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Race and Racism in Othello


Race and Bigotry in Othello

In What Method Would A Modern audience React To The Method Race And Bigotry Is Represented In ‘Othello’? In the Sixteenth century, as we see plainly from Othello and other works of both Shakespeare and Cinthio’s initial version of Othello, race was a topic of fantastic dispute and discussion. Today, in the twenty-first century the debate maintains its debate and enthusiasm. However, attitudes towards race have actually taken a significant turn during the last century.

In the industrialized world people are now residing in an increasingly cosmopolitan society would undoubtedly be more tolerant and would decline or perhaps be angered by racial discrimination to anyone or sections of the community. Freely ‘racist’ people today are seen as outcasts. Taking this into account, the way a modern-day audience would react to race and racism in Othello is dependent upon the way in which that contemporary audience would analyze ‘Othello’.

This prompts the concerns of what sort of message Shakespeare wished to send to his audience and was Othello the moor portrayed as an awful hero or did his character eventually concerned resemble the bias of which he was a victim. Shakespeare likewise discusses the problem of race with other characters such as the despiteful Iago and the prejudices hidden deep in Barbantio. The actions of Barbantio start the interest in the race concern in Act 1 Scene 1 more so than Iago’s foul abuses because the kind of hidden racism is really present in contemporary society.

Barbantio disapproves of his daughter ever marrying Roderigo who has not got a great reputation with him but after listening to Iago inform him that his child is seeing a moor he wishes Roderigo, “… O, Would you had actually had her!” Thus Barbantio recommends that a disrespected white man transcends to a respected worthy and gentleman in the army whose only ‘issue’ as Barbantio sees it is that he is black. These words are enough to reveal Barbantio’s true sensations even though he has actually been rudely awaken from sleep on hearing what for him is dreadful news in a most crude manner.

The hypocrisy of Barbantio, though striking to a modern audience is still common today. In a current survey by students at Nottingham University, from a sample of 3000 individuals, 54% stated that they would rule out inter-racial marriage. Shakespeare immediately can grasp an audience’s attention through an issue as pertinent now as it was almost half a century back and by representing Barbantio as misguided in his words, Shakespeare is criticising individuals who may be outwardly gentlemen however covertly hold racist views.

There is some evidence that Shakespeare was using the play to promote racially discriminative consider as some critics recommend. They recommend that Othello lastly ends up being the violent animal, which he is personified to be by those who dislike him. Cinthio’s original version of the play had Othello being a Muslim and was made to be a beastly character however Shakespeare has changed him to be an honorable and a Christian. Rather, Iago is depicted as the most evil bad guy and also the despiteful racist.

Iago seems to have few intentions for his sneaky actions. Although he does suffer from fear about whom his spouse might be having an affair with and he frowns at Othello being promoted before himself, it seems that from his speech that the thing he hates most about Othello is the colour of his skin. Since of this he uses unintelligent and colloquial bigotry to insult Othello. He refers to Othello as, “Thick lips,” and calls out to Barbantio, “Even now, now, really now an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe …” By providing the villain of the play to have such deep-rooted bigotry, Shakespeare is denouncing those who assault individuals simply on the basis of the colour of their skin or their citizenship. A contemporary audience would for this reason see that in their view, appropriately, Shakespeare is sending out an anti-racist message. The portrayal of Othello is the most essential in deciding how a modern audience would react to the play in regards to race is really crucial.

It is of utmost value because the audience’s analysis of Othello will define how they feel to what Shakespeare’s views have to do with race and it’s impact or dominance, if there is any, of excellent and bad character. On the face of it, Othello appears to be the tragic hero of the play. Nevertheless, it can be argued that Othello is shown to be a happy male who eventually ends up being a beast, a killer and thus in a way satisfies the prejudices with which his enemies brand name him. They also argue that Othello is represented as devious since he ‘steals’ Desdemona from Barbantio and after that reveals he has a clear conscience, … I should be found, My parts, my title and my ideal soul.” On the subject of whether Othello ends up being a beast and a killer, some critics recommend that Shakespeare is promoting racial stereotypes because it is displayed in Othello how, “The stuff of which he (Othello) is made begins to degrade and show itself unsuited.” Some would also argue that an individual can not be manipulated so quickly and be so naive regarding fall for Iago’s plot so rapidly as Othello does in Act4, Scene 1. Before this scene Othello lets it known that, “I do not believe but Desdemona’s sincere. However after only being presented with a handkerchief as evidence and a few words of opinion from Iago he is requesting from Iago, “Get me some poison …” However most ruthless of all is the method he kills his supposed beloved. The scene is extremely emotional as Desdemona asks, (in fear and tears as performed in the most current R. S. C production directed by Edward Hall in 1999) for banishment instead of death. In its rejection she begs for another day of life however is bought by the increasingly vicious Othello in a most insensitive manner, Down strumpet.” Then in a most unchristian method he rejects her even a last prayer. This can be interpreted by an audience as Shakespeare recommending that an ‘evil moor’, a Muslim can never be a real Christian. The deeply emotional journey that Shakespeare provides the audience with resulting in Desdemona’s death may, it can be argued, attract the audience to dislike Othello. A modern audience would decline the concept of death being a penalty for sexual betrayal in any case.

If the audience hates Othello in this method Shakespeare is excusing or perhaps supporting the stereotype that ultimately what will come out of the moor is his violent nature and all empathy will be gone because, as Laurence Lerner argues, it is the things from which Othello is made. A modern audience would then deplore how Shakespeare in Othello excuses racial stereotyping. Nevertheless, I think this interpretation to be incorrect. Othello is a soldier turned General with lots of victories under his belt. Instead of being proud he does stick out in many productions of Othello as a cultural and colourfully dressed person.

There is evidence that demonstrates how humble Othello is. Prior to talking to the Duke and Barbantio he apologises, “… Rude am I in my speech, And little blessed with the soft expression of speech.” Thinking he has actually lost Desdemona he questions himself which result in the speech, “… Haply I am black And have not these parts of discussion That chamberers have …” Surely these can not be the words of a proud man. Second of all, he can not be criticised for falling under Iago’s trap. Shakespeare likewise consists of the details of how Roderigo and unfortunately how Cassio likewise were tricked by the evil manipulations of Iago who himself admits, I am not what I am.” Finally, his treatment of Desdemona seems to be misjudgement instead of deeply rooted evil. As a soldier Othello thinks his actions to be ethical. He is naive; a chivalric warrior in a world run by self-interest. He has no previous experience of love and females. On the contrary he is suited to battle and warfare and therefore, Desdemona is treated like the traitor of an army when Othello passes sentence. Othello’s deepest feelings are exposed in his last speech. TS Elliot described the speech as a, “awful exposure of human weak point. Here he is resigned to the reality that he did not enjoy sensibly, “However too well.” He literally could not be in peace for his own or Desdemona’s sake thinking that he understood that Desdemona was involved in an outrageous affair with Cassio. Othello was totally deceived; as he himself put it in his last speech, “Perplexed to the extreme.” He describes himself as, “Like the base Judean; threw the pearl away.” I think that a modern audience would see ‘Othello’ as a horrible tragedy. The, “worthy moor,” who battles the chivalric code is challenged by the ultimate deceiver and the ultimate deceptiveness; Iago and Iagoism.

Desdemona has heard from stories of Othello’s violent military victory and she herself too is naive for this. She has little experience of the male gender herself. As Sean McEvoy writes, “A lady’s love influenced by violence finds itself victim to that violence.” Race is not the problem in this case. Any soldier whether Turk. Moor, Portuguese or English who followed Othello’s military code for most of his life would have the same problems fitting in to Venetian society which would almost be a brand-new world to them; a world run by jealousy and self-interest.

As the South African critic S Plaaje composed, “Shakespeare’s drama about nobility and valour … is not the monopoly of any colour.” What a majority of the audience would perceive after viewing ‘Othello’ is that Othello’s violence is unrelated to his being a moor however Shakespeare is instead going over the, “amalgam of the noble and the envious, the soldier and the fool and the Christian and the barbarian who is reduced to stammering brutality.” A modern-day audience would not see Othello as the guilty and barbaric moor however as a victim of Iago and his deception.

The audience instead would take would take with them a message that colour does not play a part in character. Instead those who discriminate individuals racially are the really sneaky characters and Shakespeare shows this clearly through Iago and Barbantio. Iago himself is clear proof that Shakespeare is not in any way condoning bigotry but rather he is assaulting bigotry. The attack on Barbantio’s surprise racist views likewise show that this is the case. The primary message of Othello would be very favorable foe a contemporary audience; that bigotry in all types is absolutely inappropriate.

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