Coloured Perspectives, by Abha Iyengar
Othello, the bold and noble Moor in Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name ‘suffers’ his color and because of his color doubts his own standing in the white, lily-colored Venetian society of which he is a part. Not only that, he begins to doubt his wife, Desdemona’s, love for him since she is white and he is black. All it needs is the vile Iago’s barbed remarks to turn his doubts to certainty, leading to the tragedy that eventually unfolds. What would have happened if Shakespeare had made his protagonist a man as white as the Venetians? Would the tragedy have the same depth and impact? Shakespeare knew that color is a major factor in the life of us humans. The Moor was the hero, a man whose qualities were above the norm, he was respected and esteemed; Desdemona had fallen in love with him and married him. Yet, he was vulnerable because he was not the right color. He was black, and this personified all that was evil and decadent to Venetians, as also to the people of Elizabethan England before whom Shakespeare was presenting his play. Shakespeare chose to color his hero, because he knew that this would add greater color to his tragedy.