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Nicoară Maria-Magdalena

IIIrd Year, A

Is Desdemona Black?

Shakespeares’s play, “Othello”, is based on one of the most relevant characteristics of the
age in which it was written: the pursuit of adventure and sensational events in the New World.
Men used to set on journeys in order to improve their financial and social standing and, above
all, the stories about their adventures represented a sure means by which they could gain the
hearts of their mistresses (Crawford). This premise enables Shakespeare to develop one of the
most important themes of his play: racial differences between Othello and Desdemona and the
consequences triggered by them. In this essay I aim at demonstrating that, unlike Othello who is
a Moor, Desdemona is a white Venetian woman and this is why their marriage is destined to
failure.
Firstly, the opposition between the two characters is established from the very beginning
of the play, when, although Othello is not physically present, he is introduced to the public
through Iago and Roderigo’s accounts about him. The two protagonists tend to deprive Othello of
personality, describing him in terms of his racial differences and not even revealing his name to
the public. They often call him “the Moor” and Roderigo refers to him as “thick-lip”
(Shakespeare, 67), telling Barbazio, Desdemona’s father, that “you’ll have your daughter covered
with a Barbary horse, you’ll have your nephews neigh to you” (Shakespeare, 123-124) (Smith).
This parallel between Othello, who is a man of color, and a “Barbary horse” hints at the old
belief that black people were not human beings, but rather animals. (Smith).
At the same time, Othello’s image created by Iago and Rodrigo is contrasted by his
presence in the second scene of act one, where Othello proves to be more than a black man, as he
is accustomed with all the conventions of the „white society” (Smith), and more than that, he is
known as an extremely skilful and corageous commander (Smith). However, Barbazio does not
understand how Othello managed to gain Desdemona’s love and ascribes this situation to
Othello’s use of dark magic. His incapacity to find a logical explanation underlines the idea

educated lady and a man of color. This statement somehow reveals his feeling of inferiority. if Othello had accepted his qualities and Desdemona’s love. according to the Elizabethan conception. he reveals in front of the Senate. considers the union between his white. nor his “royal lineage” (Shakespeare). well-educated daughter and a man of color “against the laws of nature” (Smith). the couple formed by Othello and Desdemona is regarded.that Barbazio. Othello’s barbaric nature is portrayed in the last scene. Secondly. and it seems that he is aware of this reality. . Othello rezlizes his mistake and refers to himself as „the base Indian” (Shakespeare). / And little blessed with the soft phrase of speech” (Shakespeare). Neither his qualities. as the great majority of his contemporaries. the union between Othello and Desdemona is meant by Shakespeare to be unsucessful. he asserts at a given moment: „Rude am I in speech. To sum it up. although Othello seems to find himself equal with the other people and uses the differences between the two races to gain the respect and admiration of those around him. can compensate for his origins (Crawford). because of the prejudices of his age regarding the marriage between a white. he wouldn’t have been the victim of Iago’s intrigues. After killing Desdemona. Othello’s origin proves to be a real obstacle to his marriage to Desdemona. Thirdly. where he chooses to smuther Desdemona to death instead of giving her the chance to defend herself of the charges made by both Iago and her husband. as he decides to marry her without the consent of her father. At the same time. which Desdemona is fully aware of. as “a union of different races and colors that the sense of the world has never approved” (Crawford). Finally. Othello’s incapacity to overcome his sense of inferiority and to consider himself a rightful member of the Venetian society constitutes anothor factor which lead to the couple’s tragic fate. especially in comparison with his cultivated wife (Smith).

edu/othello/full. 2015 < http://shakespeare.mit. Hamlet. Badger. an ideal prince. 2015)  Crawford. 2011. Othello. 20 Aug. Merchant of Venice. 07 Nov 2015.html> (November. 2009 (7 Nov. King Lear. Web. Othello.com/perceptions-race-othello-shakespeare/> .com/plays/othello/othelloessay4. Boston R. Perceptions of Race in Othello by Shakespeare.Bibliography:  Shakespeare. Web.html>  Smith. 5 Nov. and other essays Shakesperean interpretation: Hamlet. 07.shakespeare-online. Dec 6. The Moor of Venice. Shakespeare Online. William. 1916.G. <http://www. 2015) < http://www.articlemyriad. Alexander W. Nicole.