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Racial stereotypes in Shakespeare's Othello by Mind Map: Racial stereotypes in 
Shakespeare's Othello
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Racial stereotypes in Shakespeare's Othello

Othello's Race

Race is ambiguous

"Moor", dark-skinned people, "African", "Negro", "Indian"

"black", "swarthy", negative connotations

"sooty bosom", racial stereotype

Most likely Sub-Saharan

Otherwise would have been more easily accepted

"thick lips"

But: "Barbary", "Barbary horse", Barbary coast


19th century

Frequently performed as Arab Moor

Often by white actor in blackface

1930 to 1959

Black American actor Paul Robeson

Since 1960s

Commonplace to cast black actor as Othello


Lawrence Olivier


Black English actor Wil Johnson

About the Play

Written between 1601 and 1604



Othello possibly inspired by Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, Moorish ambassador of the Arab King of Barbary to Queen Elizabeth I in 1600

Based on

Italian shortstory "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565

First interpreter

Almost certainly Richard Burbage


Othello is a brave and competent soldier of advanced years and Moorish background in the service of the Venetian Republic. He elopes with Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of a respected Venetian senator. After being deployed to Cyprus, Othello is manipulated by his Ancient (pronounced Ensign) Iago, into believing Desdemona is an adultress. Othello murders her and, upon discovering Iago's deceit, kills himself.






Read the complete text online here