Evaluate different ways in which Shakespeare portrays race in "Othello"? 

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 1, Scene 1, Roderigo brings up racial remarks, indicating that Othello has thick lips:

What a full fortune does the thicklips owe
If he can carry't thus!(70) 

Iago brings up of the issue of race next. He is talking with Brabantio, Desdemona's father. Iago mentions that Desdemona is covered with a Barbary horse:

'Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not serve 
God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to do you(120) 
service and you think we are ruffians, you'll have your 
daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your 
nephews neigh to you; you'll have coursers for cousins, 
and gennets for germans.

When Brabantio questions Iago as to who he is and what does he want, Iago makes another derogatory remark:

I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and 
the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. 

When Brabantio approaches Othello, he insults him with racial comments:

O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my 
Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her, 
For I'll refer me to all things of sense, 
If she in chains of magic were not bound,(80) 
Whether a maid so tender, fair, and happy, 
So opposite to marriage that she shunn'd 
The wealthy, curled darlings of our nation, 
Would ever have, to incur a general mock, 
Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom(85) 
Of such a thing as thou—to fear, not to delight. 

Clearly, Brabantio and Iago and Roderigo make comments that are derogatory. These men make racial remarks. It is clear that Brabantio, Iago and Roderigo have racial issues with Othello.