In the seventeenth century, Shakespeare introduced the very first black hero in English literature, by creating a black heroic character called Othello, in his play ‘Othello’. Because Othello was the first black character who played a leading role in a ‘shakespeare’, uneducated people started to see Othello as a representative of the black community. However, this representation wasn´t unbiased, since the character was created and mostly played by white people during a time when racial prejudice was ingrained in the English culture. The play therefore shows some very marginalising aspects to the black race. The black race is marginalised in this play by suing Othello of witchery, by portraying Othello as an animal and by making Othello turn on his own ethnicity. The nature of the marginalizations towards the black community can firstly be noticed during the scenes where Brabantio and Othello are joined together in a council-chamber, trying to discuss the marriage between Desdemona and Othello. When Shakespeare wrote the play, the English culture was still ingrained with racial prejudice, which meant that a marriage between the black commander Othello and the white Venetian Desdemona would instantly be seen as a scandal to the audience. So, when Brabantio heard that the two were actually getting married, he accuses Othello of cursing Desdemona’s heart because he believed that Desdemona would never take part in such a ‘scandal’. Brabantio uses the words: ‘She is abused, stol’n from me, and corrupted / By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks; / For nature so preposterously to err, / Being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense, / Sans witchcraft could not.’ (act 1 scene 3) By saying this, Brabantio actually tells the audience that a white woman can’t fall in love with a black man, unless he uses a spell which curses her. This assumption illustrates that Brabantio believes that the white community should be a rank higher than the black community and that the black race isn’t worthy of the love from a white person.   Another moment where the black race is being marginalised in the play, is when Othello gets portrayed as an animal. Before Brabantio orders Othello to join him in the courtroom, to stop the marriage between Othello and Desdemona, a conversation between Iago, Roderigo and Brabantio takes place. During this conversation, Iago and Roderigo try to convince Brabantio to believe that Othello and Desdemona are dating. Iago then uses a metaphor for Othello to describe how bad it was that a black man was dating a ‘pure’ white woman. This metaphor is used in the lines ‘Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise; / Awake the snorting citizens with the bell, / Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you’ (act 1 scene 1) In these lines, Iago calls Othello ‘an old black ram’ to describe the supposedly bad character of Othello. Iago then links this metaphor to a devilish consequence in which Brabantio would be prosecuted if he wouldn’t stop the marriage. Othello, and therefore the black race as well, is with this metaphor linked to the lower classes of the animal kingdom, which is believed to be less important than the humans who are the rulers of this kingdom. The black race is therefore portrayed as a race of less importance than the white race, which is how the black race is marginalised in this scene.  The last moment where the black race is being marginalised during the play, is when Othello turns on his own ethnicity/race. This moment can be found during the third act of the play, where Iago manipulates Othello to think that Desdemona cheated on him with Cassio. Because Othello ends up being tied up in his own mind by the manipulation of Iago, he says ‘Haply, for I am black, / And have not those soft parts of conversation / That chamberers have’ (act 3 scene 3). This illustrates that Othello was actually blaming his own race for his complexions. Then, later on in the act, Othello starts talking to himself and states the following: ‘Her name, that was as fresh / As Dian’s visage, is now begrim’d and black / As mine own face’ (act 3 scene 3). Here, he uses his own race as a metaphor for his wife’s alleged devious behavior. By making Othello say these sentences, it is shown that Othello has an unethical way in which he uses his race as an excuse for his imperfections. This clearly shows that Shakespeare stuck to the seventeenth century stereotypical black man while writing the lines for the character ‘Othello’. The statements are a perfect example of how racial prejudice was exploited during the play; it shows how the black race was seen as an unethical race, even by Shakespeare.To conclude, the black race is being marginalised in Shakespeare’s play, called ‘Othello’, by suing Othello of witchery, by portraying Othello as an animal and by making Othello turn on his own ethnicity. All these aspects in the play represent a small fragment to how racial prejudice took place during the early modern stages in England. Calling a black person after an animal like a ‘black ram’ or telling people that the black race was an unethical race, was the most ordinary thing for English people during the seventeenth century. Nowadays, however, people seem to find these statements very offensive. These aspect are therefore good examples as to how the black race got marginalised during Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.    

x

Hi!
I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Click here