Expert Answers
angelacress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to an essay by Phyllis Natalie Braxton, about Othello and ethnicity, it has been very difficult for scholars to determine Othello's exact ethnic background. It is generally accepted, according to the article, that Othello is from the African continent. Although Moors, traditionally North African and of Arabic descent, Othello is described as having features that are more befitting to one of African descent. In addition, if Othello were of Arabic descent, he likely would have been Muslim, though Shakespeare indicates he is not Muslim in the scene where Othello speaks insultingly of a circumsized Turk. During Shakespeares time, apparently people of African descent were at times referres to as "blackmoors."

weeksa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the other answers indicate, Othello is from Northern Africa and is of mixed Arab descent. It is clear in the play that Othello has converted to Christianity. This can be seen in his final speech when he refers to returning to Turkish ways and the uncircumsized dog. He is clearly stating that his behavior has not been Christian -- in seeking Desdemona's death and wanting revenge against Cassio and torture for Iago -- indicating he is not forgiving of his fellow man. Othello has also quoted the Bible when he refers to the Base Jusean, throwing away a pearl. Further indicating his Christian faith. In order for Othello to have risen to the level of General in a Christian army, he would have had to have converted.

janeyb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Othello is a Moor. From the enotes dictionary: (n) one of the Muslim people of north Africa; of mixed Arab and Berber descent; converted to Islam in the 8th century; conqueror of Spain in the 8th century [syn: Moor]