With post-colonial criticism making headway in academic
studies, Othello has also been re-read as a tragedy of
black man. It has inspired vast amount of criticism in
terms of racism. Othello has been to speak in
rimes. Earlier, hardly any criticism focused on his
blackness. Now it is established that his colour
contributed to his fall. Iago exacerbated it endlessly.
is seen as a Negroid Character, but is called the moor.
Moors were people of Arab descent from North-Africa
bordering Mediterranean sea. They were fairly dark-
but not black. Iago refers to Othello as “thick lips”,
which is a Negroid characteristic. Thick lips imply
sensuality and since Iago defines Othello using it, so
suits his purpose. It might not be even true. But
Shakespeare again and again refers to Othello as black
not brown. That is why; critics think he is a Negroid.
Elizabethan times, moor was a religious term, not used
racial identity. They were people who followed Islam.
Muslims dominated large parts of the Mediterranean in
times. Some critics say that Othello turned a Christian
an honorary white, serving them and living with them.
16th century, Christians and Muslims were often
for power and land. The Muslims were referred to as
Ottomites- after the name of the founder of the Turkish
empire, ottoman. They were generally seen as negative
stereotypes and were ‘othered’. He is referred to
as “barbary horse”, face as black as inner nature”
and “devil himself”. Is Shakespeare furthering this
discriminatory attitude? In England at that time, moors
were well known because a Turkish moor had come to
Elizabeth’s court as an ambassador. The name Othello
from Otello- semantically equivalent to Ottoman.
Shakespeare is highlighting the fact that Othello is
different from the society he lives in. the killing of
Desdemona is important as critics say that it brings
the barbaric nature of Othello. Othello is an honorary
white, that much is well established.
But when he
Desdemona, then he becomes black because he dared to
a white woman. We are told that Brabantio freely
him at his house before he elopes with Desdemona. It is
only after their marriage that he adopts a
attitude. So, it is Desdemona who becomes the cause for
marginalisation. The alliance between a black man and a
white woman is not acceptable to Venetian society.
Desdemona ruptured the precarious entry of Othello into
white world. It also helps to why iago attacks
and the workings of racism. In the last speech of
he compares himself to a Turk. He realizes that he ahs
symbolically become a Turk; he has turned away from
Christian civility and shown his barbaric nature. The
source for this play was Cinthio. The moral of his
was quite straightforward. He held Desdemona to be a
negative example for all chaste Christian women that
is what happens to women who marry black people.
Shakespeare does not draw any clear-cut morals. Othello
shown to be a very valorous character who is endorsed
the author. The love between a black man and a white
is also celebrated in the text. It is characters like
and Rodrigo who consider their love to be impure and
bestial in nature, not the author. So, Shakespeare is
definitely not furthering any discriminatory attitude
society has towards black people. He is, infact, been
radical in portraying an inter-racial marriage in 16th
century. He demystifies and questions the racial
hierarchies in the society due to which even
people like Othello have to suffer.