Throughout history, relationships have been the focal point of a myriad of literature, mainly focusing upon both the highs and lows of them. Shakespeare especially focuses on relationships in much of his work, ranging from “Romeo and” to “Othello”. All writers use this theme in order to convey the fundamentality of relationships within life, and the effect that the human condition may have on these relationships.

In the given extract, Shakespeare utilizes the characters of Iago and Roderigo to present Othello and Desdemona’s relationship as a rather dark and dangerous one. Iago, when telling Brabantio that an “old black ram is tupping [his] white ewe”. Shakespeare’s use of animalistic imagery here serves to not only disgust the Jacobean audience, but to also manipulate the viewer into believing in the barbarity of this act that Iago is ever so desperately try to convince Brabantio of.

The stark contrast between the “black ram” and the “white ewe” instantly brings one to believe that Othello is a dark entity that is harming the pure Desdemona; however, this is not the case. Within the Jacobean period, racism was abundant within society and this is heavily reflected by Shakespeare’s representation of this form of discrimination in his play. Not only is Othello regarded as the “Moor throughout the entirety of the play, but he is also described as a “black ram” and as the “devil”.

During this period, the devil was represented through the colour black, thus one can see that Iago’s use of the adjective “black” that he regards Othello as the devil and that his actions towards Desdemona are that of malicious intent rather than love.

However, as a modern reader, one can understand that the colour of one’s skin does not represent any person’s character or their intentions, however, this was very different for the time of the play, thus meaning that the Jacobean audience would form their opinion of Othello around his race rather than his worth to the military and his worth to Desdemona.

Along with racial issues, one can see how manipulative the relationship between Iago and Othello is. From the outset, Shakespeare constructs Iago to be deceptive towards Othello and be artificial in the way in which he speaks about him. This arguably stems from Othello’s choice to promote Cassio instead of Iago, thus presenting the relationship between both Othello and Iago as entirely dependant on materialism rather than genuine friendship.

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Shakespeare’s Othello: Black Ram Imagery," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/relationships-in-shakespeares-othello/.

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