Essay Preview: Racist Stereotypes
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Racist stereotypes shape who we are by setting social standards of living and expectations based on color, for both white and black people. These stereotypes are expressed by characters in William Shakespeares play, Othello. In tshis play, a black, North African general of the Venetian Army, secretly marries a noble white woman. Many, including the brides father, see this marriage as unethical and immoral based on the intermixing of two races. Throughout the play evidence is seen on how these stereotypes affect Othello, the black general, and his wife Desdemona.
Throughout the play Othello is stereotyped and insulted. Othello is often referred to as a sexual person due to his color. Iago calls Brabantio, Desdemonas father, and demands he look for her daughter for she is with Othello. Iago exclaims, “An old black ram is tupping with your white ewe the devil will make a grandsire of you!” (1.1) Iago here references Othello to a black animal that is very sexual and is probably having sex with his daughter. People of this time believed black males where incredibly sexual and impure. This stereotype insults Othello for he is not a sex-addict and this degrades him from who he really is in the eyes of other people. Another point is that he is compared to the devil, which further offends Othello and black men. Othello is also referenced constantly to an animal; this stereotype arose from the popular belief that black men and women are inhuman savages. Iago later on describes Othello to Brabantio as a horse further depicting black men as animals. This stereotype might be insulting but it also makes him seem dangerous to others. This could be used as a tool to manipulate fear into his enemies. This will affect who he is and might help him succeed in open conflict and wars, but prevents him from gaining the trust of other people and gaining a high status in society.
Desdemona also suffers from racist stereotyping. As a white Venetian woman Desdemona is expected to be pure, kind, and innocent, a true white woman. Desdemona is shaped by this stereotype for she adapts to the expectations of society and behaves like a white woman; but when she falls in love with a black general this is not accepted by society. His father argues that Desdemonas love for this black man is unnatural and immoral. He says, “She, in spite of nature, of years, of country, every thing, to fall in love with what shed fear to look on! … Against all the rules of nature” (1.2). Iago later on also critiques the mixed marriage between the general and Desdemona. He says that their marriage is unnatural and there is something wrong with her if she chose a black man over one of her own, “clime, complexion and degree” (3.3). Here Iago wonders how in the world Desdemona did not choose a white man over Othello, but this does not affect her. Desdemona continues to