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Racism in William Shakespeare’s Othello

Racism in William Shakespeare’s Othello

The play, Othello, is certainly, in part, the tragedy of racism. Examples of racism are common throughout the dialog. This racism is directed toward Othello, a brave soldier from Africa and currently supreme commander of the Venetian army. Nearly every character uses a racial slur to insult Othello at one point in the play. Even Emilia sinks to the level of insulting Othello based on the color of his skin. The character that most commonly makes racist remarks in Othello is Iago. It is very apparent that Iago uses racism as a scapegoat to hate and blame Othello. Societal racism takes its toll on its victims. The effect of racism on Othello is quite evident and is one of the main causes for his insecurity about his marriage. However, Othello is not wholly the tragedy of racism. The theme of jealousy is also extremely important in Othello. Racism may play a large part in the tragedy, Othello, but it certainly does not adequately explain the entire play.

Othello is a nobleman, a decorated soldier, very well respected by his men (with the exception of Iago). One of the few characteristics that harms, rather than helps him, is that he is dark-skinned in a society utterly dominated by men prejudiced against those with dark skin. At the start of the play, he appears confident that, “My parts, my title, and my perfect soul / Shall manifest me rightly.” (1, 2, 36-37) But Iago makes sure to use Othello’s race against him as much as possible.

In Act 1, Scene 1, Iago effectively uses racism to turn Brabantio against Othello. He is the catalyst of all the destructive events throughout the play starting from the very beginning. Iago uses viciously racist slang to enrage B…

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…is. Othello is driven so mad with jealousy that he completely submits to Iago. When Iago suggests that he should have Cassio killed and kill Desdemona himself, Othello readily agrees. Iago’s manipulation of Othello relied much more heavily on jealousy rather than racism.

The theme of racism in Othello is clearly very important. Because of racism, Othello becomes much more vulnerable to manipulation and is easily tricked by Iago. Racism assures that Othello will remain isolated from his peers while Iago tinkers with his mind by separating him from his white peers and making him the outsider. Although Othello is not solely the tragedy of racism, it truly could not be a tragedy without the negative pressures from racism.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. “Othello”. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton

Role Playing in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

The Role of Role Playing in Farewell to Arms

Listening to the radio today, I heard a song written a couple years ago that reminded me a lot of the relationship between Catherine and Henry in Hemingway’s novel Farewell to Arms. In this song, a girl asks a guy if he will be strong enough to be her man. She asks this question many times, each time changing the scenario for the worse in which she places them. Plaintively she implores, “will you be strong enough to be my man?” She seeks reassurance of her man’s strength by inventing roles for them to play just as Catherine and Henry invent roles in order to protect themselves from the discovery of their insignificance and powerlessness in a world indifferent to their well being.

Role-playing by Henry and Catherine is their way to escape the realization of human mortality that is unveiled by war. Hemingway utilizes role-playing as a way to explore the strengths and weaknesses of his two characters. By placing Henry’s ordered life in opposition to Catherine’s upside-down one, and then letting each one assume a role that will bring them closer together, Hemingway shows the pair’s inability to accept the hard, gratuitous quality of life.

Hemingway’s characters revert to role-playing in order to escape or retreat from their lives. The ability to create characters that play roles, either to maintain self-esteem or to escape, is exploited extraordinarily well in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway is quite blatant in letting us know that role-playing is what is occurring through the thought and actions of the main characters. During Henry and Catherine’s third encounter, Henry thought, “this was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes”(30). This meeting becomes a turning point in their relationship for afterwards the two become increasingly comfortable with their roles and easily adopt them whenever the other is nearby. This is apparent also in that they can only successfully play their roles when they are in private and any disturbance causes the game to be disrupted. The intrusion of the outside world in any form makes their role-playing difficult. Evidence of this difficulty is seen at the racetrack in Milan, where Catherine tells Henry “I can’t stand to see so many people”(131).

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