Examing The Interracial Marriage Of Othello And Desdemona

1333 words - 6 pages

Centuries ago in Elizabethan England there were many traditions about marriage and the treatment of women. One strong tradition of these times was the practice of marriage between races. Interracial marriages were considered extremely taboo. (High Beam). In this era marriages were arranged by the parents with strong help from the local church. The individuals had little choice as to who they would marry. (Elizabethan England Life). Yet another example of these traditions was the respectable treatment of women. While the husband was in charge of his wife, as was the father, the husband were expected to treat the women right (Elizbethi). In spurning all of these traditions, Shakespeare ...view middle of the document...

Even Brabantio, Othello’s own father-in-law, displays disdain toward Othello for marrying his daughter, in his calling him a “lascivious moor.”  Also there is a particularly strong conversation between Iago and Barbarantio, in which Iago states “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.” This statement shows a great deal of hatred toward the marriage of Othello and Desdemona. Iago is saying that if Desdemona were to have sex with Othello, “an old black ram”, it would defile Desdemona’s pure nature, “white ewe” (ewe being a lamb). This is not so much the act of the two people sleeping with each other as it is the fact that Othello is of African descent. Why else would Iago refer Desdemona as the “white ewe” and not just and ewe. The white part seems to display purity in Iago’s eyes. Also there is the part about the devil making a grandsire out of you. This is talking of how Desdemona and Othello’s children would be of a mixed race, of which Barbarantio would be the grandfather. Another racist comment Iago makes to Barbarantio of the interracial marriage of Desdemona and Othello is, “…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.” This refers to Othello as a Barbarian, or African, horse who will climb all over Desdemona. By nephews Iago meant grandsons and that they would neigh to him like horses. The last sentence is saying that all of this will ruin his family.  All of this outside hatred seems to put a strain on the marriage of Desdemona and Othello. As Othello wonders if the marriage will work out, Iago begins to plants seeds in his head of Desdemona not being as pure as he undoubtedly believes her to be.
Many characters begin to portray Desdemona as a loose, promiscuous woman, even though they lack any hard evidence. Despite its lack of evidence these rumors, which are generated primarily by Iago, quickly spread and are believed wholeheartedly by many, especially Othello. Even Desdemona's own father, Barbarantio, adds to the questioning of Desdemona's truthful nature. Barbarantio tells Othello, “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee.” He is saying since Desdemona has tricked him she may also trick her new husband as well. This begins to plant the seeds of distrust in Othello's mind. Iago seconds this belief telling Othello she deceived her father she might deceive you as well. As the play continues Iago cultivates this belief in Othello. One example of Iago's cultivation of this belief happens right after Cassio asked Desdemona to intervene for him. Iago questions whether Cassio may be sleeping with Desdemona. This is compounded with Desdemona asking Othello to give...

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