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Othello, Race, and the Effect on Character Essay examples

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With the influx of trade during the Elizabethan Era, English society encountered an increase of descriptions and encounters with people from remote countries, including Africa. With these happenstances, brought misunderstandings of people and cultures, therefore race and discriminations began to form. Shakespeare’s protagonist in Othello, a Moor, was affected by societal standards in his ability to develop as an individual because of physical characteristics and internal insecurities because of the conflict, which tears him between two cultures.
In the mid-sixteenth century, England began encountering Native West Africans. Their appearance in London began as early as 1554 and by 1601, which led Elizabeth I to convey her displeasure towards the “‘Negars and blackamoors’ which are crept into the realm since the troubles between her Highness and the King of Spain” (Jones 12-13). As Englishmen began traveling to Africa in large numbers, chiefly for trade reasons, Europeans began to view Africans as barbarous, deceitful, and jealous. Eurocentrism took hold upon skin color, religion, and lifestyle.
Shakespeare possibly uses Othello to address his fellow citizens’ beliefs and misconceptions about people with physical variations. His use of Othello, the Moor, as the protagonist, and Iago, the Venetian, as the antagonist, fundamentally deviates from the current view of different ethnic groups. Although the color black is viewed as “evil,” Shakespeare also places separation between the color and the inherent goodness or evilness of the human race (Orkin 166-167,170,173). This device allows Shakespeare to portray the “human” aspect of the Moor, an assimilated, civilized Christian. Although his character can be viewed as elab...


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...n two worlds, two internalized, and two projected personifications.



Works Cited

Adelman, Janet. “Iago’s Alter Ego: Race as Projection in Othello.” Shakespeare Quarterly. 48.2 (1997): 125-144. Print.

Berry, Edward. “Othello’s Alienation.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 30.2 (1990): 315-333. Print.

Jones, Eldred. Othello’s Countrymen. London: Oxford University Press, 1965. Print.

Kay, Carol McGinnis. “Othello’s Need for Mirrors.” Shakespeare Quarterly. 34.3 (1983): 261-270. Print.

Orkin, Martin. “Othello and the ‘Plain Face’ of Racism.” Shakespeare Quarterly. 38.2 (1987): 166-188. Print.

Sell, Jonathan P. A. “Venetian Masks: Intercultural Allusion, Transcultural Identity, and Two Othellos.” Atlantis. 26.1 (2004): 73-86. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York. Penguin, 1996. Print.


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