Race, Citizenship and Social Order in

Mustapha Bala Ruma


This paper examines the issue of race in Shakespeare’s Othello. It attempts to show that race is a very important issue raised by Shakespeare in the play in his eagerness to highlight the racial problems confronting Europe in the seventeenth century. In this play he attempts to expose the racial prejudice that exists in the Venetian society in particular and Europe in general. He also attempts to subvert the European feelings of racial superiority against the blacks in particular and people of other races in general. He sets out to do this by making a black man (Othello) marry a white woman (Desdemona) of an aristocratic extraction against the will and wish of her father. This inter-racial marriage may not in reality be possible in the seventeenth century, but all the same Shakespeare contrived it to be so, possibly as a way of foregrounding future change in European attitudes toward other races. The paper also looks at how individual citizens of a city-state like Venice can constitute themselves as threats to its social well being, by allowing their personal interests to override the national ethos. In this regard the activities of Othello, Iago and Roderigo are examined.



Citizenship, race, racism, revolt, social order

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.3n.2p.34


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