In history and throughout time, we may have been able to overcome slavery, but it is evident that racial barriers are still a present obstacle that people encounter and struggle with in our everyday lives, whether that be through personal experience or simply by being a witnessing bystander. This can be seen in Shakespeare’s play of Othello. The disparate race of Othello is made prominent, even considerably mocking, in this Shakespearean tragedy and eventually plays a role in his devastating downfall. This is displayed in the disapproval of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage right from the beginning, the negative and animalistic connotations in regards to Othello’s race, and also in Othello’s manifesting insecurity that develops about himself and his marriage. Right from the start of the marriage between Othello and Desdemona, there is a strong disapproval. Not just any disapproval, but a sharp objection from Desdemona’s own blood, her father Brabantio. Iago awakens Brabantio with the news of the marriage by making references to Othello being a hyper sexual animal corrupting his daughter, knowing this would only anger him. Brabantio exclaims, “She, in spite of nature, of years, of country, credit, everything, to fall in love with what she feared to look on! It is a judgment maimed and most imperfect…Against all rules of nature” (1.3.114-119). Brabantio’s thoughts about the marriage being against the “rules of nature” exemplify his own personal thoughts about how interracial marriages do not follow his desired expectation of an all white marriage. This is contradictory to his feelings towards Othello as a person because before he was highly respected and liked, until he is with his own daughter. He is so dumbfounded about the marriage that he calls witchcraft and fails to see that Desdemona has a real genuine love for Othello. Brabantio’s condemnation against Othello marrying Desdemona shows how significant of a factor race is during this time. Another clear sign of discrimination against Othello’s race is through the negative and animalistic connotations that are given in reference to Othello. Through words, Othello is made out to be perceived as a beast or “black ram” because of the color of his skin. When Brabantio tells Iago that his house is not a grange, Iago responds, “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise! Awake the snoring citizens with the bell, or else the devil will make a grandsire of you. Arise, I say” (1.1.97-101). This comparison between the black ram and white ewe makes the differences in Othello and Desdemona very distinct. Othello is represented by a black ram that is aggressive and forceful while Desdemona is represented by a white ewe that is gentle and delicate. Iago also further provokes on Brabantio by using the vulgarity of Othello “tupping” Desdemona to increase Brabantio’s fear of miscegenation. Also, this once again emphasizes the stereotypical hyper sexuality of black men. These animalistic references set Othello apart from the rest to make him feel like an outsider and eventually harm his self image that he has about himself. With the racial barriers and differences that set Othello apart from the others, Othello eventually begins to believe what others say about him himself. His insecurity about himself and his marriage begin to grow like wildfire, completely blinding his voice of reason and rationality. Othello begins to put his trust into Iago’s unreliable evidence that he provides about Desdemona supposedly cheating on him and completely changes how he feels. His insecurity leads him to question himself and Desdemona’s loyalty to him. This causes him to act out irrationally and even beast like, with anger and violence towards Desdemona. He becomes unrecognizable to the Othello that was once there. Othello says, “Her name, that was as fresh as Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black as mine own face” (3.3.441-443). This passage is important because it illuminates the complete change of Othello’s character. The once logical and confident man is now seeing himself in a new light that is not worthy enough to have a loyal wife. Othello also uses a racist discourse about himself saying that his once good reputation is now taken over by a “begrimed and black” face, basically agreeing with the racist things that Brabantio and others have been saying about him all along. His respect is completely lost and essentially he only sees himself as a tainted black man. In the end, the distinct racial differences of Othello not only overtake his peers but himself as well, leading to his negative downfall. This is presented in Brabantio’s disapproval in his marriage to his daughter, the adverse opinions about him, and his own self doubt. Eventually the racism of Othello’s skin color engulfs his emotions and leads to the downward spiral known as the tragedy of Othello. Although Othello starts off as an exception to his stereotype, he succumbs to the doubt and the opinions of others about who he is and becomes what others feared initially.
August 16, 2019 0 Comments