Shakespeare shows how his main protagonist’s racial tension and mark of cultural, social identity affect his relationship with the characters of the play. When Iago finally compels Othello of Desdemona’s “unlawful solicitations” with Cassio; Othello then accomplished in portraying all the black stereotypes through his crescendo of madness: “Lie with her! Shakespeare perhaps does not want to introduce Othello until the audience fully understands Iago, so that this deceitfulness can be seen immediately as he enters, and to form the audience’s opinion of Othello through the words of Iago to create the same sense of unsure curiosity in the audience as to his real character. Change ). Othello faces constant racism from other characters, especially when he marries Desdemona, a privileged white woman whose father disapproves of the union. What is Othello's tragic flaw that causes his downfall. This further demonstrates Othello’s position at the bottom of the social hierarchy in the Great Chain of Being, where there is a great deal of disarray as a result of the interracial marriage which is “Most maimed and most imperfect” to the natural order. Racism very much affects the way Othello interacts with all the characters in the play. When analyzing this scene using a cultural lens, a modern audience can understand Othello’s position in society because of his race… In addition to Shakespeare’s reverse in Iago and Othello’s characters; Iago’s devilish implications also reinforce biblical allusions to Lucifer. What reason does Iago give for his hatred of Othello? ( Log Out /  Who are the experts?Our certified Educators are real professors, teachers, and scholars who use their academic expertise to tackle your toughest questions. ( Log Out /  Race also determines how Othello perceives himself as a rough outsider, though he is nothing of the sort. Othello, undeniably heroic even if ultimately flawed, is the most prominent black protagonist in early Western literature. OTHELLO'S RACE BACKGROUND In Othello’s case this interpretation varies considerably. At the same time, his status as a black-skinned foreigner in Venice marks him as an outsider and exposes him to some pretty overt racism, especially by his wife's father, who believes his daughter's interracial marriage can only be the result of Othello's trickery. Desdemona hides her relationship with Othello from her father, knowing he will disapprove due to Othello's race. London: MacMillan and Co., 1919. (1.1.163-164). We say lie on her, when they belie her. Only a black Othello can serve as adequate motivation for his attitude toward his daughter's marriage to a man of exalted rank and reputation. In Act 3, Scene 3, Iago tells Othello As (to be bold with you), not to affect many proposed matches, of her own clime, complexions (3,3,29). Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’, set in early Venice, focuses on the key relationship between titular character Othello and his wife Desdemona, to comment on the human condition through the text. The portrayal of the eponymous character in the play was stereotypically insinuated to be savage, violent and aggressive; however, was based on falsehood in order to expose Iago’s duplicitous character and ultimately Othello’s hamartia. Shakespeare uses Othello to underscore the animosity between “blackness” and the Venetians, to emphasise the vivid marginalisation of the ‘Other’ that was occurring at that contemporary era. Brabantio is not the only one outraged by the … Subsequently, Iago extends his antagonising, animalistic and dehumanising characterisations of Othello through his use of visceral, brutal and sexual imagery: “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” (1:1) which further degrades Othello, not only as a black person but as a human who was belittled through Iago’s bigotry. See also our discussions of "Race" and "Sex" for more on this topic. The character of Othello is comparatively simple, but, as I have dwelt on the prominence of intrigue and accident in the play, it is desirable to show how essentially the success of Iago's plot is connected with this character. The portrayal of the eponymous character in the play was stereotypically insinuated to be savage, violent and aggressive; however, was based on falsehood in order to expose Iago’s duplicitous character and ultimately Othello’s hamartia. Iago doesn't hate Othello just because of his race—he says he hates Othello because he believes Othello has slept with his wife; he also hates him for passing Iago over for promotion. Moreover, Iago’s malcontent is derived from his hunger for power, through his hatred towards Othello: “A frail vow betwixt an erring barbarian and a super-subtle venetian be not too hard for my wits and all the tribe of hell” (1:3). – -Is’t possible? Iago raises Brabantio from his bed, and shocks Brabentio saying, “'Zounds, sir, you're robb'd; for shame, put on your gown; Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul; Even now, now, very now, an old black ram He admires and loves his wife, but he can't believe that she would be in love with him. Virtue is the way we see Othello characterised in the beginning because he is humble etc. 13 February 2016.]). In conclusion, as stated by Ania Loomba, in ‘Othello, Race and Society’: “black-skinned people were usually typed as godless, bestial and hideous…highly emotional and even irrational, and prone to anger and jealousy.” As the play progresses, Othello illustrates: “a capacity for tenderness as well as a propensity to violence.” As the theme of race in Othello was debated to be relevant to Shakespeare’s intention, some have come to conclude that it is, in fact, majorly about race; to reinforce this, the ‘Blackface’ podcast exclaimed: “the only world in which Othello is not about race is in a white privileged world.” This is vastly highlighted through the demeaning descriptions and characteristics of the so called “Moor” known as Othello; as the Venetians conveyed him in a condescending manner. The marriage of Othello and Desdemona was a union of different races and colors that the sense of the world has never approved. What is Iago's plan and purpose in act 1, scene 3 of. The characterisation of Othello was presented through the dominant ideology of the predilection, prejudice and paragon image of race. Noses, ears, and lips. From Shakespearean Tragedy by A. C. Bradley. Further linking back to Lust’s Dominion and the Binary black and white imagery. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. He knows this will outrage Brabantio far more than if Othello had been a white man, and is an example of animalistic language being applied to Othello. Nevertheless, I think the duke does not let race effect his judgment and bases his verdict on what each party has to say, so he gives his blessing and sees nothing wrong with Othello’s and Desdemona’s relationship. The play's performance history has been marked by racism. Even in terms of him thinking that Cassio may have a secret relationship with Desdemona, an attack at his honour. Othello, the Moor of Venice.. As I’ve mentioned before, “Moor” was Elizabethan shorthand for Muslim (though through the Middle Ages, “the Moors were widely supposed to be mostly black or very dark-skinned” [“moor” Oxford English Dictionary Online.Oxford University Press, December 2015. However, the allegations of race directly lead to its tragic ending. But in Act IV, he crumbles. This play presents a story of Othello being misguided by his ensign Iago and led to him murdering his … B.A. Top subjects are Literature, Arts, and History, Latest answer posted May 03, 2012 at 11:56:23 PM, Latest answer posted December 15, 2018 at 3:55:37 PM, Latest answer posted June 10, 2019 at 5:16:54 PM, Latest answer posted December 08, 2016 at 2:37:48 PM, Latest answer posted May 31, 2015 at 9:00:42 PM. While the prejudiced characters in the play denigrate Othello as an animal or a beast based on his race, Othello's obvious honor and intelligence makes these attacks obviously ridiculous. Here, Othello’s position of power and influence together with his desire to love Desdemona is influenced by Iago’s ill advice which he, Othello acknowledges and finally leads to his failure. As referenced in an article created by Virginia Mason Vaughan: “Othello was crafted at the dawn of the 17th century, shaped by complex social and geopolitical issues”. We should also note that it's impossible to discuss gender and sexuality without considering race: Several characters in the play, including Othello, believe that black men sexually contaminate white women, which may partially explain why Othello sees his wife as soiled. Othello is one of the first black heroes in English literature. Lecture on Othello - Othello's Jealousy. Educators go through a rigorous application process, and every answer they submit is reviewed by our in-house editorial team. This is unusual, we presume his opinion concerning race would be similar to the rest of society. At the end of Act II, Scene 1, he reiterates the real motivation behind his plots against Othello: I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leap'd into my seat: the thought whereof Desdemona herself does not seem to judge Othello for his skin color at all—on the contrary, she is attracted to him because he is so different... (The entire section contains 2 answers and 532 words.). Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. The language used by the other characters makes this very clear—the racial epithets Iago applies to Othello ("the thick lips," for example) all form part of Iago's hatred toward him. ’s race does not prominently impact his demise, although Shakespeare touches upon the issue of race, the reason for Othello’s demise lies somewhere else.. Analyse how a key relationship was used to comment on the human condition in the written text(s). For example, in spite of his obvious eloquence in Act I, scene iii, he protests, “Rude am I in my speech, / And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace” (I.iii. In the very first scene, Roderigo and Iago disparage Othello in explicitly racial terms, calling him, among other things, "Barbary horse" and "thick lips." Many of Othello's insecurities are derived from his race and from the perception that he is lowlier than his wife. This difference becomes a barrier when Brabantio objects to their marriage, however, it plays much more of a role in facilitating Iago’s manipulation and amplifying Othello’s paranoia. ( Log Out /  As this was stated by the Duke, it undermines the fact that Othello is civil in the eyes of nobility, despite the colour of his skin. As stated in Shakespeare Unlimited ‘Othello and Blackface’ Podcast: “People weren’t interested in seeing the play in the way in Shakespeare’s time [which] is really sort of startling, because of the very clear and numerous derogatory references to skin colour in the play.” In Act 1 Scene 1, Iago cowardly confesses to Brabantio through Roderigo’s shadow that “even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Exposing Iago’s malevolence in his stealthy manner that is hidden behind his duality; which further reiterates the “derogatory references”. Tragically his wife Desdemona was unable to persuade him to see beyond his colour as she does, but as others' have said elements of the society at the time, and Othello's … Does Othello prove to the Duke he really loves We’ve discounted annual subscriptions by 50% for our End-of-Year sale—Join Now! Lie on her! from University of Oxford M.A. ( Log Out /  Further linking back to the dominant ideology of the predilection, prejudice and paragon image of race. In nearly every case, the prejudiced characters use terms that describe Othello as an animal or beast. It holds us enthralled, (Dramatic effect, external) as it does the Duke. Brabantio says, "O, she deceives me/Past thought!" In Shakespeare’s Othello, the primary obstacle in Othello and Desdemona’s relationship is Othello’s race, and hence, his status as an outsider. Log in here. (Dramatic effect, internal) 47 Critical thinking re- dramatic action. Othello and Race. Yet when Othello is overcome by jealousy, he does become beast-like, falling into epileptic fits that rob him of the ability to speak intelligibly. Othello's race sets him apart, and makes him very self-conscious; it makes him work hard and look carefully after his reputation, so he is regarded … b. Further reassuring the racist implications on Othello’s “blackness”. Note how he describes Othello to Brabantio, Desdemona's father: "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe." All this I will give you.” Both Lucifer and Iago demonstrate a feigned subservience: “My lord, you know I love you.” (3:3) Even though Othello was associated with witchcraft because of his black ancestry and tribal religion; Iago succeeded in revealing this association through his morally bankrupt, evasive and contemptuous character. While Othello is never rude in his speech, he does allow his eloquence to suffer as he is put under increasing strain by Iago’s plots. Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. While Othello is barraged by racism, he manages to resist its pull for some time. Sharing resources for Secondary English. Many take great issue with Desdemona’s nonconformist decision on including herself in this interracial marriage and Iago’s repetition of “Knee crooking knaves” reinforces his insecurities in his social position; seeing Othello as an Over-Reacher as a result of his race. The characterisation of Othello was presented through the dominant ideology of the predilection, prejudice and paragon image of race. He eventually becomes so convinced by Iago's lies that he kills his wife.. Facts we learn about Othello at the start of the play: That’s fulsome.” (4:1) This implies the carnal, visceral and obscene descriptions, through Othello’s use of repeated variances, clever wordplay and imperatives that reinforce his ascending anger and obsession that was clearly elevating throughout the play. The most prominent form of prejudice on display in Othello is racial prejudice. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime. 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