Race in Shakespeare Essay

1545 Words Dec 16th, 2010 7 Pages
Since the Middle Ages, the issues of race have long been discussed. In nearly every culture, race has been a topic of complex discussion that has brought social discomfort and in most instances racial prejudice - Elizabethan England being no exception. William Shakespeare applies the issue of race in many of his plays; such in the tragedy of Othello that captures the reality of society in Elizabethan England, showing common racial bias of that era. Through his characters in the play, Shakespeare illustrates Elizabethan social ideology towards race, in which foreigners have adapted to a lifestyle of racial prejudice.
In order to better understand the racial context behind the tragedy of Othello it is important to keep in mind the
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In this regard, Shakespeare uses the issue of race in Othello, written during Elizabethan times, as one of the main themes in the story represented through characters such as Iago, Brabantio, and others.
In the beginning of the play, Iago shares with Roderigo and the audience his intentions of manipulating Othello for his personal gain because Othello passed on Iago as his lieutenant, thus allowing Iago to act a need for revenge based on personal hatred. Before diving into examples illustrating racism in the play it is important to also understand Othello’s background in regards to being a black foreigner in Elizabethan society.
Othello, who is the play’s protagonist, is a highly respected general of the Venetian armed forces, although being a “Moor”, a man of North African descent. Ironically in the play, Othello is therefore presented in some ways opposite to the norms of Elizabethan society. While being a powerful figure and having the respect of his followers, Othello is still subject to racial backlash due to his societal role as a cultural outsider for being a foreigner. Moors, or those of African decent, were seen as second class citizens of Elizabethan society, treated with little respect, and making very little income to help support their families. Othello has to secretly marry Desdemona, a Venetian woman, because he knows not only would Desdemona’s father

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