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Examine The Issues Of Racial Stereotyping In Othel

1296 words - 5 pages

Many Elizabethan’s had negative views of black Africans. Some Elizabethan’s viewed non-whites as inferior beings and savages; and because religion played a big part in Elizabethan culture, others would associate blacks as evil and witchcraft, and other non-Christian superstitions such as the devil. Usually black was associated with evil and white with good.
Brabantio proves a good example of Shakespeare showing these images, when he accuses Othello of witchcraft, “she is abused, stolen from me, and corrupted by spells and medicines” (act 1 scene 3 line 61), he says that the “Moor” must have used “drugs and minerals”, Othello’s and Desdemona’s answer to this is that it was the stories of Othello’s life which captured her heart not black magic, for example Desdemona says “I saw Othello’s visage mind” (act 1 scene 3 line 249), and Othello tells everyone present “I won his daughter” (act 1 scene 3 line 94)
Another example of undermining stereotyping is at the end of the play in act 5 scene 2, Emilia accuses Othello of being the devil, “o, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil:” (line 130) She says this because he has killed Desdemona by this point so she refers Othello as being evil, which is typical of Elizabethan culture.
Shakespeare also shows the racial side when Iago refers to Othello as a “Barbary Horse” (line 108n act 1 scene 1), an “old black ram ” (line 85 act 1 scene 1) and “the beast with two backs” (line 115 act 1 scene 1), and Roderigo uses the term “lascivious Moor” (line 124 act 1 scene 1). Moor is a term used frequently in the play, to an Elizabethan the word “Moor” meant black man.
So by the time Othello comes into the play, from what is said by Roderigo, Iago and Brabantio, we get the picture that Othello is a sexually possessed animal. This is because Roderigo is angry that Desdemona has married Othello, when he was in love with her; Brabantio feels betrayed by his daughter for marrying Othello behind his back; and Iago seeks revenge on Othello for promoting Cassio to lieutenant when he feels that it should have been him. To Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio, Othello’s colour and racial background as well as marrying Desdemona are alarming, they see it as an unnatural match, they refer to Othello’s “sooty bosom” (act 1 scene 2 line 70) his “thicklips” (act 1 scene 1 line 65) and an “old black ram” (act 1 scene 1 line 87). These descriptions are wrong; the Othello we see here doesn’t exist.
When Othello enters the play he is portrayed as a bright, charming, and well respected man. He has a calm temperament for example when Roderigo and Brabantio are looking for Othello and they find him; they all draw their swords, even Othello’s men. Othello says, “Keep up your bright swords for the dew will rust them” (line 58 act 1 scene 2), which indicates he would rather not fight, especially with it being Desdemona’s father. He is loved very much by Desdemona, this is proved by her marrying him behind her fathers back, and when she is...

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