Why might a "Moor" potentially cause conflict with characters in the play? What is the definition of a "Moor"? Why might this potentially cause conflict with other characters in the play?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
The basic reason a Moor would cause conflict is because of racism. Besides not wanting someone else to get your girl, you would be doubly annoyed if he was a Moor because a black man stole your girl. This would be doubly offensive. Racism is not unique to our society.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
A Moor would have been someone very different from the rest of European society. He (or she) would have had a different culture and possibly even a different religion. There were few Moors in Europe at the time so he would not likely have had someone to talk to or share his experience with. It would have been difficult for Othello to fit in. His appearance would have stood out and his customs would have been very different to that of his peers. In some ways, this made Othello more attractive and interesting. In other ways, it made him stand apart from his fellow men. For instance, Desdemona's father certainly did not want her to marry a Moor.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Othello would be so obviously different in his skin color that he would at best arouse interest and curiousity, at worst, the deep prejudices of the more ignorant Venetians. We onlyhave to see the hatred that is shown by Iago to Michael Cassio, condemned for being ' a Florentine'. Florence is a lot less removed than Africa. There was still a suspicion that black people in particular used spells and witchcraft, and indeed Othello is charged with these actions by Brabantio.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As posted above, a Moor was a dark-skinned person. The conflict which could arise from a Moor being in a play was based upon the thoughts about how the Moors were different and, therefore, beneath the other characters.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Yes, the derogative phrase "Moor" is used to indicate Othello's position as a definite outsider and also to point out the threat that he represents to the Christian community. As a Muslim and a black individual, he is "othered" by the majority white Christian community and made into a potential threat.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Iago specifically expresses his hatred of Othello by referring to him as the "Moor" throughout the play, using it as a racial epithet.

The term itself could also have meant a nonwhite not of Spanish or African origin; in Shakespeare's day it could have implied a non-Christian, or a religious outsider.

Back then, the difference in religion was (or maybe was more so) more important than the difference in skin.

http://www.britaininprint.net/shakespeare/study_tools/race.html

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The word "Moor" was often used in Shakespeare's age to describe black Africans. it could also be used to describe Muslims. Othello is black, but he is not a Muslim. His blackness (as the play shows) is the object of a great deal of racial prejudice, especially after he secretly weds a white woman. The racial prejudices of Desdemona's father seem to be especially aroused by the interracial marriage of his daughter and Othello.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial