. These…

    • 2283 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Othello Held a captive and cannot escape the grips of racism, Othello must battle with this matter from day one till his call of death. Just because his skin tone is unusual from Venice and its citizens, makes Othello an outcast .Although born a black moor, Othello has all the great characteristics a man should have. Being courageous, honorable, intelligent and all the aspects a woman would want in a husband. He grew up to be a venetian military general who has risen to high position of power…

    • 322 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, race was an issue and skin color deciphered the being of an individual. The play takes place in a time where black people weren’t respected and were viewed negatively. Othello was an admired Moor who had great military skills but was also bashed due to his skin color. For example, the antagonistic characters, Iago and Roderigo made sure to use racial comments about Othello to get to Brabantio’s head. Desdemona had gotten married to Othello and when Iago…

    • 144 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays