The Colors of Othello Essay

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The Colors of Othello

In Shakespeare's Othello, color imagery consistently appears throughout the text. The colors, specifically black, white, and red, create symbolic and metaphoric meanings which contribute to larger themes such as racial prejudice, good versus evil, sexuality, and murder. The colors evoke images in the characters' minds, particularly Othello's. These images, along with their corresponding idea or theme, influence the actions of the characters, culminating in the murder of Desdemona by Othello.

References to black and white carry the most weight and contribute much to the actions of the characters; those colors often are used as a comment on race, on good and evil, on sexuality,
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Brabantio refers to Othello as a “sooty bosom,” following Iago's earlier racial image. He stereotypes Othello, saying that magic must be involved or Desdemona, “a fair” or white woman, never would have chosen a dark man, a “sooty bosom,” to marry. The black and white images placed in Brabantio's mind influence his views on Othello, or he would not have pointed out Othello's “sooty bosom.” These images that emphasize the colors are what keep him from accepting Othello.

Othello defends himself against Brabantio's accusations of magic, saying, “Yet by your gracious patience,/ I will a round unvarnished tale deliver/ Of my whole course of love” (1.3.89-91). Othello will tell the truth of what happened, and the tale will be “unvarnished,” or unglossed. He recognizes that the ideas associated with his color are part of the problem, and he must defend himself against racist beliefs. By telling an “unvarnished tale,” a tale
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