Essay by emarandl March 2014

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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 race. Throughout the whole

play, racism is certainly very present. Shakespeare tests his audience's racial prejudice

through the relationship of his Moorish character Othello to the true villain Iago, using

diction and metaphors throughout his various speeches.

Shakespeare uses many metaphors and diction to create a racist tone through certain

speeches. In the opening scene Othello is variously called "The Moor"(1.1.40), "the thick lips'

(1.1.61), 'black ram' (1.1.88) and finally, 'the devil' (1.1.91). In his speech, Iago says "an old

black ram / Is tupping your white ewe" (1.1.88). Here, Shakespeare plays on one of many

racist notions that black men have an animal-like, hyper sexuality. Later on, Iago calls Othello

the devil: "Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you" (1.1.9). Another racist slur

portraying the beliefs of the people in 16th century that the devil takes shape and form of a

black man. Iago knew what kind of racist Brabantio was, and he used his attitude toward the

idea of mixed marriage in order to rile the man against Othello. Shakespeare used animal

imagery and...