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Othello- Good Vs Evil- Essay, Research Paper
Othello – A Racist Play?-
Although there are lots of things to suggest this is a racist
play I don’t think that racism actually dominates the play, even
though it has a racist theme. There is a romantic union between black
and white which gets destroyed because most people think the
relationship is wrong. At the time the play was written, 1604, even
the Queen of England was racist so there must have been a strong
hatred of blacks around that time.
Most racist comments in the play are said by people that are
angry or upset. For example, when Emilia found out that Othello
had killed Desdemona she was extremely mad and she called Othello a
"Blacker devil", this was the only time in the play that she had said
anything racist about Othello. The main characters that have racist
attitudes are Iago, Brabantio, Roderigo and Emilia, with the hatred of
Othello as the basis for their racist actions and comments towards
him. Iago is the most racist character in the book as he has it in for
Othello right from the start. What sparks off Iago’s hate towards him
is the fact that when Othello chose his lieutenant , it was Cassio who
was chosen instead of Iago. What made Iago angry was the fact that
Cassio had no experience in war when he did and Cassio was chosen
instead of him. Iago does not say anything racist to Othello’s face
but he has a lot to say against him behind his back. He schemes to
destroy Othello and anything in his way including Cassio and
Desdemona. The first time we hear one of his racist comments is when
he’s talking to Brabantio about Othello and Desdemona,
"Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe".
Iago says this to try and turn Brabantio against Othello. Iago uses
racist comments all the way through the play, as he tries to turn
people against Othello, for example calling him a "Barbary Horse". He
never says anything racist to Othello’s face because in his plot he
had to be his best friend, so as not to make him suspicious that Iago
was causing all the trouble for him. Iago is jealous of Othello for
many reasons, one being that Othello has higher ranking in the army
than him, and also he has a good marriage with Desdemona which Iago
does not have himself with Emilia. These are the main causes of his
hatred for Othello and the reason he adopts such a racist attitude.
Roderigo is another one of the racist characters in the play,
being so right from the start. He is Iago’s accomplice and will do
anything that Iago wants him to. I think he does this because of the
way Iago can twist a situation to make it sound as if Roderigo would
get something good from it but in the end he doesn’t.
One of the racist names he calls Othello behind his back is
"Thick-lips" . He hates Othello because he’s jealous of him as he
also loves Desdemona but cannot have her. I don’t think he views
Othello in a very bad, racist way but uses the racism against Othello
because he’s jealous of him. Neither Roderigo or Iago would say
anything racist to Othello’s face as he is the general of the army.
Brabantio is also a racist character, and is enraged when he
finds out that his daughter, Desdemona, has been seeing "the moor"
behind his back. Brabantio is so mad he sends out his guards to catch
Othello and put him in prison. Brabantio views Othello as a foul and
dirty no good black, I think this racist view of his is because he’s
angry when he finds out that his daughter has been seeing this "moor".
Unlike Iago and Roderigo, Brabantio will openly make racist comments
about Othello to his face such as,
Brabantio can do this because he is the Senator of Venice and is
higher in rank than Othello.
The other character who is racist towards Othello is Emilia, the
lady in waiting to Desdemona. Emilia is disgusted with Othello when
she finds out that Othello had killed Desdemona this is the time she
gets a chance to express her feelings about Othello,
"O, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil!"
Although this is the only time she says what she thinks of him, I
think that she was racist towards Othello all through the play and did
not approve of his relationship with Desdemona but just could not show
it because she would get in trouble with her "lord".
Because Shakespeare wrote a play about a black and white union,
which was later destroyed, I think it shows that he’s not racist. I
think he feels that the union between the two is right, but the
relationship would never survive in a racist community at that time.
He portrayed the union between Othello and Desdemona as a good thing,
and the people who destroyed it, mainly Iago and Roderigo as evil.
This shows once again that he approves of a black and white
relationship and therefore was not racist himself.
Once before Shakespeare wrote a sonnet about his mistress which says,
"If snow be white, why then her breast be dun"
He writes about his mistress being black when other poets of that time
wrote about how their mistresses were white. The other poets were the
racist ones, they girlfriends were always white and perfect,
Shakespeare wrote about how his mistresses is black and not very
beautiful. Although the play has a strong racist theme against blacks
I don’t think that the play is racist.
Othello – Battle of Good vs. Evil-
"I am not what I am." What is Iago? — as distinct from what he
pretends to be — and what are his motives?
In Shakespeare’s, Othello, the reader is presented the classic
battle between the deceitful forces of evil and the innocence of good.
It are these forces of evil that ultimately lead to the breakdown of
Othello, a noble venetian moor, well-known by the people of Venice as
a honourable soldier and a worthy leader. Othello’s breakdown results
in the muder of his wife Desdemona. Desdemona is representative of
the good in nature. Good can be defined as forgiving, honest,
innocent and unsuspecting. The evil contained within Othello is by no
means magical or mythical yet is represented by the character Iago.
Iago is cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting. He uses these
traits to his advantage by slowly planning his own triumph while
watching the demise of others. It is this that is Iago’s motivation.
The ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil. Not only is it in
his own nature of evil that he suceeds but also in the weaknesses of
the other characters. Iago uses the weaknesses of Othello,
specifically jealousy and his devotion to things as they seem, to
conquer his opposite in Desdemona. From the start of the play, Iago’s
scheming ability is shown when he convinces Roderigo to tell about
Othello and Desdemonda’s elopement to Desdemona’s father, Brabantio.
Confidentally Iago continues his plot successfully, making fools of
others, and himself being rewarded. Except Roderigo, no one is aware
of Iago’s plans. This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man
loyal to his superiors. The fact that Othello himself views Iago as
trustworthy and honest gives the evil within Iago a perfect
unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity to get to
Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse.
He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with
Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is this
jealousy and the ignorance of Othello that lead to the downfall of
Desdemona; the one truely good natured character in the play.
As the play opens we are immediately introduced to the
hostility of Iago against Othello. Iago has been appointed the
position of servant to Othello instead of the more prestigous position
of lieutenant. Michael Cassio has been appointed this position. Iago
feels betrayed because he considers him self more qualified than
Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Iago then foreshadows his plans for
Othello to Roderigo, "O, sir, content you. / I follow him to serve my
turn upon him (Act I, Scene I)". Iago already realizes that Othello
thinks about him as an honest man. Roderigo is used by Iago as an
apprentence and someone to do his "dirty" work. Roderigo is naively
unsuspecting. As the play shifts from Venice to Cyprus there is an
interesting contrast. Venice, a respectful and honourable town is
overshadowed by the war torn villages of Cyprus. It could be said
that Venice represents good or specfically Desdemona and that Cyprus
represents evil in Iago. Desdemona has been taken from her
peacefullness and brought onto the grounds of evil. Iago commits his
largest acts of deceit in Cyprus, fittingly considering the
atmosphere. Ironically, the venetians feel the Turks are their only
enemy while in fact Iago is in hindsight the one man who destroys
their stable state. Act II Scene III shows Iago’s willing ability to
manipulate characters in the play. Iago convinces Montano to inform
Othello of Cassio’s weakness for alchohol hoping this would rouse
disatisfaction by Othello. Iago when forced to tell the truth against
another character does so very suspiciously. He pretends not to
offend Cassio when telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved
in, but Iago secretly wants the worst to become of Cassio’s situation
without seeming responsible. Cassio is relieved of his duty as
lieutenant. With Cassio no longer in the position of lieutenant, this
gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively interact with and
manipulate Othello. By controlling Othello, Iago would essentially
To reach Desdemona directly is unforseeable for Iago
considering that Othello is superior to him. It is for this reason
that Iago decides to exploit Othello. If Iago can turn Othello
against his own wife he will have defeated his opposition. Act III
Scene III, is very important because it is the point in the play where
Iago begins to establish his manipulation of Othello. Cassio feels
that it is necessary to seek the help of Desdemona in order to regain
his position of lieutenant and therefore meets with her to discuss
this possibility. Iago and Othello enter the scene just after Cassio
leaves, and Iago witfully trys to make it look like Cassio left
because he does not want to be seen in the courtship of Desdemona.
Iago sarcastically remarks :
Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it
That he would steal away so guilty-like,
Seeing your coming.
(Act III, Scene III)
When Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to strengthen
Othello’s views of honesty and trust towards him by saying ironically,
"Men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would they
might seem none! " (Act III, Scene III). This cleverness by Iago
works upon one of the tragic flaws of Othello. Othello has a tendency
to take eveything he sees and everything he is told at face value
without questioning the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would
pretend to be something they are not, while in fact that is the exact
thing he represents. Finally, after hearing the exploits of Iago and
witnessing the events surrounding Cassio, Othello for the first time
is in conflict about what is the truth. This is the first stage of
Iago’s scheme to control Othello. As Emilia becomes suspicious about
Othello’s development of jealousy, Desdemona defends her husband by
blaming herself for any harm done. This once again shows Desdemona’s
compassion and willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband.
Othello begins to show his difficulty in maintaining his composure :
Well, my good lady. O, hardness to dissemble —
How do you, Desdemona?
(Act III, Scene IV)
Act IV, Scene I is a continuation of the anxiety and indifference
Othello is under going. Iago takes advantage of this by being blunt
with Othello about his wife Desdemona. Iago suggests that she is
having sexual relations with other men, possibly Cassio, and continues
on as if nothing has happened. This suggestions put Othello into a
state of such emotional turmoil that he is lost in a trance. Iago’s
control over Othello is so strong now that he convinces him to
consider getting rid of Desdemona and even suggests methods of killing
her. Iago, so proud of his accomplishments of underhandedness :
My med’cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught,
And many worthy and chaste dames even thus,
All guiltless, meet reproach.
(Act IV, Scene I)
Othello in this state commits his first act of violence against
Desdemona by hitting her. This as a result of Desdemona’s mention of
Cassio. This shows now Othello’s other tragic flaw. He made himself
susceptable to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the
demise of others. By his actions Othello has isolated himself from
everyone except Iago. This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to
complete his course of action. Iago does not tolerate any
interference in his plans, and he first murders Roderigo before he can
dispell the evil that Iago represents. Finally, Othello, so full of
the lies told to him by Iago murders his wife. Desdemona,
representative of goodness and heaven as a whole blames her death on
herself and not Othello. Iago’s wife, Emilia, becomes the ultimate
undoing of Iago. After revealing Iago’s plot to Othello, Iago kills
her. This is yet another vicious act to show the true evil Iago
represents. Othello finally realizes after being fooled into murder :
I look down towards his feet — but that’s a fable
If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee.
(Act V, Scene II)
Iago says "I bleed, sir, but not killed", this is the final statement
by Iago himself that truely shows his belief in evil and that he
truely thinks he is the devil. That is the destruction of all that is
good. Hell over heaven and black over white.
Iago, as a representation of evil, has one major motivational
factor that leads him to lie, cheat, and commit crimes on other
characters. This motivation is the destruction of all that is good
and the rise of evil. This contrast is represented between Iago and
Desdemona. Desdemona is described frequently by other characters as
"she is divine, the grace of heaven" (Act II, Scene I), while Iago in
contrast is described as hellish after his plot is uncovered. Iago
uses the other characters in the play to work specifically towards his
goal. In this way, he can maintain his supposed unknowingness about
the events going on and still work his scheming ways. Iago’s schemes
however at times seem to work unrealistically well which may or may
not be a case of witchcraft or magic. Iago’s major mistake,
ironically, is that he trusted his wife Emilia and found that she was
not as trustworthy as he thought. Although not completely victorious
at the conclusion of the play, Iago does successfully eliminate the
one character representative of heaven, innocence, and honesty. Yet
"remains the censure of this hellish villian" (Act V, Scene II).
Finally, everything Iago pretended to be led to his demise : Honesty,
Innocence, and Love.
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