Racism and Manipulation in Othello

Topics: Othello, Iago, Desdemona Pages: 3 (1067 words) Published: May 10, 2014

Have you ever read a play and wondered how it’s remotely possible for one character to get away with so much until it eventually catches up to them? I have; Othello, the tragic story of the fall of someone highly placed, who seems to be under the utilization of the mastermind or better-said puppeteer Iago. Throughout the play Iago manipulates those around him in order to achieve what he wants to further benefit himself, we also see a continuous reinforcement of racial stereotypes targeted towards Othello.

In many of Shakespeare’s plays he explores the ideas of racial tensions, Othello is an example of one of these plays. Othello’s racial background, although not entirely clear provides a platform for exploring ideas of racial conflict. He’s clearly an outsider to the Venetian society and of African descent, thus he’s is often subjected to racial stereotypes. When Iago first explains to Barbantio that his daughter is married to a Moor he says “…you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse…” (I.I.125), referring to Othello as an animal, “Barbary” is a region of Africa therefore implying Othello’s homeland. He also tells Brabantio “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.” (I.I.129-131), Othello is once again compared to an animal, indicating that since he is of African descent he is not considered to be on the same level of respect as someone who born into the Venetian culture. He’s viewed as uncivilized because he cannot control his passions, these associations serve to perpetuate stereotypes of Africans and others of different ethnic identity. This also portrays Iago’s clever chose of words to alter Barbantio’s emotions, particularly knowing that Barbantio holds a racist viewpoint. A predominant fear during that time period was colored men sexually corrupting the white women of the Venetian society, which would explain why Othello’s relationship with Desdemona is described in...
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