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Race and Racism in Othello

Uploaded by surfchick on Feb 21, 2005

In What Way Would A Modern Audience React To The Way Race And Racism Is Portrayed In 'Othello'?

In the Sixteenth century, as we see clearly from Othello and other works of both Shakespeare and Cinthio's original version of Othello, race was a topic of great debate and discussion. Today, in the twenty-first century the debate retains its controversy and passion. However, attitudes towards race have taken a dramatic turn during the last century. In the developed world people are now living in an increasingly cosmopolitan society would undoubtedly be more tolerant and would reject or even be offended by racial discrimination to any person or sections of the community. Openly 'racist' people today are seen as outcasts. Taking this into account, the way a modern audience would react to race and racism in Othello is dependent upon the way in which that modern audience would interpret 'Othello'. This prompts the questions of what sort of message Shakespeare wanted to send to his audience and was Othello the moor portrayed as a tragic hero or did his character eventually come to resemble the prejudices of which he was a victim. Shakespeare also discusses the issue of race with other characters such as the hateful Iago and the prejudices hidden deep in Barbantio.

The actions of Barbantio initiate the interest in the race issue in Act 1 Scene 1 more so than Iago's foul abuses because the type of hidden racism is actually present in modern society. Barbantio disapproves of his daughter ever marrying Roderigo who has not got a good reputation with him but after listening to Iago tell him that his daughter is seeing a moor he wishes Roderigo,

"...O, Would you had had her!"

Thus Barbantio suggests that a disrespected white man is superior to a respected noble and gentleman in the army whose only 'problem' as Barbantio sees it is that he is black. These words are enough to show Barbantio's true feelings even though he has been rudely awaken from sleep on hearing what for him is awful news in a most crude manner. The hypocrisy of Barbantio, though striking to a modern audience is still prevalent today. In a recent survey by students at Nottingham University, from a sample of 3000 people, 54% said that they would not consider inter-racial marriage. Shakespeare immediately can grasp an audience's attention through an issue as relevant now as it was...

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Uploaded by:   surfchick

Date:   02/21/2005

Category:   Othello

Length:   8 pages (1,731 words)

Views:   32363

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