Shakespeare's "Othello": A Tragedy of Race or Character? Analytical Essay by Nicky

An analysis of the racial prejudice in Shakespeare's "Othello" and its impact on our interpretations of Othello's character.
# 149835 | 1,330 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2012 | US
Published on Jan 02, 2012 in Drama and Theater (English) , Literature (English) , Shakespeare (Othello)

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The paper asserts that our own contemporary obsession with race inevitably clouds our interpretations of Othello's character and the degree to which Shakespeare portrays him as a victim of a racist society, or as a character whose natural savageness eventually is revealed by events machinated by Iago. The paper describes how the white men of the play are predisposed to be prejudiced against Othello because of his race, specifically Iago, who cunningly uses Othello's race against him. The paper points out the ambiguity in the play's language regarding race and highlights how Othello also uses blackness to characterize evil, showing that Othello himself is also affected by racism. Finally, the paper demonstrates how Desdemona's cultural differences with Othello unintentionally intensify the social forces of Venetian racism.

From the Paper:

"In support of the latter thesis, the play does seem to suggest the idea that Othello is best defined as a tragic character, and a tragedy is said to be a play about a great man who becomes 'fallen.' Othello is clearly a formidable general, as admitted even by the white men of the play who are predisposed to be prejudiced against him because of his race. Othello points out that Brabantio invited him to his house, to speak with his daughter, and only invoked racist ideas after Desdemona married him. When Othello is accused of witchcraft in his wooing of the white Desdemona, his impassioned story of his life and how his words enabled him to win Desdemona's heart and hand brings forth this comment from the Duke of Venice: "I think this tale would win my daughter too" (I.3). When Othello begins to behave cruelly to Desdemona, this is seen as uncharacteristic, not just of him as a lover, but as a man: "Is this the noble Moor whom our full senate/Call all in all sufficient? Is this the nature/ Whom passion could not shake? whose solid virtue/The shot of accident, nor dart of chance, /Could neither graze nor pierce... /Are his wits safe? is he not light of brain?" says Lodovico (4.1)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Adelman, Janet. "Iago's alter ego: Race as projection in Othello." Shakespeare Quarterly. 48. 2(Summer, 1997), pp. 125-144.
  • Bartels, Emily C. "Othello and Africa: Postcolonialism reconsidered." The William and MaryQuarterly. 54. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 45-64
  • Berry, Edward. "Othello's alienation." Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 30. 2:Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Spring, 1990), pp. 315-333.
  • Shakespeare, William. Othello, the Moor of Venice. Retrieved from MIT Homepage August 3, 2009 at

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

Shakespeare's "Othello": A Tragedy of Race or Character? (2012, January 02) Retrieved December 07, 2023, from

MLA Format

"Shakespeare's "Othello": A Tragedy of Race or Character?" 02 January 2012. Web. 07 December. 2023. <>