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Lies vs. Truths in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Othello”

Different people may subscribe to different types and levels of beliefs due to cultural-religious or social factors. Some of these beliefs may not be straightforward altogether in terms of the meaning and truth they carry, but people may tend to stick to them. What exactly this means is that a person may choose to abide by certain cultural beliefs without finding out the real meaning and truth about them. Also, some ignorantly stick to them even when they know they are wrong. These beliefs corrupt the mind misleading it to make decisions, not out of personal reasoning but basing on what the cultural or religious doctrines dictate.

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These undefined beliefs that corrupt the minds can well be described as lies or rather stereotypes. Different people believe in non-identical types of stereotypes depending on their religious, traditional and cultural background. However, these lies may be useful to an individual or even destructive. Some communities used stereotypes to contain good behavior and discipline among their members; this could be useful. This essay will discuss various stereotypes in the play ‘The tragedy of Othello’ by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare uses various characters in the play to portray various instances of lies which have been exhaustively elaborated below.

The stereotype linked with colour, particularly the black people which portrays the sense of weakness among the Africans due to the crude impacts of slavery and isolation. The black people also consider themselves minor between the white people because they were colonized. In the play, Othello is an extraordinary character amidst English arts because he is a black military soldier (de Villiers 6). He has power and authority over the white people. Despite having power over his white colleagues, he still feels like an outcast. Othello feels he is a black man amid white grandmasters despite all the brainpower, integrity, honest and suitable fighting skills. The author tries to unveil via Othello the capability of black to be seen as the victimizer of chaos and savagery, although they are causalities of racism malpractices as it is outlaid by history. For instance, Lago uses racism against Othello to pose threats to Brabantio against marrying his daughter to Othello. Lagos describes him as ‘old black ram,’ which is ‘tipping your white ewe.’ (de Villiers 23) Lago uses this statement to degrade Othello in the face of his father-in-law Brabantio against marrying his white daughter.

Othello is discriminated against based on his color and taken as unworthy to marry a white woman because he was black. When Lago tells Othello the possibilities of her wife cheating on him because he is not from his race lowers his dignity and thinks that the white people in his circle sees him as a weak person. He stereotypically judges himself as inferior and concludes that the implication of his wife cheating on him is because the society perceives him as a disabled person in the community of white who seem stronger. The white portrays the black people as weak and lesser being as compared to the white people. The lie that the white people think that the black people are inferior because they were colonized and worked as slaves discriminate and despises the black people.

The play, ‘The Tragedy of Othello’ clearly brings out the false idea that relates the black people to violence and compares them to animals. Lago perceives the black people as chaotic individuals and can steal from the whites. This is seen when the protagonist was strolling along the streets of Brooklyn and ladies who were walking around him held their handbags tightly and walked quickly (de Villiers 68). The women thought that the black man would snatch their purses from them since they had a stereotype that black people are brutal. Staples describes how women are the immediate victims of street violence and also added that the black people are the first culprits of savage in the streets. Some white people apply a double standard in treating black people. For example, Brabantio had a liking for Othello and often welcomed him to his home and discussed war stories. Brabantio had a double standard for Othello because he is so much interested in him. After all, he is an apt military general. However, when Othello gets engaged to his white girl, he finds Othello not worth and equal to marrying his daughter.

Lagos claims that Desdemona is could probably cheat on him, this gives Othello a sense of insecurity that led him to kill his wife. Murdering Desdemona portrays Othello as a murder who is held against the black and seen as people with animosity and brutality. However, this is not the case for all black people and therefore it stands to be a lie (de Villiers 41). The fact that the white people perceive blacks as irresponsible and relate them to violence lowers Othello status according to Brabantio and finds him undeserving. Logically, it is not true that black people are as violent and brutal as the white people see them in the play ‘The Tragedy of Othello.’ It is a stereotype among the white people that ends up discriminating the black people based on their color.

It is a lie that relationships and marriages between black and white people are not genuine and cannot work out. In the play, it is stereotypically believed especially by the white characters that marriage between a black and white couple could not work. Desdemona and Othello are a contrast of the stereotype. Desdemona is ‘free… kind…blessed… disposition,’ the author describes her as a lady who is free from the ideologies of racism and can love and marry anyone regardless of race (de Villiers 66). Lagos believes that the marriage between a white and black couple cannot work out. He advocates racism, with inconsideration of the marriage between Othello and the white wife because he is aware that also Brabantio and Roderigo promote racism. They also hold the same lie of impossibilities of intermarriage of two different races.

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This is evidence in the story when he heeds to Lago’s idea that his daughter is engaged to a black ram,’ as he puts it. The fact that Desdemona truly loved Othello disturbs Lago who goes to speak ill of Desdemona to his husband. Lago tells Othello that their marriage may not work because Desdemona does not love her instead, he would prefer someone of his race and standard. Due to the racial difference, she would probably cheat on him (de Villiers 44). Due to Lago’s accusation, Othello ends up killing his wife with the claims that she betrayed their marriage. Although Desdemona truly loves Othello, he is moved and controlled by the lies that a white cannot love a black and thus gets moved by the stereotypes that Lago propagates and he ends up killing her wife (de Villiers 27). From there, we see the characters who support the lie intermarrying between two races is impossible i.e. Lago fulfills it by finding ways to end Othello and Desdemona marriage. Therefore, it is true that marriage between a couple of different races can work.

In conclusion, in his play ‘The Tragedy of Othello,’ Shakespeare successfully addressed various lies those different characters believed in. most of these lies are majorly tied to racism and discrimination against black people. The whites believed that black people are inferior and weak; moreover, due to the colonization of the black by the whites, the black people also believed they were weak. This is seen by the main character Othello who belittles himself even though he is a strong military general. Also, the white has a false idea that black people are violent and brutal. When white women in the streets see the protagonist, they move away from him and hold their purses tightly, thinking that he would snatch them. Othello killing her wife Desdemona also gives a false impression to the white that black people are brutal and unfriendly.

Lastly, white people also portray a stereotype that marriage between individuals of different races cannot work. Lago goes ahead to tell Othello that his wife Desdemona will probably cheat on him because she prefers a man from her race, complexion and magnitude and not a black man. Characters such as Lago, due to their strict belief in racism they could not accept that Desdemona could love Othello and get married. Due to his disbelief and unacceptance, he goes forward to toxify the marriage by raising false allegations of marriage and degrading Othello before his father-in-law. Therefore, we can notice the various effects of stereotypes in society, as brought out by William Shakespeare.


de Villiers, Jacob I. “The Tragedy Of ‘Othello.’” Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, vol. 2, no. 7, 1955, pp. 71–78. Web.

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