Tag Archives: Class

Othello the Moor: the “race” for “sex”

Prepare for run-on sentences guys.

Staying true to Shakespearean writing, I find Othello being of no exception, to be extremely allegorical. Even throughout the first 3 Acts there are hints towards issues and underlying themes of racism, sexism, and social class. Initially we learn that Iago is upset (to put it lightly) at Othello. Regardless of suspicion that Othello may or may not have slept with Emilia, his anger is fueled by the fact that Othello has given Michael Cassio the promotion that he felt he deserved. hmmmm? We notice Cassio being described as a Florentine, a foreigner, a mathematician, but of course no soldier like Iago. (anything yet?) Might this have been a contributing factor to why he was given the job over Iago? Not convinced yet..? fair enough! Upon Desdemona and Emilia’s arrival to Cyprus, Cassio greets them warmly with kisses and tells Iago that “tis my breeding that gives this bold show of courtesy”. The idea that it it’s his upbringing, his CLASS that propels him to act in this uppity way. I feel as though these differences are those which distinguish a Florentine smooth-talker like Cassio from a more soldierly Iago, therefore placing Cassio a step above Iago on the social ladder. Of course both men are considered “the elite” or the uperclass in this case but I feel as though this is definitely intentional. Another, more subtle example occurs when Iago goes on his rant about women, in essence, being good for nothing. (sexist right?) I find it quite interesting that although Emilia does not respond, Desdemona does. We know that Desdemona comes from a wealthy family, and so might be considered of higher class than both Iago and Emilia. Therefore not only would she not at all feel obligated to submissively listen to Iago’s opinion, but is also confident enough to retort and engage in conversation even though her husband is absent. Perhaps this exchange would not at all be possible is Desdemona were not of a certain status, keeping in mind she is the Boss’s wife of course. (its levels to this….)

Moving  on past Iago’s Chauvinism and Cassio’s possible class related promotion, there is the more obvious race thing. Race is real, just as it is today, it was than. We are confronted with these initial slight ( sometimes not so slight) instances of racism in both the diction used as well the ideology present within a couple characters. Apart from the examples we mentioned in class like Othello being refereed to as the Black ram tuppling Brabantio’s white ewe, did anyone notice that Othello is not even referred to by name until they get to the duke.(a man fair and who respects Othello). Here is this successful war hero, seems to be pretty well known and even financially well-off, yet those that mention him can’t even muster up enough respect to say his name. I feel as though this is a much more ideological racism being that it is not so much as stated as it is an assumed norm. Also when Brabantio learns that his beloved Desdemona has run off with a black man, he immediately assumes foul play, that which craft or some other mind-altering tool must have been used because no way his white pure, wholesome, christian daughter would fall for the black, moor.

Proposed in class what was the question of whether or not the antisemitic nature of this Shakespearean work affirms the beliefs and ideals of Shakespeare or do they acquit him of this rather sickening way of thinking. Although, I do believe that we must read Othello in totality and I personally must read more Shakespearean literature to accurately answer this question….. for the sake of a good time… I’ll give it a shot. (hopefully you guys follow up)                                                                                      Regardless of weather or not Shakespeare himself agrees with the ideals of his characters, the fact that he implemented these themes in his art shows that he is most definitely aware of these issues and therefore has an opinion. Perhaps in ‘publicizing” the nature of racism and sexism in a bit of discreet way, Shakespeare is speaking out against it. Regardless of, by no means would I deem this to “acquit”  him.