Essay Example on Hatred and Racism in Othello: An Unanswered Question

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Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1450 Words
Date:  2023-05-30


In Shakespeare's play, Othello, hatred is the dominant theme in the drama. The conflict in the plot is driven by hate, which is spiced by jealousy and racism. Lago's hatred for Othello can be termed as irrational. Even after the play comes to an end, the reader does not have a clear understanding of why Lagos hates Othello. In some of Lago's comments, he comments on something about ethnicity. Also, Lagos puts up some images in his language, which shows that he is a racist. Even after Othello gets married to his bride Desdemona, Othello still feels the hatred that Lagos has for him, and he cries out to his father. All through the drama, it is evident that despite Lagos being a racist, he does not understand why he hates Othello. Analyzing the history of black people in England and Britain shows that racism was there before the 15th century and began to show during Shakespeare's era (Singh).

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History of the black people in England between the 15th and 16th century

Walking out of the Aldgate tube and explore the Whitechapel in the eastern side of London, one will notice the exciting sights and sounds of mosques and temples which are used to demonstrate modern England. During Elizabeth's reign, the black people had freedom (Reed et al). They even went ahead and married native English people. For example, in 1599, John Cathman tied knots with a black woman, Constantia. Also, James Curres married Margaret, a black woman who worked as a servant. At one time, there were at least 25 black people in one single small parish. However, most of them were servants, while the rest were given high social status. Although the black people in England were said to have 'freedom,' there were several things that they were circumscribed to that were hard. For example, some black women worked as a prostitute, especially in Southwark. Although they worked together with the whites, some had no option as they needed to survive in the foreign land. However, towards the end of the 16th century, the black people's presence started to be a nuisance as their numbers had continuously increased after being freed from the Spanish ships. The plan was to execute them out of the country, which was to be done from the next century.

History of the black people in the 14th -15th century in Spain

The Spain people had a belief that if one is a Negro or Blackmoor, as they referred to the black people, you should be a slave. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the black people who had converted into Christianity and also learned the Spanish language was not unfavorable. However, in as much as the Spaniards tried to accept the black, they still could not accept marriage between a black person and the white. The Spain people tried to exercise a mixed free society but could not handle a black and white married couple. To them, mixing of blood between the white and the black was considered as moral deficiency (Wheat). They felt that once the two mixed, their blood would no longer be pure. The Spaniards felt that for the union to be considered pure and spiritual, it had to be between a white man and a white woman. Blood purity was highly considered in Spain; hence the reason they felt that blacks union with the white would be impure. Although some of the white people in Spain claimed to be freedom and no racism, it was still evident in their country through their actions.

Racism in Elizabethan England/Spain

Racism in England and Spain was evident during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In England, cases of racism were low until the end of the 16th century (Al-Olaqi, et al). The numbers started to increase. the slaves who were in the Spanish land were freed and had come to seek refuge in England. The queen was not comfortable with the numbers, and she felt the only option was to make them slaves to encourage them to go back to their country. After the Blackmoors increased in England, a race-based cultural barrier was introduced in the city of London. The problem of the Blackmoors increased during the period of war between England and Spain. In the two countries, racism was evident through their actions. The blacks were treated in a disrespectful manner that made them feel unaccepted. The whites felt that the black people were not only ugly but also evil. Queen Elizabeth that outwards appearance was a reflection of them in the inner reality. The whites had very little knowledge about Africa, which made them reject blacks easily. Another case of racism was identified when the whites refused to accept the marriage union between the whites and the blacks. They considered blacks to be impure, which demonstrates racism.

Meaning of 'Blackmoor'

In the early days, people were named depending on their occupation, place of origin, physical appearance, among others. In the early days during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there were several cases of racism in the whites' land (Holmes et al). They first referred to the black people as Negros, where they compared them with monkeys. It was later that they were named as Blackmoor because of their black skin. The word Blackmoor emerged during the wat between Spain and England. Originally, blackmoors were the blacks who were from North Africa. They worked as servants and slaves in wealthy European households. The negative connotation of this term originated from the perception the white had towards the blacks. They believed that the black people were strangely exotic hence the name Blackmoors.

Shakespeare's inspiration for his plays

Shakespeare's major inspiration was history. In his plays, he wrote many plays using historical figures and also included his kings and queens in his characters. In his plays, he shows his interests in learning about the 'great men' and racism, which was common in the early days. He used the example of Queen Elizabeth and the way she treated the blacks during his reign. Shakespeare's kept the audience in a tense situation when he talked about the different urban communities (Prince et al). Despite the manifest sympathy in his plays, Shakespeare does not fail to expose the complexities of multiculturalism. He was also inspired by the work of other authors like Ovid and Seneca. Shakespeare was able to borrow great ideas from these great authors and twist them to make his plays. His interest in history made him become one of the best plays authors in the world.

Shakespeare's reasoning for his plays

Throughout his plays, Shakespeare's reasoning is unpredictable. One evident trait in his reasoning is that he was able to illuminate the human experience. He could summarize the range of human emotions through his character (Burrows, et al). Some of his audience claimed that if one is not able to bring out his feelings about music or his love for plays, then Shakespeare's can do it for him. It was through his reasoning that he was able to produce the best stories that made him famous. His stories transcended history and multiculturalism. His compelling characters in his plays brought out the message to the audience. It is no doubt that he will remain to be the best author in the world.


Shakespeare's stories are a reflection of what queen Elizabeth handled the black people in his country. Just like Lagos did not know why he hated Othello, the same case occurred to the white people in England and Spain. The whites did not understand why they despised the black people despite them being their servants. The blacks served the whites with great respect and always respected them. They did not understand why they were referred to as blackmoors and considered exotic despite them being loyal to the whites.

Works cited

Al-Olaqi, Fahd Mohammed Taleb Saeed. "The Villainous Moor: Eleazar in Dekker's Lust's Dominion (1600)." Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 10.1 (2017): 69-85.

Burrows, Amanda. ""It is required you do awake your faith:" Classifying Male and Female Christ Figures in Shakespeare's King Lear and The Winter's Tale." (2019).

Holmes, Raven. "Appropriating Black Existence within Get Out (2017) and "The Lamentable Ballad of the Tragical End of a Gallant Lord and a Vertuous Lady"(1683-1694)." Get Out (2018): 35.

Prince, Kathryn. "Staging Shakespeare in England since the restoration." The Shakespearean World. Taylor & Francis, 2017. 21-39.

Reed, Tonika. "Black Women's Bodies as the Site of Malignity: Interrogating (Mis) representations of Black Women in 16th and 17th Century British Literature." (2019).

Singh, Nitin. "Love, hate, conspiracy, and racism in shakespeare's othello." ZENITH International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 10.2 (2020): 1-4.

Wheat, David. Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640. UNC Press Books, 2016.

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