How are theories about racism and interracial marriage embodied in William Shakespeare's Othello?Are there any particular quotation that illustrate this?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Racism: The main treatment of race in William Shakespeare's Othello is in his treatment of Othello himself and his portrayal of the character of the Moor. several quotations characterize the nature of Othello and in part attribute his nature to his race:

Haply for I am black,
And have not those soft parts of conversation
That chamberers have; or for I am declined


Another quotation illustrates how in this period, it was common to stereotype different races and nationalities, i.e. in calling the Indian base, the Turk malignant, etc:

of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinable gum. Set you down this,
And say besides that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by th’ throat the circumcised dog
And smote him thus. (V.ii.341-354)


Interracial marriage: Part of the unwillingness of Desdemona's father to let Desdemona marry Othello has to do with his being a Moor. Desdemona is torn between her loyality to father and husband. Her attraction to the Moor with his exotic stories is an instance of what Said would call "Orientalism". Iago is more directly racist:


IAGO
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise;
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.
Arise I say! (1.1.9)

IAGO
Because we come to
do you 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.
[…]
I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter
and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;
you'll have your nephews neigh to you. (1.1.7)

Sources:

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