Racism in Othello the Venetian Moor

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in 1564. Famously known as an English poet, play-writer, actor, and was given the title as the greatest writer and dramatist. Shakespeare play Othello was first published to the public in 1604 during his third tragic period. According to a source, Othello was inspired by a crucial war between Venice and Turkey that was in the sixteenth century. Back then; it was very common for artists to depict Blacks in a very negative, stereotypical fashion. Shakespeare would use cruel stereotypes for artistic purposes and, although Shakespeare gave all his plays life and emotions, should not give readers, back in Shakespeare time, a place of moral judgment. Shakespeare is known to have an obligation to his fellow readers to think carefully before reading Shakespeare’s thoughts in paper. Shakespeare’s words are very powerful, he had the heavy load to bring hardship emotions to a person or group.

In the story of Othello, is most certainly, lays out a racist dialog for Othello. Othello was described as a moor. The word moor is defined as Islamic Arabic inhabitants of North Africa. Othello, a brave soldier from Africa, who was promoted to supreme commander of the Venetian army to defeat Cyprus. Almost every character in the story used racial slurs to Othello at some point in the play. Iago, the antagonist of the story, was the main character that most commonly makes racist remarks. There are many sources from Shakespeare readers that called him out to be a racist. In 1969, an African-American political activis H. Rap Brown stated that, he ‘saw no sense in reading Shakespeare’. Why? Because ‘After I read Othello, it was obvious that Shakespeare was a racist.’ (Brown, H. Rap, Die, Nigger, Die! A Political Autobiography of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin). There are many other quotes and statements made on Shakespeare’s racist marks.

Shakespeare openly made one of his characters in Othello to be an easy mark to hate and blame Othello, Iago, a character who is labeled as Othello’s friend and his enemy. Iago’s provocation made it seem how spurring this play is. Iago’s hate for Othello enabled him to devise a plan to completely destroy Othello. His plan was to make Othello believe his newly wedded wife, Desdemona, was having an affair with his lieutenant, Cassio. Iago was heated when Othello was in charge of the war, especially when Othello got a promotion. This gave Iago a set of mind to put an end to his “friend”.

In the beginning of the story, Iago and Rodrigo, is shouting to Brabantio’s window, giving uprising news about his daughter, Desmedona. Told Brabantio that his daughter has ran off with Othello. Now, in the story, Iago says: “Even now, very now, an old black ram, is tupping your white ewe”. This is a use of animal imagery. Iago wanted to depict these derogatory images to anger Brabantio, making Brabantio to forbid dating Othello. Iago has this mindset, that he feels as if his sense of superiority over others, knowing he can control and manipulate whoever he wants to get things his way. Animal imagery is used to tale things in a crude, derogatory way.

Later in the story, Iago uses another statement with animal imagery saying, “It is impossible you should see this, were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross as ignorance made dunk.” This statement refers to Cassio and Desmedona sleeping together. Rodrigo developed and begins to use animal imagery shortly spending a lot of time with Iago. Later on, characters such as Rodrigo would counter remarks of animal imagery made by Iago back to Iago. Rodrigo called Iago a “damned inhuman dog”. Seeing the animal imagery throughout the story gave a good representation of how Iago’s power over he had over the other characters.

Shakespeare used many symbols throughout the story of Othello. There were many such as the Handkerchief, the sign of love to his wife. It represented his love for her. Therefore, when he found out Cassio had the handkerchief he gifted to Desmedona, it drove him crazy. It made him believe that Desmedona really did have an affair with Cassio. I believe Shakespeare wanted to make it seem that Black people are stubborn and have no self-control. Another symbol are the candles Othello was blowing out right before he killed Desmedona. It symbolizes that Othello was ready to shut her lights out.

The general theme of racism in Othello is important. The reason is; Othello becomes vulnerable and easily manipulated by Iago. It assured that Othello would remain unknowing of Iago’s plans. It pushed Othello away so Iago can manipulate others and that was his game plan. To get rid of Othello, Iago had to make sure he was in control of everybody. Everbody thought Iago was on their side, giving them the time of day and advice to aid.