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Othello and Racism

            Throughout Othello, the character Iago is used on a continual basis to demonstrate how people can be manipulated both through lies and honesty. By using a mix of the truth and lies, Iago plays a particularly important role in manipulating Othello. Iago's focus on the truth is used with the intent of igniting emotions like jealousy in Othello. By doing this, Iago is able to demonstrate's€"as a character "that humans are not always Christian by nature.
             Although Iago uses honesty to manipulate at several stages in the play, there is one scene where he is brutally honest with Othello regarding race and his relationship with Desdemona. In Act 3, Scene 3, Iago tells Othello As (to be bold with you), not to affect many proposed matches, of her own clime, complexions (3,3,29). Here, Iago is referring to Desemona's affair with Cassio. He is being honest with Othello by referring to the racial barriers posed to their relationship, and pointing out that Cassio can offer Desemona a racial match, as he is white. Although racism in Elizabethan times is a far cry from what it is today, it did have its own form. According to Merklein (5) a blackness was often associated with evil. When this notion is applied to Desdemona pointing out that Cassio is white, whereas Othello is not, he is using honesty alongside the negative connotations associated with Othello's race in order to play on his jealousy and his fears. .
             Further into this speech, Iago says Whereto we see in all things, Nature tends: Foh, one may smell in such, a will most rank, Foul disproportions, thoughts unnatural (3,3,230). Again, Iago is being honest in the sense that he is reflecting upon how Elizabethan society perceived the moors--like Othello-- to be. Although his honesty does reflect opinion here, he is relaying the opinions of society, and therefore being honest with Othello with regards to what others may think of him.

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