Othello Racist Analysis

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Othello is decidedly not a racist work and Othello is a decidedly racist work, though — as contradicting as it seems — not simultaneously. It contains racist material, reactions and perhaps stereotypes of its characters’ creed but the work itself is not racist. The audience’s application of the material is the final step to complete the work and reactions have varied through the years. A modern audience may recognize the racist tones while a 16th century audience may not bat an eye at any of the situations and actions; not out of agreement but ignorance and undeveloped prejudice. Considering both Shakespeare’s play and its source material, the titular character’s own actions and relationships, and the changing view of racism opposed to prejudice, Othello cannot be simply defined as black or white. First consider Othello’s inspiration, Cinthio’s “A Moorish Captain.” Though Shakespeare’s take on Cinthio’s story is not in itself a critique, what he added or subtracted from the material can suggest his intent. Some changes suggest racist motivations while others are neutral. Among the The most significant changes is Iago’s motive and Desdemona’s own doubts and those surrounding her (Coleridge). In Cinthio’s story, Iago’s motivation is his lust for Desdemona. Shakespeare’s turn is less precise, including but not limited to…show more content…
He once describes vengeance as black (Shakespeare 3.3 447) and Desdemona’s pale skin is compared to snow in the final act (Shakespeare 5.2 4). But these do not inherently invoke racism; they’re literary devices Shakespeare uses not as a means of assigning value but as pure description. Othello’s claim that “Haply, for I am black” (Shakespeare 3.3 265) strikes another, more self-aware tone when he doubts Desdemona’s affection, giving reason to believe the societal norms are indeed being tested and tests Onyeka’s claim that Tudor society was without racist
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