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The Character of Othello - Essay Example

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The Character of Othello. The character of Othello is full of paradoxes, since he has both noble and brutal qualities, which gradually are revealed throughout the play. He changes from being a brave and respected military leader, and a loyal, loving husband, to being a jealous and cowardly murderer of his innocent wife…
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The Character of Othello
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Download file to see previous pages From the beginning of the play Iago’s twisted vision of Othello is presented to the audience, even before Othello himself appears on stage. In Act I Scene 1, Iago refers to Othello mockingly as “his Moorship,” (line 32) “the Moor,” (lines 39, 57, 149) “an old black ram,” (line 88), “A Barbary horse” (line 113), “a lascivious Moor” (line 128). These descriptions are all intended to discredit Othello and represent him as a foreigner, a non-Christian, and a predator on the innocent Desdemona. When Othello appears in Act I Scene 2, however, he impresses the audience with his sincerity when he says quite simply “But that I love the gentle Desdemona…” (line 25). Clearly Iago is biased in his representation of Othello, and the audience is able to form a different and more positive impression of him. The plotting of Iago constructs a web of lies around Desdemona’s innocent relationship with Cassio, and this deliberate deception is what pushes Othello into a jealous rage. At first he does not believe the accusations that Iago is making and asks for “ocular proof” (Act 3, Scene 3, line 365). This is to his credit, because he does love his wife and wants to believe that the accusation is not true. It is significant that he says farewell to his illustrious career, even at the suggestion of Desdemona’s infidelity, because he ties his own honor so closely to his marriage with Desdemona. A deceived husband role is not one that Othello is willing or able to play. When the device of the planted handkerchief apparently provides that proof, Othello is caught in his own logic: he must end the slight to his honor with a violent intervention. A modern audience might wonder why Othello does not have a longer discussion about this with his wife, and why Desdemona appears to be so willing to take the blame for what happens. These expectations come from a modern age perspective, however, in which women and men have a more equal standing in society. In Shakespeare’s time, the word of a woman was worth little, and this is why Othello does not listen to her protests, and why she does not try to find out how or why Othello has come to this conclusion about her. Othello trusts Iago, and believes Iago’s gossip and lies, and this seals his fate. Desdemona’s guilt is assumed, and Othello is driven mad by his own pride and anger. A key factor which works against Othello is his inability to see through Iago’s duplicity. Once again Othello’s pride, and a touch of arrogance perhaps, prevent him from appreciating what is going on. It suits Othello to blindly accept the advice of “honest Iago” – the word honest is used many times by many characters in connection with Iago. Shakespeare is highlighting this quality, perhaps, because Iago is precisely not honest, but Othello, for all his faults, is honest and true to himself throughout the play. The contrast between Othello and Iago may well be intended to highlight the difference between military power (such as Othello weilds) and political power (which Iago uses to deadly effect). This lesson no doubt applied to the Elizabethan age, where intrigue was common in aristocratic and royal circles, and it still applies to modern democratic states too. Shakespeare’s message seems to be that sometimes good men can be corrupted by political trickery. In conclusion, then, it is indeed Iago’s plotting that brings Othello to his sad death at the end of the play. Iago is much ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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