She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
Act 1, Scene 3,
To what extent does this extract address some of the concerns raised in the play?
The extract above, establishes the love between Desdemona, a white aristocrat woman and Othello, a noble black hero in Shakespeare’s 1600s Elizabethan play Othello. Shakespeare prepares his audience to anticipate the likely intolerance of love between people of different race in the Elizabethan society. He explores this through the theme of racism which ultimately leads Othello to feel insecure and experience jealous rage, leading to his downfall. Shakespeare has established the racial divide evident in the play to portray the destructive path taken by the protagonist hero, Othello.
Shakespeare highlights the racist Venetian society present through the characterisation of Iago who expresses his own personal negative views on the noble protagonist Othello in the beginning of the play. Iago the antagonist and Othello’s sinister ensign is driven by extreme malevolence to bring down the graceful noble Othello. Behind his general’s back, Iago refers to Othello as “the Moor” and “Barbary horse”. Shakespeare’s use of racist epithets depicts Othello’s substantial difference to all the other Venetian people and also further emphasises his status as an outsider. This is further reinforced through the use of animal imagery by Shakespeare who exemplifies that Desdemona “and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs”. The crude imagery highlights the Venetian’s ethical beliefs that relationships form by people from different races are unacceptable and immoral. Through this, love between Othello and any native Venetian would be intolerable under the Venetian racist attitude and therefore Shakespeare establishes that the current love between Othello and Desdemona will cease to exist as the play progresses.
Othello is the general of the Venice army even though he is not a native...