Many critics focus on the use of monstrous language and the inclusion of racist ideologies in Shakespeare’s Othello (a play I have studied previously and thus grown to love) as an indication of the play’s desire to emphasize Othello’s status as a Moor and a foreigner. However, my paper examines the antagonist Iago and, specifically, how his characterization as a villain criticizes the racist ideologies, racial stereotypes, and xenophobic fears he expresses in the play. I claim that the play condemns early modern English perspectives on race by presenting Iago as a villain and then placing racist language in his mouth and citing racist ideologies as the motivation of his actions. As the sixteenth-century audience’s hatred for Iago grew, the play compelled them to question the validity of the mechanisms Iago employs to destroy Othello and thus, to reevaluate their own beliefs on race, miscegenation, and foreign peoples. I believe the play possesses continued relevance today as we grapple with the ongoing challenges of racism and xenophobia across the globe.

MARI ROONEY is a rising sophomore majoring in classical civilizations and minoring in computer science and archaeology. She grew up in southern Connecticut and lived for two years in New York’s Hudson Valley. An ardent Shakespeare devotee, she enjoys reading, watching, and performing in his plays. Hoping to travel the world one day teaching English while learning about other languages and people, Mari finds issues of cultural exclusion and xenophobia extremely concerning. She would like to extend many thanks to her high school writing instructors Carolyn Huminski and James Thompson for their guidance and support. She would also like to acknowledge her WR 100 professor, Lilly Havstad, for introducing her to college writing and, in some ways, inspiring the focus of this paper. Lastly, Mari thanks Liam Meyer, her extraordinary WR 150 professor, from the bottom of her heart, for being encouraging and helpful and, most importantly, for urging her to enter this contest.