“Othello the Moor”
In 1604, the most influential writer of his time, William Shakespeare, wrote “Othello.” This play a tale of race, tragedy, and revenge. Contrary to most stories, in “Othello” black represents good and white represents evil, but why did Shakespeare do this? Was it to shed light on society’s ignorance to racism? On the other hand, perhaps, to show that good and evil come in all colors. “Othello” explores prejudice and racism in a tale of tragedy. While Othello is a highly skilled general, some people still show great disdain for him. The characters commonly call Othello “The Moor” throughout the story. “A moor is a person of Arabic decent living in North Africa who is of a Muslim religion and who is of an uncultured, crude, coarse, and cruel background.” (1) The use of “the Moor” paired with other vulgar terms emphasizes the portrayal of Othello, proving that race played a key role in “Othello.” Thus, Shakespeare sheds light on society’s ignorance to racism and that good and evil come in all colors through the relationships between each character and the protagonist, Othello.
The play begins on the streets of Venice where Iago, the white villa and Rodrigo are arguing. Rodrigo wants nothing more than to suit Desdemona (a white Venetian); however, he learns that the Moor has just married Desdemona. Enraged by this he accuses Iago of stealing his money and loving the Moor. Iago convinces Rodrigo that this is untrue; he is only serving the moor in order to serve himself. Iago tells Rodrigo of his hatred toward the moor for passing him up for a promotion. Beside himself, Rodrigo exclaims “What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe if he can carry’t thou.” (2) Here, Shakespeare begins to depict the Rodrigo’s racist view of the moor. Iago persuades Rodrigo to awaken Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, and reveal to him that Desdemona has married the moor. In the same scene, Iago shouts “Awake! What, ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves, thieves!”(3) Iago is suggesting that the moor has stolen his daughter right out from under him. Iago and Rodrigo continue to spout racial slurs such as “an old black ram” (4), “a Barbary horse.”(5) To endure this entire scene and never hear Othello’s (the moor) name has an immediate impact on the audience. This scene shows how race does affect Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello.
Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello through Barbantio’s relationship can be a bit more complicated. Once Barbarantio learns that his daughter has married Othello he orders his men to apprehend him. Brabantio proclaims, “Get weapons, ho!” (6) Brabantio is certain that his daughter would not choose to marry the moor. He proclaims that this is treason of blood! As Brabantio and his men search for Othello and Desdemona, Othello is summoned to the Duke. The Duke needs the great general’s skills in an urgent matter. The duke respects Othello, for he has proven himself in war and as an effective leader. Here Brabantio...