Key question 48: Racism in Othello
Right from the beginning of history, racism has been the most devastating matter. It has always been a subject of debate from that time and is still being debated. Racism is evident everywhere; it is not limited to time or places. Actually, it is the most repeated theme in most of literature works across the globe. Racism deflects the interpersonal relationships because every race exalts their own and looks down on other races. Othello is one of the fascinating literature work by Shakespeare that describes the evident of racism in societies, its destructive effects on society and people’s attitudes. The tragedy in Othello may seem to be as a result of jealousy but deep inside, it is a tragedy rooted deeply in racial conflict. This play was written in a time when the minorities were less important and could easily be ignored by the majority race: it was almost impossible for a black man to hold a higher rank in the society and earning respect from the white people. This paper will discuss the theme of racism in Othello, show its effects on society and specific characters like Othello who felt the impact of prejudice.
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He starts by showing the society how honest and pure hearted a black man can be in order to let the white community understand, accept and tolerate the black people. The central person in the whole theme of racism is Othello and the community thinks it is the worst disgrace for Desmodena to marry a black man. The novel turns out to be a tragedy because despite Shakespeare efforts to portray black people as being kind, Othello gets overwhelmed by his jealous and exposes his evil side. Racism has proven to be like a resistant infection that keeps recurring in all generation: efforts have been put to end racism in the modern society but to no avail because it has deep roots back in
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In ‘Othello’, our titular character has worked his way up from slavery to reach his high position of army general, but he still holds himself to particularly great standards because of how his double consciousness has affected him. In the opening of the play, the people of Venice are outraged at the fact he has eloped with the senator’s daughter, Desdemona, both because he was not one of the approved suitors, and because he is a “Moor”. Othello realizes he must change himself and behave in an acceptable manner for the white society around him in order to be accepted by the people, and so he boasts that he is “from men of royal siege”, making certain that his “demerits may speak unbonetted as to proud a fortune as this that I have reached”. He makes clear in his speech that he considers himself deserving of both his position and his wife, through using the intense, powerful language of the people around him, filled with beautiful imagery and recountings of the struggles he has been through, as though he feels the need to validate himself and prove his worth in their terms. This is further shown later, as we see Othello’s insecurities come to light, displaying that he is not as certain of his identity as that he presents to others.
Othello is for instance not really Othello 's play. Othello is not Othello 's story” (Buntin). Othello is focused more on the schemes of Iago and the tragic life of Desdemona. By retelling this story Sears is putting Othello in the centre of the narrative and giving focus to the nuances of his life as a black man. Dickson
Since Othello utters that since he is with Desdemona, her reputation “is now begrimed and black,” it presents how a black man can tarnish the “fresh” identity of a white women. Since Othello is accepted and praised as a war hero, but not accepted as lover, love becomes a barrier that leads to a tragedy. Societal expectations push people to the point where they try to surpass society’s norms. Though, when they reach this tipping point, tragedy will
The correlation between relationships and experiences are co-existing functions that assist in operating societies. Since ancient times, social classes have existed within all communities and cultures; a sense of belonging is often determined by one’s position in the social hierarchy. Shakespeare’s Othello highlights determinants including race and gender that affect one’s standing in the hierarchy. An excerpt of Act 1, Scene 1 (Lines 110-112) explores this concept when Iago exclaims “Because we come to do you service and you think we are ruffians, you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you’ll have your nephews neigh to you.” Shakespeare cleverly incorporates animalistic imagery to showcase the role that race has in a society
Othello is an outsider in Cypress because he is a black man surrounded by white ethnicity and this creates his low self-esteem. For example, Othello states “haply for I am black, and have not those soft parts of conversation” (3.3265-266). Othello is not proud to be black and wishes he were white since he believes his servants are not treating him with respect due to his skin tone. Othello suspiciously never seems to question or resist racism and the effect renders him to the white viewer at the cost of the color of his skin. Not only is Othello insecure about his race, but that he is older than the men and women around him.
Othello: A Close Reading This is an analysis of the lines 260-279 of the third scene of the third act of Shakespeare’s Othello. In an attempt to fulfill the incessant need for comfortable dichotomies, societies tend to be divided into two groups: the ‘in-crowd’ and the ‘others’. These strict dualities, constructed upon the inherent need for adversaries, are often as arbitrary as they are false and based on nothing but fear.
When people of one race believe themselves to be superior to those of another, only catastrophe can result. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, racism was extremely prevalent, and white supremacy was much more pronounced. In William Shakespeare’s play Othello, both covert and overt racism, assimilation, and jealous dispositions all foreshadow the untimely death of Desdemona and Othello. Most characters in Othello display both covert racism and overt racism towards Othello.
These two villains slander Othello to the point of eradicating any pity the audience could have developed towards Othello. The Venetians also have a hidden fascination for Othello and his foreign qualities but, they mask feelings with negative slurs. The audience also affected by the portrayal of Othello, and are persuaded to feel pity for him because of his circumstances; being betrayed by his ensign and being looked down upon because of his Moorish descent. Shakespeare also uses racism as a creative apparatus to generate a metaphor between Desdemona and Othello.
He questioned “Why did I marry?” and then replies “Haply, for I am black”. This self-question and reply infront of Iago, his most trusted man, peels of his exterior self and gives the audience the insight of Othello’s honest inner thought. This self-doubt, significantly points out to the audience and confirms that Othello has accepted the fact that he is different, and conforms to the stereotype placed on him and admits that his difference causes it. Shakespeare used this scene, to voice out the doubts and his surrender to the battle of being accepted for who he is in the Venetician Society.
The common aim of playwrights of any time or location is to capture and hold the attention of their audience; this is what Shakespeare has clearly done. The tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, is one of Shakespeare 's most renowned plays. Through construction of intriguing characters, exploration of universal themes, use of comic relief and a well-written script featuring a compelling plot, Shakespeare ensured the tragedy of Othello would hold the interest of the audience; despite being over four centuries old. It possesses so many conditions that can be accentuated to hit nerves with both a Shakespearean and modern audience. The entire plot of Othello is very much like the attitudes and methods of our modern day society.
This extent of hostility and aggression coming from several other sources in the play was enough to ruin Othello. Thus, Othello’s downfall was more of a result of his race being that the main underlying motive behind the characters’ efforts to destroy him was racism. It is inadequate to bypass the sociology behind racism, the concept of race, prior to defining what racism actually is. The common understanding of race suggests the division of groups based upon the color of one’s skin, hair, eyes, etc. “Although biologically meaningless when applied to humans – physical differences such as skin color have no natural association with group differences in ability or behavior – race nevertheless has tremendous significance in structuring social reality” (Clair).
William Shakespeare, the 16th to 17th century English playwright, dwelt on themes dealing with human nature: love, hate, power, jealousy, humour, discrimination and self-respect. He made the often-quoted observation that “our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we might oft win by fearing to attempt”, voicing the danger of doubt which could ultimately lead to loss of self-esteem. In his play, Othello, the moor, who was perceived as a courageous military hero, met his downfall due to the erosion of his self-esteem, and as a result, tragedy ensued. In the play, Othello trusted Iago unconditionally, to the extent that he came to seriously question himself and the trustworthiness of Desdemona, his wife, whom he genuinely cared
Othello’s Role in Venetian Society If we take the textbook definition of ethnic groups and apply it to Othello and the Venetian society it is striking that he lacks a lot of features when compared to the “regular” Venetian society: no common background nor history and no shared customs. Therefore, not only his skin color sets him apart, but also his origin from another ethnic group, opening all kinds of
Throughout history, societies have succumbed to the toxic concepts of racism, causing an unthinkable amount of chaos and devastation. While racism on its own can lead to many societal evils, racism coupled with jealousy can create a truly catastrophic force that can only lead to pure destruction. When someone of a different race and culture is placed in this kind of society, this destruction will only naturally follow. In the play Othello, William Shakespeare focuses on the tragic outcomes of Othello, a Venetian general and black Turkish Moor, and Desdemona, his white Venetian wife. Throughout the play, both covert and overt racism, assimilation, and jealous dispositions all foreshadow the untimely death of Desdemona and Othello.