Othello’s race and colour are explored in the play, specifically in terms of his interracial marriage with Desdemona and therefore are extremely important and considerable. The play ‘Othello’ creates dichotomy views on the issue of race at that time and the different conflicts of it allow us to obtain a point of view on Elizabethan mindsets in addition to consider our own argument.
One might argue against the importance of Othello’s colour like A.
C. Bradley who introduced a contention, which familiarizes us with such an argument. However, despite the fact that Bradley’s goal to react to race in a humane way is reluctant, it is reasoned as he concentrates on character and motivation. Bradley fails to observe the racial issue a very considerable one and considers it to be: ‘unimportant in regard to the basics of Othello’s character.’ He does not discover Othello’s colour damaging to his self-respect either: ‘He comes before us, dark and grand, with a light upon him from the sun where he was born’ and recalls that in his view an Englishman would have been as much a victim as this Moor in these circumstances.
An interesting problem that numerous critics debate about is Othello’s accurate ethnic origins, taking excellent discomforts to show that Othello would have been Arabic in look. What Bradley explains on this problem is: “Maybe if we saw Othello coal-black with the physical eye, the hostility of our blood … would overpower our imagination”. He most likely wanted a really dark skinned African Othello, which he argues would be inappropriate for the play. A further argument versus the significance of Othello’s race could be seen from Jane Adamson who recalls absolutely nothing on the argument about the specific shade of Othello’s skin, apart from the truth that it is absurd. She presumes that the significance of race in the play: “has generally been over-emphasised by 20th century critics and manufacturers”. I too agree with her acuity of the matter and in addition stress to highlight the inappropriate overemphasis on the aspect of Othello’s skin colour since other elements in the play such as the disaster of the play are being separated.
On the basis of protesting the value of Othello’s colour and race, it could be argued that Shakespeare presented a black hero instead of a white one to present the idea of difference or simply included it as a stage decoration, and from Bradley’s perspective if anyone praised Shakespeare on the “accuracy of his racial psychology”– he would have laughed!
It is also reasonable to argue that Othello’s race is an extremely essential and crucial concern that numerous would state disrupts the ethics of the Elizabethan principles at that time, however some picked to find validations in order to come to terms with Othello, his race and his existence in the play. In his criticism Calderwood focuses on Othello as an extreme outsider amongst the Venetians: “Moors were just outsiders, the other who is not like us” nevertheless he concludes by awarding Othello his approval due to Othello’s Christianity. Throughout his criticism Calderwood does not stop supporting the idea of Othello being an outsider, by calling him a ‘sub-human’ and stressing his Moorish and demonic qualities by specifying that the Venetian individuals were ‘truthful citizens’ and Othello was a ‘deceiving infidel’ who was more closely associated to animals and the ‘Prince of Darkness’.
Nevertheless Calderwood contradicts himself as he jumps from criticising Othello about his race to excusing his dislocation in Venice by accepting the Moor based upon his Christianity and his similarity with the Venetians in faith and affirmative actions. Calderwood goes on to reinforce his viewpoint by saying that with his new Christian attitude and lifestyle Othello essentially belongs in Venice “due to the fact that he is recently washed in the Blood of the Lamb” and he is not really an evil enemy amongst truthful residents. He likewise firmly insists that although Othello is from a different race that comes with numerous unfavorable associations along with that he was a former ‘infidel’, he needs to be accepted based upon his positive Christian attributes.
Keeping in mind the argument advanced by Calderwood, it is required to think about the subsequent perspective: Could it be argued that perhaps due to the criticisms, needless and false remarks from different characters like Iago on the subject of Othello’s race and his marriage to Desdemona an unfavorable shift takes place from an honorable Christian to a traditional black Moor? The pressures of Othello’s marriage and the negative responses of those around him do add to his failure, all of which race is a significant element of, and that highlights the value of Othello’s race in the play.
Calderwood set up Othello as a terrific monster, and attempted to renovate him as a Christian, who was worthy of being accepted into his surroundings, however in my opinion, in attempt to describe why he feels Othello was worthy of the acceptance since of his Christianity, Calderwood’s contention is unconvincing however intriguing as its an appealing reason for such an essential concern of matter in the play as ‘race’.
It is challenging to settle on one aspect of the disagreement as the contentions introduced by Bradley, Adamson and Calderwood seem to progress into a presumption versus the importance of Othello’s colour and race. I must however worry to extend the argument in favour of the value of Othello’s race and colour.
All criticism of the marital relationship is based exclusively on ‘racial considerations’ and this provokes characters to turn against Othello. At the beginning of the play Othello sees himself as deserving of Desdemona’s love and his self-perception is that of equality with Desdemona. He highlights this when he says: ‘She had eyes and chose me’ (III.3.192). Othello begins as a decent Christian general, however, with substantial criticism such as Brabantio’s, Othello loses self-confidence and ends up being easily persuaded by Iago who views Othello as a ‘strongly jealous fool like all Africans’ and ‘a lascivious moor’ (I. 1.125).
With his insight on the nature of Othello, Iago’s menacing and insidious bigotry degrades throughout the play and causes the obliteration of the black and white harmony that existed previously and triggers Othello to act in an artificial way setting him into an entirely destructive fury that damages himself and his marriage.
When Iago obliterates Othello’s favorable understanding of Desdemona, Othello begins to feel the danger towards his honour and articulates his anger by speaking of his colour in a cynical way: “Her name, that was as fresh as Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black as mine own face” (III.3.389-91). It is a fine example to demonstrate how Othello’s unawareness of the significance of his race altered by Iago’s racism and cruel objectives, turned him into an entirely different individual, conscious of his displacement and Desdemona’s cheating.
Desdemona alone has actually constantly acknowledged Othello’s inner worth: ‘I saw Othello’s visage in his mind’ (I. 3.252), and even when his morality was hidden she protected her vision: ‘… his unkindness might beat my life, but never ever taint my love’ (IV.2.162). She is unswervingly devoted to Othello and even when she dies, she declares her love for the inner, obscured Othello, stating: ‘Applaud me to my kind lord’ (V. 2.126). Desdemona identifies her other half’s jealousy as ignorable and continues to provide him her love to the max level: ‘… my love doth so authorize him, that his stubbornness, his checks and frowns … have grace in them’ (IV.3.19).
Considering the questionable concepts, it is likewise vital to evaluate mindsets to race in the Elizabethan period, as historicist or Elizabethan mindsets to race in the 16th century were extremely different to the attitudes now. One might argue that Othello’s race, being black in colour, had a shock worth result on Shakespeare’s audience. To the Elizabethans Othello’s skin colour would not just have shown a ‘visual ugliness’, however ethical inequalities. His interracial marriage with Desdemona– a white woman, likewise contributed to the antipathy of the audience, but also to their interest and enjoyment as it might be seen that the contrast in their skin colours would in fact provide the amazing theme of forbidden love, but it is the subplot which shows the threatening atmosphere of hate and mistrust in the play.
In Vaughn’s argument, the critic’s focus is on the reaction of the Elizabethan audience towards Othello. She specifies that Othello’s dark race showed to be “aesthetically considerable to the response of the audience” which his physical nature offers visual proof of him not coming from his Venetian environments.
Vaughn exposes that Elizabethans were captivated by Othello’s experiences and associated his black colour with “negation, dirt, sin and death”. His expeditions and adventures also added to his ‘otherness’ and his ‘foreignness’ with the connections to ‘nakedness, savagery, and basic immorality’. It is true to say that at that amount of time the Elizabethans would recognize having black skin as having hellish qualities and perversion, and would link the vilest qualities to African and Moorish individuals.
I believe that the Elizabethan audience might have been horrified by the joining of such ‘contrasting figures’ and probably saw Othello’s blackness as being connected with dirt, filth, and the devil as in the Elizabethan mind Othello’s race showed him inferior and not worthy of Desdemona and all her favorable Venetian qualities. Whereas in modern criticisms, such a matter would not be worried as an issue worthwhile debating about, due to the fact that ethnic groups ended up being extremely accepted in England and the various techniques to the issue of race assist us acquire different analyses.
Elizabethan environment at the time of the play was tense and the generalizations that were made throughout that time. Her observation on these generalizations helped to clarify and discuss the stereotypes made during the play. Regardless of the insight into the response and ideas of the Shakespearean audience, the short article tended to be repeated by reiterating the unfavorable qualities that were related to Othello’s race rather of explaining why they were related to one another.
Concluding could it be argued that Shakespeare made Othello black in order to check out dislocation together with opposition and the effects of such problems? It would be inconsiderate to neglect the importance of Othello’s race in the play due to the fact that it is most certainly a substantial matter. In order to slightly captivate his audience, Shakespeare might have easily added a small function in Othello’s skin to add the foreign affect that would suffice, or he might have even made him entirely white, nevertheless Shakespeare insisted upon the blackness of Othello as otherwise there would not be the reference to purposefully repellent imagery.