While convincing Brabantio to dislike Othello, the man Desdemona eloped with, Iago refers to Othello as “an old black ram [that] is tupping your white ewe” (1.1.97) This reference to a ram, a male sheep, and an ewe, a female sheep, points out the difference in gender between Othello and Desdemona and also race by classifying them as black and white. Tupping refers to sex between the two animals, but the word is vulgar slang for when a man and a woman have sex, the first insight into Iago’s identity. Another reference to race and sex by Iago is when he says that Desdemona will be “covered with a Barbary Horse” (1.1.125). This horse breed from Northern Africa is dark brown, and to reference Desdemona being covered with her means that he is thinking about Othello overcoming her innocence by having sex. The animalization of Othello by Iago because of his race is ironic because, as pinpointed in an article by Alexander G. Gonzalez, Iago takes advantage of Othello’s vulnerability by surpassing his own animalistic identity.
The plot most definitely includes racist characters and racial undertones, initially, but soon proves itself to be a typical heroic tragedy, not unlike other Shakespearean plays. Although Othello, was written during a time where racial minorities were entirely ignored and deemed irrelevant by the majority of society, race has nothing to do with the tragic outcomes of the play as a whole; the story could just as well have been told if Othello were a white man. Shakespeare, being way ahead of his time ethically, portrayed a black man, Othello, as educated and valiant. Contrasting the overwhelming beliefs of his time, he wrote the plot establishing white man as the enemy, rather than the minority. Iago, a white man, went against and betrayed his leader, Othello, essentially giving “The Moor” the power in the story.
In my opinion, it is Iago’s hatred towards Othello that strongly motivate him, and this hatred comes from a variety of causes. Before we analyze the causes of hatred, there is one thing of certainty: Iago does hate Othello. He uses the word “hate” to describe his feeling to Othello without hesitation at the beginning of play 1, scene 1: “Though I do hate him as I do hell pains, Yet, for necessity of present life, I must show out a flag and sign of love— Which is indeed but sign. (Shakespeare 1.1.171)”. At the same time, he starts to think about revenge: “I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted; thine hath no less reason.
To answer this question, we must look towards Venice’s inherent construals and so I will argue that the tragedy is made possible by Othello 's racial identity, which thus explains how Iago is able to trick the citizens of Venice so easily by capitalizing on Othello 's status as an eternal outsider. Venice’s opinion on Othello is quite blatant and manifests physically when looking at the character of Desdemona’s father, Brabantio. As someone who holds an important role in Venetian society, Brabantio is the epitome of the Venetian mindset wherein Othello’s character is judged not by his actions, but his race. When initially hearing his daughter had been stolen away by the Moor, Brabantio flies into outrage, declaring Othello must be captured for corrupting Desdemona and be subdued
Since the debut of Shakespeare’s world-renowned masterpiece The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice in 1604, the play has brought on an infinite array of ever-changing interpretations across time, nations and literary schools. The abundance of previous scholarship on this play provides a sound foundation for the proposal that contemporary review of it should no longer be grounded on the question of “aboutness” from singular perspectives; rather, it is the collective historical backgrounds of collective “about”s—the examination of how the world has perceived the play and how these interpretations came to be—that will fully shine light on the significance of Othello, and Shakespeare at large, both throughout history and in contemporary
Racist undertones are commonly evident in works of literature that have been written during all eras. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, many of the characters are prejudice towards Othello, and it comes through in the way they speak to and talk about him throughout the play. Shakespeare uses diction, imagery, and various figures of speech to reinforce the theme of racism in Elizabethan society. The words used to describe the character of Othello are mostly negative, degrading, and insensitive, save for a few exceptions. Others describe him as if he is less than human behind his back, using words such as “thick lips” (I, i, 67) and “sooty bosom” (I, ii, 70), which also act to define him by the colour of his skin.
Iago’s jealousy of Desdemona and Othello’s relationship is emphasised through the degrading comment of Othello, “an old black ram” “tupping” Brabantio’s “white ewe”. Comparing Othello to an “old black ram” introduces animalistic imagery, and puts him at a level below humans on the Great Chain of Being. The coming together of an animal and a human would disrupt the chain, and was thought to also disrupt the laws of nature and cause bizarre events to occur. The descriptive word, “black” highlighted that in the Renaissance times, black stood for sin and evilness. Emilia’s views on men are discovered through the metaphor comparing men to “stomachs” and women to “food”.
Iago offers a prejudiced initial description of Othello and would go on to persistently uses racial slurs to describe him. The frequency of these racial insults would shape the audience's view of Othello that negatively portrayed him. Although, Shakespeare attempted to shatter these horrendous descriptions of Othello with third party flattery, iago’s persistence ensures that spectators would recognize Othello’s racially stereotypic
Iago’s jealousy caused him to unquestionably ruin the relationship between Desdemona and Othello without the slightest sense of any shame or regret. Iago’s plan of revenge worked out perfectly, “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father, and may thee” (1.3.333-334). Iago’s manipulation led Othello into believing that Desdemona was truly unfaithful towards him. He manipulated him with his words and used his insecurities to create doubt within his mind.
It brings to light the attitude of the old European society towards those of different color, language, and race. In Europe, people of white complexion were in the mass and all the other races were made to be inferior. Therefore, Iago has a racist opinion of Othello as well as jealousy towards his successes throughout the entirety of the play. Several characters throughout the play showcase a racist mentality. These characters include Emilia, Brabantio, and Roderigo.