1. Describe the racism in Othello and The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. 2. Compare and contrast the characters of Othello and Rita Joe in The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. The racism in Othello and The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is the same in that racism drives the actions that lead to each protagonist's tragic death. The racism in each is different. The racism in Othello represents a minority opinion, established and proven in the text to be the minority opinion by his high office in the military establishment and by his being allowed to wed Desdemona (compare to past U.S. anti-black/white miscegenetic laws). The racism in Rita Joe represents the sweeping social and cultural opinion, proven by the social inequity and legal injustice Rita Joe meets with.

In summary, while the racism against Canadian Indigenous peoples represents a sweeping sociopolitical and cultural problem, the racism in Othello represents a narrow-minded, manipulative opinion of an individual in a particular immigrant group even though that individual, one of a larger group, has established himself in the cultural-economic and military systems.

2. The most significant comparison between Othello and Rita Joe is in with what outlook they meet their deaths. Othello meets his death with shame at having been manipulated and outsmarted by someone he wrongly trusted. He meets his end with self-recrimination and self-judgement. He meets his death by administering the punishment of death, for unmerited murder, at his own hand. He acts as judge and executioner.

Rita Joe meets her death, as described by artistic director Peter Hinton (Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada's National Art Centre), resulting from social inequity, cruelty and legal injustice, by remembering the loving in life; celebrating the living; seeing the hope in life. Rita Joe's death was a mark of the ecstasy of her passion for life and love. In contrast, Othello's death was a mark of his ecstasy of passion first for, then against Desdemona.

Another way to compare the two characters is to say that while Rita Joe met her death through the force of the "injustice of a city," as Hinton puts it, Othello meets his death through the force of the injustice of an individual. This is a powerful illustration of the same ultimate destruction of very different forces: both city and individual can impel death.

The overriding difference between Rita Joe and Othello is that while Othello is focused on his passion for Desdemona and his passion for judgement and revenge, Rita Joe is focused, partly as a result of her memories of family on the reservation, her passion for living, her capacity for life and enduring, and her sense of the "value of human experience" (Hinton), something her magistrate had a hard time applying to one he saw as though blinded by preconceived ideas and prejudices.