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BLACK_STUDIES_OTHELLO

BLACK_STUDIES_OTHELLO - Trevor Salas Black Studies 5...

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Trevor Salas Black Studies 5 Nicholas Centino The Power of a Story Late 1500s and early 1600s Europe was plagued by growing racism, especially toward blacks. This trend was visible on a day-to-day basis, but there were still few who saw the wrong in what was taking place. Shakespeare was one of these people, and he used his stardom to make his voice heard. His play Othello is the story of a “moor” who is widely respected in his time for his heroics and noble military actions, and who marries a beautiful white woman named Desdemona in secrecy because of the racial tensions of his time. Shakespeare also assigns the role of villain to a white man, Iago, straying away from social norms and turning the table on how to assess a man’s morals. Throughout his play, Shakespeare cleverly uses both physical and behavioral traits in his characters as well as his unique writing style to address and combat the growing racist attitudes of his time. The opening scene of Othello immediately lays the foundation for racism to play a heavy role in the play’s meaning. Just minutes after Othello and Desdemona wed, Roderigo tells Brabanzio that “an old black ram/ Is topping your white ewe,” and consequently Brabanzio is irate ( Othello , 1:1). He goes straight to the council to inform them of this despicable biracial marriage, showing just how frowned upon it was for a black man to marry a white woman in the early 1600s. In fact, if it weren’t for Othello’s incredible skill of addressing his peers and his prior reputation as being among the noblest of men, he very well could have been charged with witchcraft and sentenced to
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death for his actions. The council has to justify to Brabanzio Othello’s decency, and does so by saying “And, noble signior/If virtue no delighted beauty lack/Your son-in-law is far more fair than black” ( Othello , 1:3). Patrick Manning illustrates these struggles in his
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