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Racism in Hamlet’s “Othello”


Bigotry in Hamlet’s “Othello”

Bigotry in Othello, by William Shakespeare, plays a significant role in the play, and Othello’s racist roots eventually ruin all of the primary characters. Othello, on the outside searching in, does not appear like a racist play since it has to do with a marital relationship between two people of various races, but it is most certainly racist. Upon close assessment, it is clear to see that the union of a white and a non-white is not accepted, and can not potentially persevere. The outcome of Othello is rather foreseeable when taking the racist foundation of the play into consideration.

There is no expect a happy marriage, and bad Othello and Desdemona are doomed from the start. It is explained right off the bat that Othello is black or non-white, which truth is utilized against him as quickly as the very first act begins. Throughout Act 1, Othello is explained to the reader by Iago as “thick lipped” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 66), a “black ram” (1. 1. 94), and a “Barbary horse” (1. 1. 110). These demeaning descriptions of Othello are undeniably racist, and they are utilized to paint a savage and barbaric image of him, although Othello is really rather the opposite.

Iago’s personal issues with Othello highlight Iago’s feelings of racism, however his bigotry is just expressed to other racists, and never ever to Othello. Othello is described as “the moor” (1. 1. 39) and “old black ram”. (1. 1. 94) Referring to somebody as a moor may not be racist, however describing somebody that you know on a personal basis as “the” moor, is certainly indicated to be bad. Using the term “Barbary horse” by Iago in Act 1 is rather potentially among the most racist lines in the play. By Iago calling Othello a “Barbary horse”, Othello is being compared to an animal.

A Barbary horse, huge and dark, provides the image of an animal intended to work for human beings. Not just is this line a description of Othello’s body, but by comparing Othello to a horse, it is also a dig at his intelligence to be depicted as an animal. By utilizing the term “Barbary horse”, Othello is being depicted as inhuman, and as an unintelligent slave. Iago’s racist remarks are utilized behind Othello’s back in an effort to turn others against him, proving that Iago is certainly the most outwardly racist character in the play.

A number of the other characters are racist too for listening to and ultimately falling for the hatred that Iago spews, and accompanying it. Although there are lots of intentions behind Iago’s pure evil, the core of his hatred for Othello comes from him being racist. Iago has trouble managing Othello’s success, due to the fact that of his race. Iago wants Othello’s military success, his self-confidence, and wants his partner Desdemona. Iago is furious that Othello has obtained these things, all the while being a “moor”, and is determined to take them from him, and increase above Othello, since Iago believes that Othello belongs below him.

Iago’s bigotry is what sparked his secret personal war against Othello, and eventually is accountable for the plays death and damage. Other characters, like Emilia and Roderigo, have racist sensations for Othello that are revealed out loud in the play. Emilia explains her viewpoint of Othello and his marital relationship to a white lady, Desdemona, by not caring that taking the valuable handkerchief might trigger turmoil in the marital relationship. Emilia refers to the marriage in between Desdemona and Othello as a “filthy bargain” (5. 2. 169).

Upon discovering Desdemona’s murder at the hands of Othello, Emilia announces “O the more angel she, and you the blacker devil!” (5. 2. 36). Emilia represents the white Desdemona as angelic, and blatantly explains Othello as “blacker” and a “devil”. Emilia has every right to call Othello a devil, for he has actually simply killed Desdemona, however she shows her racism by utilizing the adjective “blacker”. Emilia thinks that Othello is a devil even before Desdemona’s murder. It is clear that she does not care for him or regard him, when she tells Desdemona that cheating on him is reasonable.

In Act 1, Roderigo informs Brabantio about Othello “robbing” him of his daughter, Desdemona, and professes to Brabantio that Desdemona is in the “gross clasps of a lascivious moor” (1. 1. 124). This shows that Roderigo is racist. Desdemona being in the “gross clasps of a lascivious moor” frightens Brabantio, due to the fact that he beckons for assistance right away, showing that although Brabantio may be accepting of Othello on a political level, he still does not concern Othello as an equal on a personal level, and rages with the idea of Othello having sexual relations with his own child.

Though a number of Othello’s characters are racist, that is not all that makes it a racist play. The 2 main themes in the play which work together are black versus white, and great versus wicked. These styles are expressed from beginning to end. Black and white obviously mean skin tone, black being Othello, and white being everybody else who winds up versus him. Although at first it seems that Iago would be considered evil, or black, and Othello great, or white, the last scene shows that they are both on the very same side, being evil, as they both end up killers, albeit on various levels.

White dominates in this play, and despite the fact that Othello’s actions may appear warranted to a certain extent because of how he was fooled and misguided by Iago, he shows everyone who protested his marital relationship right, by killing Desdemona and turning himself into the monster he had actually spent his entire life trying to subdue. Although I do not believe Shakespeare himself to be a true racist, I believe that Othello is a racist play since time and time again, this play sends out various racist messages, and is filled with racist characters.

The message that non-whites can only go so far in society before their real savage is shown, is illustrated by Othello himself, showing that no matter how hard he has combated versus his skin color to fit into white society and increase above others like him, it is for absolutely nothing, due to the fact that he loses control and winds up a savage. The message that a marital relationship in between a white and a non-white can never be successful is likewise given.

No matter how successful Othello is, and no matter just how much love is between Othello and Desdemona, the marriage could never ever have prospered due to the fact that it is incorrect in the first location. Between Iago’s despiteful word choice behind Othello’s back, Roderigo’s derogatory comments about Othello to Brabantio, Emilia’s lashing out at Othello in Act 5 showing her real sensations, and the black versus white theme throughout the play, it is clear that Othello is a racist play. -Kate Dube

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