Nancy Gish wrote:
> I don't claim to know about the history of racist thought in any specific
> terms, but how can you say there is no expressed horror at intermarriage
> in Othello? It is constantly called unnatural. "An old black ram is tupping
> your white ewe." It is allied with bestiality, witchcraft, and theft, and
> Brabantio says it could not have happened unless she was made
> unnatural because he is not white or young or Venetian. It is not about
> being ugly.
First of all, the ruleres (Senators? it's been a long time since I read
the play) don't accept Brabantio's argument, and certainly the play, as
a total action, does not disapprove of the marriage. And I think your
particular emphasis on "unnatural" here is anachronistic. There must be
a comedy someplace where a young woman loves a man with a twisted back
or a big nose, and someone says it's _unnatural_ for a pretty young
woman to love such an ugly critter. "Nature" is always a tricky word. A
black ram, after all, is not "unnatural." There's plenty of sexual
horror in Shakespeare, and it is out "modern" eyes that sees it as
"racist" in this case.
The "different" has always been feared, seen as ugly, etc etc, but that
is simply of a different order of magnitude as the whole structure of
racism in 19th century u.s.
In 1806 a white man was hanged in North Carolina for selling a free
black man into slavery. In a few decades free blacks lost all rights.
Eighteenth-century laws which _seem_ to be "racial" turn out, when
examined carefully to refer to social position, not race. It is just too
easy to project modern attitudes back into earlier periods.