The Theme of the Developed Racism in the Play – Othello the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare

Othello is a black man who is introduced and referred to in the play as a derogatory name like the Moor. This reference is a person of Arabic decent living in North Africa who is of a Muslim religion and who is of an uncultured, crude, coarse, and cruel background. In other words a Moor is an unintelligible and barbaric person. But, this is where the mystery begins with this ugly word. Shakespeare expresses this man to be more than just a Moor; he is an honest, noble, and fair Moor. This terminology can easily confuse your thoughts as to determine if indeed there is racism present or not. But do not be swayed by the two because either it is there or it is not.

First of all I will say that racism immediately entered the play from the beginning. It started after Iago was passed up for a promotion in the Venetian military by his superior, Othello. After this action Iago expressed how he hated him to Roderigo for his decision. This is where the fire was fueled and the blaze became racist. Iago did not have a honest or fair reason to hate Othello so he first used Roderigo’s lust for Desdemona who has just secretly became Othello’s fair Venetian wife. This news ignited anger within Roderigo which caused the first of a series of racist remarks made throughout the play. He stated “What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe.” (Act I, Scene I, Verse 66) His indication of thick-lips obviously states to me that there was something different of them and he whom they hated. You would think it was something that was wrong and flaw filled.

Secondly, the two then go to Desdemona’s father Brabantio on that very same night to notify him of the marriage that occurred behind his back. Awaking him and asking him if everyone was in his house the two suggest that he does not know what is going on within his house and of his blood. Iago with the help of Roderigo get Brabantio in panic by saying things such as “Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul. Even now, now an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” (Act I, Scene I, Verse 87-89) To me this proclamation communicates to Brabantio that he has just lost his daughter and that Othello the black ram was taking advantage of her. Iago then submits Othello as “the Devil.” (Act I, Scene I, Verse 91) This would probably have any father thinking the worst of the man who has taking the hand of his daughter. “Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.” (Act I, Scene I, Verse 115-116) Iago’s citation surely put across an obvious message that he hated Othello for personal political reasoning but also and maybe more strongly so because of his ethnicity. He was clearly racist and was in no doubt using his own personal racism to corrupt and manipulate the feelings of others.

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Eventually, Iago influenced different characters to act on their emotions by trusting in his open love or hidden hate for the honest and noble Moor Othello. He show many faces such as hatred, jealousy, and the over bearing of the two was his racism for the fellow that many considered to be so noble. Anything to see to his demise, I believe was the true and final goal that Iago had for Othello. He hated him just for existing, in his authority, in his standing, in his country, or even in his world. This hatred so strongly that he would pretend to love him to see his termination in the place where he did not belong. The racism all the way through this play conveys that at any cost it will try to consume everything around it, and no one is excluded when this hatred such as racism takes its place in a life and tries to feed or spread and grow until everything and anything in its path is destroyed.

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Shakespeare illustrates to the audience how the one theme goes through a metamorphosis in order to unveil something stronger and more dangerous is lurking in the dark hidden areas of this society. This theme follows through to the end of the play when even after the bloodshed of some of the characters Iago still would rather hold his tongue than to give justification of even soothe the curiosity of the very people who had fallen victim of his malicious and detesting acts. (Act V, Scene 2, Verse 303)

In closing, I will say that this play has shown me how resourceful hatred can be and how it will grow and consume more than it is fed. It also demonstrates how someone like a noble and honest Moor Othello could simply be prey to a falsely portrayed honest Iago with a heart that survives on jealousy, hate, and racism. Be careful about who and what you believe it very well may be the unknown battle of good versus evil. Sometimes what you see is what you get and other times it may not show up in black and white but there may always be the possibility of blood red.

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by Monique Cartwright