Iago's Description And Identity In Othello

1932 Words8 Pages
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! / It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock / The meat it feeds on” (Shakespeare 1.1. 165-67). The notion of jealousy being coined as a “green-eyed monster” is familiar in many forms of literature. Iago, one of Shakespeare’s most infamous villains, uses this line to warn Othello of the dangers of jealousy, although it is later revealed that Iago is the most jealous character in the play. Is Iago’s description of the green-eyed monster only a symbol? How real can it become to those who become too obsessed with it? How does this fit together with race? I aim to answer these questions by examining the relationship between William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s definitions of…show more content…
This definition requires some unpacking, but is threefold; a racial identity is a label which requires both an ascription and an identification where there is a history of a presence of that identification. The ascription is made by an outsider who does not claim the label for his or herself and is an expectation of another person to behave a specific way due to antecedent properties of that person, what Appiah calls “consequences,” of the label’s property applying to them (107). Racial identity is not based on identification alone, but on a person’s chosen performance and the expectations of that performance. The identification, however, constructs the second part of Appiah’s definition. By identifying as label “R,” people who do so willingly accept the ascriptions given to label “R” and agree to make decisions that a label “R” would make. What are these decisions? They are included in the third part of Appiah’s definition, that possessors of the racial identity have a shared racial essence that causes them to make similar choices. Othello is given both an ascription and an identification in the very first scene of Shakespeare’s work. Many of Shakespeare’s plays include the protagonist, or namesake, as the first “voice” in the play and the first to initiate action.
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