Othello - A Racist Play?


Although there are lots of things to suggest this is a racist 

play I don't think that racism actually dominates the play, even 

though it has a racist theme. There is a romantic union between black 

and white which gets destroyed because most people think the 

relationship is wrong. At the time the play was written, 1604, even 

the Queen of England was racist so there must have been a strong 

hatred of blacks around that time.

 Most racist comments in the play are said by people that are 

angry or upset. For example, when Emilia found out that Othello

had killed Desdemona she was extremely mad and she called Othello a 

"Blacker devil", this was the only time in the play that she had said 

anything racist about Othello. The main characters that have racist 

attitudes are Iago, Brabantio, Roderigo and Emilia, with the hatred of 

Othello as the basis for their racist actions and comments towards 

him. Iago is the most racist character in the book as he has it in for 

Othello right from the start. What sparks off Iago's hate towards him 

is the fact that when Othello chose his lieutenant , it was Cassio who 

was chosen instead of Iago. What made Iago angry was the fact that

Cassio had no experience in war when he did and Cassio was chosen 

instead of him. Iago does not say anything racist to Othello's face 

but he has a lot to say against him behind his back. He schemes to 

destroy Othello and anything in his way including Cassio and 

Desdemona. The first time we hear one of his racist comments is when 

he's talking to Brabantio about Othello and Desdemona,

"Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe". 

Iago says this to try and turn Brabantio against Othello. Iago uses 

racist comments all the way through the play, as he tries to turn 

people against Othello, for example calling him a "Barbary Horse". He 

never says anything racist to Othello's face because in his plot he 

had to be his best friend, so as not to make him suspicious that Iago 

was causing all the trouble for him. Iago is jealous of Othello for 

many reasons, one being that Othello has higher ranking in the army 

than him, and also he has a good marriage with Desdemona which Iago 

does not have himself with Emilia. These are the main causes of his 

hatred for Othello and the reason he adopts such a racist attitude. 

 Roderigo is another one of the racist characters in the play, 

being so right from the start. He is Iago's accomplice and will do

anything that Iago wants him to. I think he does this because of the 

way Iago can twist a situation to make it sound as if Roderigo would 

get something good from it but in the end he doesn't.

 One of the racist names he calls Othello behind his back is 

"Thick-lips" . He hates Othello because he's jealous of him as he

also loves Desdemona but cannot have her. I don't think he views 

Othello in a very bad, racist way but uses the racism against Othello 

because he's jealous of him. Neither Roderigo or Iago would say 

anything racist to Othello's face as he is the general of the army. 

 Brabantio is also a racist character, and is enraged when he 

finds out that his daughter, Desdemona, has been seeing "the moor"

behind his back. Brabantio is so mad he sends out his guards to catch 

Othello and put him in prison. Brabantio views Othello as a foul and 

dirty no good black, I think this racist view of his is because he's 

angry when he finds out that his daughter has been seeing this "moor". 

Unlike Iago and Roderigo, Brabantio will openly make racist comments 

about Othello to his face such as,

"lascivious moor", 

"Wheeling stranger".

Brabantio can do this because he is the Senator of Venice and is 

higher in rank than Othello. 

 The other character who is racist towards Othello is Emilia, the 

lady in waiting to Desdemona. Emilia is disgusted with Othello when 

she finds out that Othello had killed Desdemona this is the time she 

gets a chance to express her feelings about Othello, 

"O, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil!" 

Although this is the only time she says what she thinks of him, I 

think that she was racist towards Othello all through the play and did 

not approve of his relationship with Desdemona but just could not show 

it because she would get in trouble with her "lord".

 Because Shakespeare wrote a play about a black and white union, 

which was later destroyed, I think it shows that he's not racist. I 

think he feels that the union between the two is right, but the 

relationship would never survive in a racist community at that time. 

He portrayed the union between Othello and Desdemona as a good thing, 

and the people who destroyed it, mainly Iago and Roderigo as evil. 

This shows once again that he approves of a black and white 

relationship and therefore was not racist himself.

Once before Shakespeare wrote a sonnet about his mistress which says, 

for example,

"If snow be white, why then her breast be dun"

He writes about his mistress being black when other poets of that time 

wrote about how their mistresses were white. The other poets were the 

racist ones, they girlfriends were always white and perfect, 

Shakespeare wrote about how his mistresses is black and not very 

beautiful. Although the play has a strong racist theme against blacks 

I don't think that the play is racist.


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