The Racial Prejudice in Othello

Shakespeare’s play Othello unveils racism as one of the most devastating issue affecting human relations and interactions. In his works, Shakespeare draws a clear picture of the current world system as far as racism is concerned. Ideally, racism has been on spotlight due to danger, it brings to the human population including discrimination, mistreatment, torture, and inequality among other pertinent issues. It goes uncontested that this dispensable problematic issue has surfaced in all if not most of our states and the general world population admits struggling with its outcomes.

It therefore follows that racism is an important issue of discussion within the context of discrimination to allow peaceful coexistence among people of different color. In Shakespeare’s work, the flames of racism are felt too through Iago and Othello. Racism can be defined as an act of segregation on the basis of color and origin. In extreme conditions, this act of segregation strains people’s lives, societies, unity, and leads to prejudice of color.

In other words, racism has legalized diversity, depersonalized people, and led to rejection of mankind. Racism is about color, blood, birth, and language.

Othello by Shakespeare constitutes acts of racism through two major characters known as Iago and Othello. The author of this play explores the poisonous effects of racial prejudice through Othello who takes the role of a protagonist and a flourished soldier. Despite being a Moor, he opts to serve the society. He is the most distinguished soldier within his society. However, in marriage, this successful army struggles with prejudice of his race which acts as a wall between him and those within his surrounding.

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Othello faces deep opposition from Iago through sentiments and prejudices through language leading to violence and chaos throughout the play. Verbalization of words such as otherness, Moor, and Black are a true reflection of racism. For example, at the beginning of the play, words such as “thick-lips,” (line 66) and “an old black ram” (line 92) are used by Iago in reference of Othello.

Observed in the first scene of the play when Othello joins the meeting, Othello receives insults from various people who brutally brand him as a black race similar to the devil’s color black. This act is championed by Iago who refers to Othello as ancient. Addressing Othello, Iago says, “Now, sir, be judge yourself whether am affined to love the Moor” (Scene 1, line 38-40). Apart from “Moor” and “Black” other racist utterances used in reference to Othello include “an old black ram” (Scene 1), “ the devil” (Scene 2) and “murderous coxcomb”(Scene 5). Argumentatively, use of such worlds in reference to Othello means that people with black skin color are comparatively linked to works of evil. The perception the whites have on the blacks or Africans is tainting thus fitting our prior definition of racism as an act of segregation expressed through language, color, and origin leading to strained relationships among people, prejudice of color, legalized diversity, depersonalized people, and rejection of mankind. It shocks that on meeting the famous Moor, the audience mimics his blackness and verbally likens it to ugliness, undesired, and evil.

As the play progresses, Iago expresses his hatred of Othello for being black in color. Iago holds a perception that Othello being black can not be an charming soldier and is not fit for marrying a white lady. His idea of Desdemona; the daughter of Brabantio is not a good match for Othello. For instance while giving his racial report, he says sarcastically says, “…an old black ram is tapping your white ewe.” In line with this, Iago claims that Desdemona’s feelings will fade away in time with her husband. In support to his theory, he believes Desdemona will not give Othello a second look when it will come to her notice that his husband has a devil-like-looking face. Additionally, he believes that the very nature will instruct Desdemona and compel her to some second thought about her husband.

Finally, race based issues boil up through Iago where he cultivates the seed of suspicion to Othello on his wife. Additionally, Iago turns other citizens against Othello in representing his thoughts against the black color hinting that Desdemona might cheat on her husband. Othello develops inferiority complex, alienates himself, and finally his fears pile up due to his ethnicity and culture. His skin color sets him apart from the white Venetian society. Othello raises his fears of extramarital affairs against his wife, on grounds of not being fit enough for her.

In a nutshell, the topic on race has been in existence since the classical theory period and broadly discussed as a sociological subject. It however shocks that human beings have failed to contain this subject thus devastating power of the racism has been exalted through looking down upon other races, deflection of mankind, interpersonal relations, and jeopardized unity.

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The Racial Prejudice in Othello. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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