Othello – Theme of Race Essay

“An old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Iago uses graphic sexual descriptions of Desdemona and Othello to rile up Brabantio. He knows by including Othello’s race in the descriptions, it will disgust Brabantio. Furthermore, the use of the word “black” identifies the man as Othello as he is the only black person in Venice. Iago uses the Elizabethan idea that black men are hyper-sexual, which would disgust Brabantio due to his fears of miscegenation.
“You’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse, you’ll have your nephew neigh to you.” Iago continues to use graphic sexual descriptions to anger Brabantio. The description of Othello as a horse comes from the idea that black people were sub-human, and more closely related to animals and is insinuating that Othello’s supposed animal-like sexuality will debase Desdemona. Brabantio, who we learn is racist, would be disgusted at the idea of “polluting” his blood line with a person of colour. Iago is aware of this and uses it to his advantage.
“Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom of such a thing as thou.” The use of the word “sooty” shows that Brabantio feels that black people are dirty. He feels offended that Desdemona would leave her family for a black man. Brabantio doesn’t approve of their marriage.
“To fall in love with what she feared to look on… so could err all rules of nature.” Brabantio is convinced that Desdemona could never fall in love with a black man like Othello. He describes them as something dangerous, ugly and fearsome. Furthermore, he thinks it goes against all rules of nature for this to happen. This shows that Brabantio feels that black people and white people should not mix.
“For she had eyes and chose me.” Othello is all too aware that Desdemona had her pick of suitors in Venice, yet she chose him, despite his race which he becomes insecure about as Iago’s manipulation continues. For now, he remains confident in Desdemona despite their racial differences.
“Not to affect many proposed matches of her own clime, complexion… one may smell in such a will most rank.” Iago suggests that it is unnatural and unusual for Desdemona to choose to marry a black man rather than a man of her own race. Iago suggests that Desdemona must be promiscuous and corrupt for her to want to be with Othello. This makes Othello begin to doubt Desdemona.
“For I am black.” Othello is insecure about his race and views it as a reason why Desdemona has had an affair. He is hyper-aware of their racial differences and immediately jumps to the conclusion that it was the reason for Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, therefore seeing his race as negative.
“Her name which was as fresh as Dian’s visage is now as begrimed and black as mine own face.” Othello feels that Desdemona’s infidelity has sullied/dirtied her name, so it is as dirty and black as his own skin. He feels betrayed and refers to his skin colour in a negative thus displaying he has internalised the racial prejudice of Venetian society and his insecurities have resurfaced.
“O the more angel she, and you the blacker devil.” Emilia’s racism emerges through her anger at her mistress’ death, she damns him as a sinner and a devil. She is disgusted at Othello’s actions and compares him to Desdemona, whom she describes as an angel, showing she associates light with good and dark with bad.
“She was too fond of her most filthy bargain.” Emilia states that Desdemona was too fond of their marriage to be unfaithful to Othello. She describes their marriage as a “filthy bargain” showing she felt the marriage was dirty or unclean. This is similar to Brabantio’s attitude where he feels it was unnatural.