Othello isn t a play about racism as much as it is a play about jealosy, conflicting values, and the power of suggestion. Some racism is displayed within the play, but that is simply a reflection of how most minorities were treated in the time period when the population in Europe was predominantly of white skin color. This racism was also only brought out by rage and anger in some of the characters of Othello, and was not displayed by hate. Jealosy and the power of suggestion also played a contributing role in the deaths of Othello and Desdemona, and the pre-meditated plot to kill Cassio. Iago s lies led Othello to believe his wife Desdemona had been cheating with Cassio, and Othello s jealosy led him to plot Cassio s murder, and kill his own wife. The conflicting values of Othello and Iago were a major cause of Iago s lies.
Iago had valued a job that was not given to him, but rather to Othello. This led Iago to conspire a way to get revenge on Othello. Iago knew that Othello valued honesty in Desdemona, and he tried to make him think that she was just the opposite, unfaithful. The play Othello was very much about jealosy. Jealosy played a big role in the play, and was the motive for Iago to conjure up a plan to ruin Othello. Iago was resentful because of the fact the Othello had gotten the job he wanted, and because of this Iago seeks revenge on Othello by ruining his life and career.
Iago cannot accept that Othello meant no harm to him, and will not rest until he thinks he is even with him. Iago lies to Othello and makes him believe that Othello s wife Desdemona has been unfaithful to him, and that she has been cheating with Cassio. Iago states his intentions best when he says: Till I am even'd with him, wife for wife, Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so strong That judgment cannot cure (Shakespeare, Act II, Scene I, Lines 291-294) Othello at firs does not believe this, but when Iago brings him alleged proof this consumes Othello with jealosy and anger. These emotions lead Othello to plot Cassio s murder and eventually kill his wife because of Iago s lies.
The values of Iago and Othello were in a constant conflict during the play. Iago represented an evil force, because he used evil means to achieve his goals and what he valued. Othello and Desdemona represented a good force, because they valued good things and were victims of Iago s evil doings. Iago valued himself and the job that Othello got instead of him above all.
Othello valued honesty, commitment, and dedication in Desdemona. Iago knew this and therefore used Othello s own values against him. He lied to Othello about Desdemona cheating with Cassio, and this was a conflict of values between Othello and Desdemona. Othello also showed how he valued honesty when Iago told him that he had been lying about everything. Othello stabbed Iago, because of his dishonesty and because Othello had killed his wife without reason.
Conflicting values are present throughout the story, and are crucial for plot development and depth of the play. The power of suggestion was the major contributor in the tragic deaths of all the characters in Othello. Specifically, the lies told by Iago to Othello were the cause of Othello s disappointment, anger, and ultimately led Othello to plot the deaths of Cassio and Desdemona. Lies that were told by Iago to Othello about Desdemona s alleged unfaithfulness were directly influenced by Iago s yearning for revenge (because Othello had gotten the job he wanted), and his desire to succeed by destroying Othello and his relationship with Desdemona.
For example, Iago deceives Othello and tells his that he sees a relationship developing between Desdemona and Cassio: Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, As salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross As ignorance made drunk. (Shakespeare, Act III, Scene III, Lines 400-402) This and the handkerchief presented to Othello as evidence by Iago of Desdemona s unfaithfulness falsely persuades Othello into believing that his wife is really cheating with Cassio. Therefore, from the evidence presented here it is apparent that the play Othello is not a play about racism, at least not quite as much as it is a play about jealosy, conflicting values, and the power of suggestion. It is also evident that these three factors mentioned play an important role in the play, they make for a more interesting story line, and a plot with depth.