Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

Othello – Race and Stereotypes

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Othello’s race does not prominently impact his demise, although Shakespeare touches upon the issue of race, the reason for Othello’s demise lies somewhere else. However, the allegations of race directly lead to its tragic ending. Feelings of inadequacy and distrust without question aid in the tragedy. The fact that Othello’s skin color is important alters the interpretation of the tragedy within the play.

The racism represented in Othello is not just about an instance of prejudices and prejudgments made by a crowd of people against another, but in fact has much more subtle and devastating consequences, specifically, that it is proliferated not only by the discriminatory section of society, but also by the target of this discrimination. Although Othello didn’t initially validate any of the stereotypical qualities that certain people labeled him with, he began adapting to them as he started to doubt himself.

By coming to the assumption that he is in a racially inferior position, Othello struggled in dealing with the stereotypes appropriately, thereby only increasing his own struggle with his race. If Othello didn’t have such inferior complex and instead had faith within him, the conflict would never have ascended. Rather than tagging the play Othello as anti-racist or a discriminatory play, there is a substantial lesson that can be learned. From a racial perspective, the tragedy exposes the powerful outcomes that racial differences can generate when in conjunction with one’s personal self-doubt.

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With Iago’s manipulations the notions of race were provoked for Brabantio, Rodrigo, and Othello, activating any suppressed racial prejudices and self-doubt. It seems obvious that Iago has strong feelings of personal inadequacy and is jealous and resentful of the love shared between Othello and Desdemona. However, Iago’s motive seems to be more than that. I thought his hatred was from his own personal dissatisfaction, but when he becomes lieutenant he is still unhappy and goes for the total destruction of Othello’s life.

So, I tried to see what it would be like to put my feet in Iago’s shoes, to feel his hatred and of course connect what the play is about. It then hit me that through Iago’s judgments Othello is “the Moor” and should therefore exemplify the common idea of a moor, which is not admiration, self-worth, and fortune; it is one of disconnectedness and dependency. When he says that “nothing can or shall content his soul/ Till he is evened with the Moor, wife for wife” (Act 2: Scene), he means that he is satisfied until Othello’s ife is made equal with his involving feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, which are all qualities fitting to a “moor”.

Throughout the play Iago repetitively uses derogatory remarks when speaking of Othello so to encourage certain people in the play to endure racism and confirm that it was the norm. Even so, some of Iago’s semantics reveal his own prejudices. For example, Iago only refers to Othello as a “Moor” with the exception of when he refers to Othello as the “black Othello” (Act 2: Scene 3).

Iago hates Othello because he is “the Moor” yet does not symbolize the expected role of what is thought of to be a black man in these times. There is neither reason nor logic behind his hatred, but discrimination against one seldom has reason, for it is characteristically irrational thinking. Iago is a clear illustration of what racism is and will justify his irrational thoughts with anything, just as Iago contributes to Brabantio and Rodrigo’s reasoning behind their actions and Othello’s reasons for acting out on his uncertainties and self-doubt ultimately leading to his demise and an all-around tragedy.

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Othello – Race and Stereotypes. (2017, Mar 26). Retrieved from

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