Analysis of Racism Theme in Othello

Subject: Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 666
Topics: Book, Othello, Racism, William Shakespeare


All through history, men possess an instinctive desire for power. Initially, they might intend to chase a more significant goal, but over time, hubris prevails. In the words of Cornelius Tacitus, a senator of the Roman Empire, “the lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion” (Tacitus). This craving, which is inherent in our human essence, progressively provokes rivalry between people and is extremely dependent on race. For this reason, while those who conquer typically rise to the top, those who lose end up on the margins of society and are frequently unable to atone for themselves. However, it is on these margins that those who try to get back to the top encounter such criticism as racial discrimination.

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The embodiment of racial discrimination in Othello’s character

Othello represents an explicit example of such prejudice: he is ridiculed, humiliated, disrespected and ultimately classified as an “outsider” purely because of the color of his skin. As a consequence, the only possible method to recover this “status” is to take on a more influential role, which will enable him to recapture the regard he deserves. However, it is in the course of trying to regain his prestige that he himself becomes influenced by the expression: “I had rather be a toad and live upon the vapor of a dungeon” (Shakespeare 3.3.273). By declaring this, Othello unexpectedly admits that his own race is no better than a frog, and alludes to the notion that he would prefer to be confined in permanent loneliness than to confront persecution from society. Of course, it is on these “facets” in individuals that one of the most volatile aspects of human nature is activated.

Jealousy remains a driving force that overwhelms and defeats conventional sense. It is an emotion that constructs a barrier between man and reality. It can be easily unobserved, but it can moreover be the most devastating aspect of our human nature. The struggle between us and how we deal with jealousy is one of the biggest internal wars that we do not manage to conquer every time and Othello is obviously under significant assault by this fierce enemy. To a greater extent as a venerable general with innumerable noteworthy achievements, Othello is still considered deficient to the extent that he is “unable to fully measure his level of acculturation into the white society (Shaw 87). But how does this influence Othello’s personality? Expertly, it essentially goes back to his striving for authority. With a resolve to carry out a more reputable position in order to regain the respect of society, Othello is presented with a situation where he is unable to accomplish this purpose solely because of his race. And, on reflection, Othello grows jealous because he cannot attain what other “white” men can — the regard of others. As an alternative, he perceives them as “better” and ultimately develops a superior, envious judgment of them.

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In this way, Othello recognizes in the course of the plot that perhaps the reason Desdemona has a relationship with him is that he belongs to a diverse race. This undoubtedly triggers in Othello even more self-loathing as well as jealousy and definitely brings about the tragic ending of the play. In addition, Othello’s closing scene, when he intends to murder Desdemona, is a symbol that he has hit rock bottom. He can no longer tolerate humiliation and discrimination and, as a consequence, has to take out his anger on those who have inflicted his misery, as he tells himself: “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul. Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars, it is the cause” (Shakespeare 5.2.1-3).


Hence, the first person in his view is the innocent Desdemona, whom he eventually deprives of her life. This murderous act reflects the effects of what was originally aroused in the society itself. Consequently, from the point that Othello has allowed jealousy to dominate his feelings, he ultimately surrenders to uncontrollable human nature.

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