Shakespeare's play Othello was written some time between 1600 and 1605. In a time
when ethnic minorities were so unimportant that they were almost ignored, a black man rises
and has a rank of a general in Venice, and is well respected and trusted by his white leaders.
However, when Othello marries Desdemona, a young and beautiful white girl, and the
daughter of Senator Brabantio, everything changes, and the racism in the play begins to take
place. Natural versus unnatural is one of the major themes in Shakespeare's play. What is
considered to be the most unnatural thing in the story is the marriage between Desdemona
and Othello, where the most obvious issue emphasises the topic of ...view middle of the document...
The Senators and the Duke
admired Othello as an military leader who defended Venice. The Duke even defends him to
Brabantio, saying "your son-in-law is far more fair than black" (1.3.22). Even though the Duke
is talking positive about Othello, the racism is still there, considering Othello is being treated
as an exception to the rule. Even Brabantio loved Othello as long as he was only a military hero
defending Venice and has not yet been in a romantic relationship with his daughter. Othello
was tolerated and accepted as a general and a valuable fighter to Venice but as soon as he had
seized a white woman, everything changed.
Shakespeare does not portray skin color of his protagonist as a big issue or an
insecurity right from the start. Later on, towards the end, more and more of Othello's
insecurity is being revealed. Othello's sensitivity to the issue becomes clear when Iago uses it
as proof that Desdemona could not be faithful to a man so foreign:
But pardon me. I do not in position Distinctly speak of her, though I may fear Her will, recoiling to her better judgment May fall to match you with her country forms And happily repent. (III.3.29)
Shakespeare manipulates Othello into believing that Desdemona will eventually change her
mind or "repent"(3.3.29) of being with him, leaving Othello for a white man. Othello's self
confidence, once seemingly so strong, is very easlly eroded by Iago's ability to convince him
that he is inferior to the men of Venice: "Haply, for I am black / And have not those soft parts
of conversation / That chamberers have" (3.3.268). Iago is not only playing on Othello's fears
about his wife sexuality but also on the uncertainty about his status in the society as a black
Moor. Since all the manipulation is done through Iago, Shakespeare makes you question who
the true villain of the play is.
Iago is not only playing on Othello's fears about his wife sexuality, but also on Othello's fear
about his status as a black Moor.
Othello had a cruel past, being a slave, and even now being a general, he is still being
referred to as a black Moor and outsider to a very racist society of 16th century. As much as
he is trying to hide it at the beginning, towards the end his insecurity is more and more
obvious, which only allows Iago to manipulate him into believing about the affair, that much
faster. At first,...