Racism has always been a negative part in society and is one of the most important social issues in the modern day world. It affects millions of people and is one of the deepest social problems in history. In William Shakespeare’s’ Othello, the notion of racism is featured throughout the play revealing many racial slurs and actions that are displayed in today’s society. Set in the 16th century, Venice is a growing Italian city that is a symbol of power, law and civilization. With that in mind it is also filled with white people which makes Othello, a black moor, stand out among the people of Venice and is discriminated in everything he does. Othello’s skin colour is constantly used against him through Iago’s manipulation and the discrimination of others in the play. Othello also creates it, which ends in his demise.
Iago’s racist mindset negatively impacts other characters impressions of Othello, slowly changing his emotional state. Iago, the prevalent antagonist in the play reveals his naturally vile character through his jealousy of others’ success and well-being seems to be confident that “My parts, my title and my perfect soul/ shall manifest me right, specifically towards the “Barbary Horse” Othello. Although, Iago tends to target his confidence and uses Othello’s race against him as much as he can to destroy him. In Act 1, Scene 1, Iago uses a strong dose of racism to turn Barbantio against Othello. Iago implies that “Your daughter and the moor are now making the beast with two backs” (Shakespeare 1.1.113-114) which infuriates Barbantio because he does not like the idea of his white daughter to be with a black male. Interracial marriage in this time period was not accepted and caused many conflicts. Iago threatens Desdemona’s father by warning him of the impurities of interracial marriage and even makes him believe that Desdemona is under the influence of spells and witchcraft. These constant stereotypes against Othello’s race discriminates him from the others in the play; leading to constant worry and eventually his demise. Iago continuously uses Othello’s race against him and warns Barbantio “Even now,now very now, and old black ram is tupping your white ewe… or else the devil will make a grandsire of you”(1.1.91-94). When Iago says this he is saying that a black ram (Othello) is having sex with Barbantio’s white lamb (Desdemona) which slowly manipulates Barbantio into not liking Othello. Iago also goes so low and tells Barbantio if he doesn’t take control of his daughters relationship, the devil will give him black grandchildren and that they will be animals because of his daughters choice to be with the moor. While the racist Venetian characters team up on Othello and discriminate his skin colour, he listens to the hateful comments towards him and slowly starts to give in, believing what others say about him. This shows the complexity of his emotional state and also shows that he is a target of racism through Iago’s manipulation and how it leads to his demise.