Conflict is a Major Issue in Othello Essays
1. Even though Brabantio claims that it is through the use of spells and charms that Othello has managed to seduce his daughter, it is amply clear to anybody who is even slightly aware of the Elizabethan notions of race and skin color that it is Othello’s race that posits a problem for Brabantio. Apart from his own words, the words of Iago and Roderigo go to prove this. Iago tells Brabantio at one point that his “daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” (Shakespeare). The words and sentences that Iago uses to describe Othello refer also to the bestial and try to compare the two. They are also very sexual and this stems from common Elizabethan stereotypes regarding people of other races that marked them as sexually more active than the English. This stereotype was accompanied by negative judgments as well. Later instances where Othello himself is compelled to doubt his wife because he himself feels that a white woman cannot love a moor completely proves that it is his skin color that is a bone of contention for Brabantio.
2. European attitudes towards other races and people of different skin colors were one of superiority. Most of their knowledge regarding the people of these races came from accounts that were provided by travelers who went on voyages with the intention of colonizing other races. These travelers did not feel any respect towards the people of other races that they met on their travels and this reflected in their writings. The Elizabethan people imbibed these attitudes and it is these that Shakespeare critiques in his play, Othello. Later in the play too, Iago’s references to Othello and Othello’s own references to other people prove how other races were considered to be inferior to the European races by the Elizabethan people. The instance where Othello refers to the “base Indian” (Shakespeare) and compares himself to the Indian to explain his act of murder proves how the rhetoric of racism pierces the minds of even those who suffer due to the operation of such stereotypes.
3. The deception that Iago practices are not something that Othello is able to understand despite the fact that he was a general. Matters of the military are public matters while jealousy such as the one that is incited in Othello’s heart is a private matter. Iago’s deception awakens in Othello his own private insecurities regarding his desirability for a woman of European racial descent. Iago plays on these insecurities of Othello and thus plants doubts in his mind. Othello is blinded also by the general reputation that Iago enjoys that of an extremely honest man. Iago himself, at a certain point of time, is unsure of what he is doing. He says, “I am not what I am”, thus denying to himself his own identity. This manic drive that leads him to do what he does is incomprehensible to himself and does him no good in the end. Othello has deceived also because of this lack of purpose that Iago represents to him.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Eds. Sanders, Norman. Chennai: New Cambridge Shakespeare, 2007. Print.