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The issue of race in othello essay

Plays term papers Disclaimer: Free essays on Plays posted on this site were donated by anonymous users and are provided for informational use only. The free Plays research paper Othello - Race essay presented on this page should not be viewed as a sample of our on-line writing service. There is a clear theme of racism throughout, one which was firmly embedded in the Venetian society which rejects the marriage of Othello and Desdemona as erring, 'against all rules of nature,' [1.

My parts, my title, and my perfect soul Shall manifest me rightly. Yet the malevolent Iago is able to call on Othello's deep-rooted insecurities about his race in order to play Othello and Desdemona against one another until their marriage fails.

Essentially, Iago is a personification of the bigoted white race, who tries to inform the public of the impurity of Othello and Desdemona's the issue of race in othello essay. He demonstrates how this miscegenation is threatening to the existing social order, and ultimately, Othello's lifetime of achievement is not sufficient to persuade others from prejudice in a moment of crisis such as Desdemona's elopement, or sustain his self-esteem in the long run.

Othello is structured so that the main premise of the play, introducing the main themes, appears near the beginning. It is obvious that Iago has an agenda planned of malevolent proportions with Othello at its target. He is the catalyst of all the destructive happenings within the play starting from the very beginning when he and Roderigo approach the residence of Brabantio in 1. He uses crude, racist language to appeal to the senator's traditional beliefs, including such phrases as, IAGO: Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe!

Culturally, Brabantio had all the support necessary to challenge the marriage given the common racist assumptions of the time, and accuses Othello of sorcery and witchcraft. This means firstly that he is unable to imagine his daughter willfully deceiving him, an understandable reaction given her past dutiful behavior, 'so tender, fair and happy' [1.

Secondly, he cannot believe she would ever 'fall in love with what she feared to look on,' [1.

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Thirdly, he suggests that Othello's race makes him capable of these powers of 'black' magic; we have to ask ourselves; if Desdemona had eloped with Roderigo, would he be accused of witchcraft? If Brabantio had not reverted to his prejudices and stayed calm, he might have thought of questioning the legality of the marriage based on the Canon Law's requirement of consummation, but he fails to do so, choosing instead to attempt to nullify it by claiming that his daughter was the victim of spells and witchcraft.

In other words, Brabantio, a respected member of Venetian society, could have contested the marriage contract logically and legally, but instead he falls back on using prejudiced assumptions as weapons, encouraged by Iago.

These events, so early on in the play, establish the idea of white purity and goodness, suggesting that other races represent darkness and evil. The clear cut binary opposition between the blackness of Othello and the fair whiteness of Desdemona is established and united in matrimony, a concept that Shakespeare seems to be experimenting with to suggest the chaos that would ensue in a cultural context.

Although Othello is not made out to be the cleverest and most cunning character of the play, he is one Shakespeare's bravest characters, and he does exemplify a certain wit uncommon to the European notion of a Moor.

He is an eloquent, romantic man who has won the heart of a senator's daughter, despite his confession that 'rude am I in my speech,' [1. He has fought as a Venetian soldier and won the trust of his people. But has he really won their trust?

  1. These events, so early on in the play, establish the idea of white purity and goodness, suggesting that other races represent darkness and evil. Culturally, Brabantio had all the support necessary to challenge the marriage given the common racist assumptions of the time, and accuses Othello of sorcery and witchcraft.
  2. We witnessed how quick Brabantio was to forget his honorable nature. Othello challenged its original audience to change their perspectives on race and racism.
  3. He took on the whole socio-political structure and had his way with it for a time, but the play shows all too clearly how thin the value of his reputation was to become, in the eyes of others, and to himself. At line 267, he makes a rare reference to his blackness in a negative way, and begins to compare himself to Cassio, who is fair, eloquent, and courtly, and reveals his insecurity over his age too.
  4. However, when he sees her, he refuses to believe Iago, but as we see, the damage has been done, and he returns to Iago to demand 'ocular proof. The scene with Brabantio also goes to show that Iago's provocation is as capable of enraging a civil Venetian senator, as it is a hot-blooded Moor.

We witnessed how quick Brabantio was to forget his honorable nature. Othello had won the love of Desdemona with his stories of battle and he had also promised an injured Brabantio that he would be a loyal son-in-law by that same token. He should be able to transcend certain preconceived notions of race through his heroism and courageousness.

  • In other words, Brabantio, a respected member of Venetian society, could have contested the marriage contract logically and legally, but instead he falls back on using prejudiced assumptions as weapons, encouraged by Iago;
  • It is obvious that Iago has an agenda planned of malevolent proportions with Othello at its target;
  • Othello is structured so that the main premise of the play, introducing the main themes, appears near the beginning.

He took on the whole socio-political structure and had his way with it for a time, but the play shows all too clearly how thin the value of his reputation was to become, in the eyes of others, and to himself.

In Act 1, the audience witnesses Brabantio's reaction to his daughter's elopement, and this is extremely significant. Othello has hitherto been treated with great reverence in Venetian society, but Shakespeare creates a moment of crisis to examine the extent to which Othello's reputation defines him when he needs it most. As long as logic exists, there will be little space for prejudice, which is based on illogical and irrational 'gut' feelings, but Iago works by removing logic, his crudity and base animal imagery brings out the primal side of others.

Sadly, he shows how easily this can be achieved through a moment of crisis and a few choice words. Act 1almost presents the play in miniature; Iago goes on to bigger and better things when he manages to make Othello turn social prejudice in on himself.

The scene with Brabantio also goes to show that Iago's provocation is as capable of enraging a civil Venetian senator, as it is a hot-blooded Moor. Othello's racial 'characteristics' such as a quick temper and jealousy, assumptions held at the time do not bring about his downfall - Iago does - but he is only able to achieve it by working on Othello's weaknesses, his the issue of race in othello essay over his race being central to this.

The 'temptation scene' of 3. His first move following Othello's refusal of her infidelity is to assure him that, 'I know our country's disposition well' [3. He is forced to trust Iago to explain the world to him. At line 267, he makes a rare reference to his blackness in a negative way, and begins to compare himself to Cassio, who is fair, eloquent, and courtly, and reveals his insecurity over his age too.

However, when he sees her, he refuses to believe Iago, but as we see, the damage has been done, and he returns to Iago to demand 'ocular proof. The ease with which Iago was able to achieve this feat is frightening, and rests wholly on a simple optical trick and his ability to play on Othello's insecurities, a large part of which is his race, and disbelief at Desdemona's love. We must not forget to look at the behavior of Desdemona in order to witness the cultural taboo in action. Desdemona is portrayed as a divine figure, but extremely naive.

Her naivety is illustrated in her conversations with her husband. She does not know that Othello is the object of Iago's manipulation, nor does she understand the implications of her speech. It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor.

One of the most controversial scenes in all of Shakespeare takes place in the bedchamber where the Moor's virtuous wife sleeps soundly. The action is slowed down to a somber pace. Othello has reverted to a savage-like state as everyone had suspected.

Racism in Othello

Desdemona's death was inevitable or rather expected by everyone who first saw the marriage between the two as forbidden. However, Othello's death is much more symbolic because it represents the 'other' failing after trying to achieve the status of the white man. Othello ultimately acknowledges the fact that he is an 'other' when he realizes his irreconcilable fault and chooses to take his own life. Thus upon his suicide his last words implicate that those who stand in his presence should speak of him as he truly is, and know that, OTHELLO: Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe Othello 5.

Clearly, the binary opposition represented in the relationship between the black Othello and the white Desdemona is an illustration of cultural tension. The failure of these two individuals to mate successfully demonstrates a cultural failure.

Racism is the tool used in Othello by Iago to destroy the lives of two visually different types of people.

Plays/Othello - Race term paper 5954

However, as Davison explains, Othello is not 'about' race, or color, or even jealousy. It dramatizes the way actions are directed by attitudes, fears, and delusions that rule the subconscious than by evident facts.

Othello is an example of a noble black man at a time, supposedly, when, 'Negroes were not known except as slaves,' Appendix yet racism inherent in the society that he lived was capable of reducing him to the barbarous state everyone at root expected of him.

Thus Shakespeare presents us with a morality play at the historical height of the colonial slave trade with racism and miscegeny at its core, first we witness this through Brabantio, then the tragic consequences when Othello, with Iago's help, turns social prejudice onto himself.

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