About Othello; the Presentation of Race

Discrimination as a psychological vice of human existence is a shared experience, and individuals pursue discrimination for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, desire for dominance and wealth, jealousy, and the need to disassociate themselves from others. As a result, one’s inherent characteristics can be used to discriminate against them; for example, skin color can elicit unjustified hate. In Shakespeare’s play “Othello,” despite his African ancestry, Othello is a respected fellow, happily married, and esteemed general (Shakespeare and Crowther 34). Othello does not have racial thoughts or theories when the play starts. However, Iago brings on board the imaginations that racial sentiments against Othello have gained momentum and that he should show repulsion for those who perpetuate the discrimination. The unsuspecting Othello is hence misled by Iago, and the manipulations of the latter eventually come to pass, as racism becomes real in the play (Shakespeare and Crowther 203). The erratic behaviour of Othello is condemned using racist rhetoric at the end. Furthermore, Othello as well participates in mounting the degree of racism and discrimination, because in the first place he believes stereotype existed when it was Iago`s propaganda (Scragg, Shakespeare, and Ross 34).

Following the heated and controversial scenes across the play, one wonders whether the theme of racism is fabricated in the play or not. The events curve to a new level of drama when Brabantio chooses to accuse Othello of witchcraft and kidnap, so he could not shame the position he holds as a revered senator (Hall 373). Therefore, it appears as though Othello uses underhand means and ill-motivated behaviour, to retain respect and honour that he deserves not in the society. However, a keen analysis immediately realises the statement offered by Othello in his defence, that, “in the past Brabantio lov’d me; oft invited me” (Shakespeare and Crowther 132). Indeed, this is a great show of how the former days looked brilliant, and whence racism was not known to anybody between the pair. Nevertheless, Brabantio has become a racist all of a sudden, after the influence from Iago and Roderigo compelled him to believe he needed to protect his political interest and maintain relevance. When Desdemona comes on board, she defends her husband and claims that by all means, Othello is an innocent soul. On his part, the Duke confirms to Brabantio that, “If virtue no delighted beauty lack/Your son-in-law is far more fair than black” (Shakespeare and Crowther 189). For the first time, the authority has realised that racism is real and that it is not worth the challenges in the society. Consequently, the Duke rebukes Brabantio to deal with and charge Othello based on his deeds and virtuous nature, as opposed to his complexion (Scragg, Shakespeare, and Ross 121).

Following the many social challenges and the immediate threat to his marriage, Othello is now a firm believer that racism exists, and hence the flowers of racism by Iago bearing blossom. Nevertheless, because of the lack of certainty to justify the dubious approaches by his enemies, Othello chooses reality over racism, and he argues, “My parts, my title and my perfect soul/Shall manifest me rightly” (Shakespeare and Crowther 278). As such, Othello does not buy the assumption that his guilt could be determined by his mere skin colour. Initially, Othello is capable of overcoming the propagandist rhetoric by Iago that his wife, Desdemona, was cheating on him because of his dark complexion. In fact, Othello defiantly pronounces, “Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw/The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt/For she had eyes, and chose me” (Shakespeare and Crowther 98). Though, he goes forth and effortlessly utters, “And yet, how nature erring from itself—” (Shakespeare and Crowther 145). The quote hitherto indicates the beginning of doubt in Othello’s heart. He is more of the opinion that Desdemona has a favour for a people of her race, as opposed to other persons in social diversity, like himself. Indeed, Iago fast picks the phrase from Othello and uses it against him, by saying, “Her will, recoiling to her better judgment/May fall to match you with her country forms/and happily repent” (Shakespeare and Crowther 122). In essence, both Othello and Iago do confirm, that Desdemona meditates about her marriage, and in comparison, she regrets marrying Othello, as his white counterparts are better males than he, the black man does (Erskine 59). The epitome of racism touches the arc of infidelity, without factual prove, when Othello desperately concludes that it was true, Desdemona cheats on him, just because he is black.

While alone, the boredom of race overwhelms Othello and he utters, “I’ld whistle her off and let her down the wind/To prey at fortune (Shakespeare and Crowther 243). Typically, Othello has concluded, informed by the racist and falsehood background, that if he finds Desdemona true of infidelity, then his household she would leave immediately. Unfortunately, the seed of racism appears to grow faster in the mind of Othello, as would be manifested in his emotions, than the outside world which harbours his ardent enemies; Iago and Roderigo. For instance, before he confirms whether the wife was cheating on him due to his complexion, his anger compels him to say, “Haply, for I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation that chamberers have, or for I am declined into the vale of years (yet that’s not much) She’s gone. I am abus’d: and my relief Must be to loathe her” (Shakespeare and Crowther 121). Indeed, Othello does not only confirm that Desdemona neither cheated on him due to her bad character nor her sins, but also explains how he feels cheated on because of the weaknesses of his nature, as a black man. The quote hitherto is a climax that marks a change in the person of Othello (Marcus 268). He has become a formidable racist than those he blames do charge him mistakenly because he is a black man. Othello has chosen the less trodden path, and perhaps the most dreaded. On the one hand, he resorts to chasing her outside of his household. On the other, he is not content and would loathe her, or do anything extreme to console himself of the pain and inferiority Desdemona caused him (Neely 135).

Apparently, the character of Othello has been questioned, not only by the characters in the play but also the audience of Shakespeare. Jealousy and rage are the adjectives held inseparable from the person of Othello, and his temper is even further fueled by the fake proofs Iago continues to supply to his foe unknowingly (Appignanesi, Osada, and Shakespeare 29). This raises the temperance of Othello, and perhaps a better manifestation would be the case of Lodovico, who comes to deliver a letter, and when Desdemona mumbles a word, Othello immediately suspects she means terrible for him and praises her white lover; a misguiding principle that makes him slap his wife (Weedin 296). The action moves the constant and stable emotions of Lodovico, compelling him to caution Othello about the rash which embraced desperately, “My lord, this would not be believed in Venice/Though I should swear I saw ‘t; ‘til very much” (Shakespeare and Crowther 90). In fact, Lodovico persist and tells Othello evermore that, “Is this the noble Moor whom our full senate call all in all sufficient? Is this nature whom passion could not shake? Whose solid virtue The shot of accident, nor dart of chance, Could neither graze nor pierce?” (Shakespeare and Crowther 97). On the other occasions that defined a furious and frustrated Othello, Emilia, the wife to Iago says, “Here’s a change indeed!” when Othello calls Desdemona a prostitute (Shakespeare and Crowther 24). Unfortunately, the bitterness does not seem to contain the unfounded wrath of Othello until the unforgettable happens. The climax of racism and by far the peak of the play is achieved, when the hand of Othello is caught up in the demise of Desdemona; a cold murder (Proctor 275).

The sentimental and misguided racist spurs that began with the jealousy of Iago and Roderigo have now resulted in murder, and Othello is the culprit who has quickly fallen prey to racial propaganda. When it happens, even those who respected Othello and charged him not by his appearance but his character, are forced to condemn him and rebuke his deeds as an element caused by his skin colour. For example, Emilia describes Othello as a “blacker devil!” (Shakespeare and Crowther 236). Moreover, when it comes to the question of infidelity, Emilia answers, “Desdemona was true and was too fond of her most filthy bargain” (Shakespeare and Crowther 63). For the rest of the society, if Othello never chose to ironically loath himself at the pretext of punishing Desdemona, he would have forever remained to be an icon of revered and exemplary behaviour; but lest the audience of Shakespeare forgets he has committed murder. Therefore, the theme of race is the core of the tragedy of Othello.

Works Cited

Appignanesi, Richard, Ryuta Osada, and William Shakespeare. Othello., 2009. 1-78 Print.

Erskine, Anne Marie. “A Study of Evil in ‘Othello’ by William Shakespeare.”., 2001. 1-45 Web.

Hall, Kim F. “Othello and the Problem of Blackness.” A Companion to Shakespeare’s Works: The Tragedies. Vol. 1. N.p., 2007. 357–374. Web.

Marcus, Nancy Cain. “Shakespeare’s Tragic Triads: A Reading of ‘Othello.’”., 2003. 678-987 Web.

Neely, Carol Thomas. “Women and Men in Othello: ’What Should Such a fool/Do with so Good a Woman?…: EBSCOhost.” Shakespeare Studies.., 1977. 1-234 Web.

Proctor, John Ray. “Othello: Representation, Race and Robeson.”., 2011. 1-341 Web.

Scragg, Leah, William Shakespeare, and Lawrence J. Ross. “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice.” The Yearbook of English Studies 7 (1977): 237. Web.

Shakespeare, William, and John Crowther. Othello.., 2003. 1-234 Web.

Weedin, E K. “Love’s Reason in Othello.” Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 15.2 (1975): 293–308. Print.

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